That was the final odometer count on my old "Little Red Skittle," before it was finally towed away.
That Nissan 200SX and I spent 193,573 miles over 12 years together, from the prairies and skyscrapers of Dallas/Fort Worth to the cornfields of Illinois, to the hills of Pittsburgh and beyond. Just a few weeks ago, I said my final goodbye. (If you missed that story, regarding my sentimental attachment to the fatally wounded car, look a few posts down for the background.)
I went up to the North Hills Firestone, where the car had been parked since its Labor Day breakdown as I figured out what to do next. I signed over the papers of my Texas title to the regional Goodwill Auto Auction.
And then, completely unconcerned about how weird I might look to the mechanics, I pulled up my new Little Red Skittle - almost the exact same car, only newer and fancier - and parked the two cousins nose to nose. I took a little movie with my camcorder, and narrated the story of my car replacement, and the transition from Skittle One to Skittle Two.
Then, I climbed into the old car, laid my head on the steering wheel I had held for so many hours of my life, closed my misty eyes, and reminisced about all the things this era of my life - and, thus, this car - represented. The cross-country moves. My life as a Texas girl that I thought would never end. My life in graduate school in the Midwest. My life as a Pittsburgh journalist that took me by surprise, and even exceeded my ambitions and dreams. All the exciting media banquets I have presided over as president of the Women's Press Club of Pittsburgh. All the people I have met, known, loved and parted with. All the dates and occasions for which I primped in that rearview mirror. All the American scenery I saw. All the conversations I had within those walls of metal and glass.
The most recent and poignant memory, perhaps, was this: All those Animal Friends foster kittens I had transported in that car, back and forth to that place I called my second home for three years. And, with a heavy heart, I have to share this news: that part of my life, too, is no more.
Not fostering itself: Mother Catresa is passionate about what she does, and will continue her work saving lives. But now, it will be with a different organization. (More on that later, but I already have started with two adult foster cats, Terry and Teddy, and I am excited to give my devotion and work to this great new group.)
As it turned out, my car breakdown symbolically foreshadowed what soon was to come in my life: an unexpected twist for which I was unprepared, and that shook me up. Indeed, almost the exact same thing - doing foster work, only at a different place - soon came, just like my new Skittle car did. I have great hopes for my future, and know I will go on to persevere and thrive once again.
Yet, I loved many of the people I met and befriended at Animal Friends, and I miss them deeply - especially during the Christmas season, when we shared wonderful Yuletide parties. I really feel the absence, and it hurts. To those people - you know who you are - know this: I cherished our time together, miss you, and hope to stay in touch.
And to everyone at Animal Friends, I thank you sincerely for the opportunities you gave me, and the years we spent together as I learned and grew in my new venture as a kitten foster mama. I have wonderful memories, and learned skills, that will stay with me a lifetime.
Mother Catresa is not truly gone: she is with you in spirit, still roaming the halls of Animal Friends. Still cracking jokes and being a goofball. Still beaming at you when she's happy to see you. Still lighting up when her kittens, and all the animals there, find their forever homes. And still writing her blog, which she hopes you'll continue to read and enjoy. Please don't forget me.
May y'all remember me, especially, whenever you smell a gassy kitten. It gets me giggling every time.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, dear readers.
I remain, ever yours,
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")