My middle son was four years old, my youngest one still small enough to fall asleep in a wrap on my back. We’d gathered at Becky’s house — we always gathered at Becky’s house — for mom time, for rest time, for time our kids could run feral while we talked. Maybe five of us, maybe six, Stephanie among them. We’d opened Becky’s back door and shooed all of them into her yard, a passel of them aged seven to three or so. The littlest dug in sand. Older kids played tag. We only paid attention to pain-screams.
I don’t remember what we talked about. Maybe our kids. Maybe yarn. Maybe baby wraps and homeschooling and what the hell we’d feed our monsters for lunch and how we would erase that permanent marker from that wall. Becky’s house was not immaculate; dishes filled her sink. Clothes crowded her laundry room. We lounged on couches, boobs occasionally out, babies occasionally swayed to sleep.
The back door banged open. My four-year-old, August, appeared with a parade of children. He held a shovel. Peacock-proud, a real paleontologist, August proclaimed, “I DIGGEDED UP A DEAD CAT!” He dumped a shovelful of bones on the linoleum.
Lord above, he had unearthed a fucking dead cat. Becky’s dead cat, deceased to bone and ash for months.
I froze in pure horror.
My friends lost it laughing.
I Need More Dead Cat Friends
Becky, Stephanie, and company were real friends. I saw their boobs. I saw their dirty dishes and their laundry. My kid dumped dead cat bones in an open-plan living room-kitchen and they laughed for a good five minutes. A dead cat friend looks at you in all your mess and rather than judging you, sees you. They let you in. They say, “Your mess? Come see my mess, and we’ll love each other even more.”
Dead cat friends see your different taste in music or fashion or whatever and shrug. They might disagree with you, but it doesn’t matter. You have the same laundry and the same dishes and the same struggle over what to cook for dinner. And if your husband (like mine) does all your cooking, they tell you that you’re lucky and bitch about dinner anyway. And you listen. Dead cat friends can be different.
Dead cat friends don’t blame you for your kids being kids. They can refuse to share with each other. They can sharpie a wall. They can soak each other with a forbidden hose. And your dead cat friends won’t judge, because they understand that kids do this shit sometimes. And when your own child is sharpied, or weeping because someone flung sand in his face, you will comfort them, then shrug and say, “Eh. Kids.”
They Love Your Kids
Dead cat friends see your kids in all their weirdness and love them for it. Your kids are not accessories to your company. They like them. They know about them. When August dumped that shovel, my dead cat friends laughed, in part, because they knew he wanted to be a paleontologist. They knew which baby wraps my youngest liked best and that my oldest was prone to mischief when paired with Becky’s oldest, but not so much Stephanie’s.
Your true dead cat friends friends not only like your kids. They celebrate them. And you celebrate theirs. You laugh and laugh when their four-year-old climbs their stairs, shakes his booty, and sings, “My butt, my butt, my butt is in the circus!” (That kid belonged to Christie, another true dead cat friend). That four-year-old is in high school and I still crack up when I remember it. You admire a boy’s purses and dresses and sparkles. You pretend to munch their fake food. You have photos of them hiding in boxes with your own kids.
And it goes both ways. Dead cat friends take time to speak with your children. And your children like your dead cat friends. They recognize people who care about them, and they respond to it. When you pull up at their house, your kids tend to run inside without knocking, calling their kids’ names and even their names. Your children know that shoes go by their door; they are not allowed upstairs. They know, because these are your dead cat friends and you visit them regularly.
I Miss My Dead Cat Friends
Life cycles on. Friends move; tides change. I have one dead cat friend left. Now that our kids are older, we need more to talk about than infant circumcision. Baby stuff doesn’t matter; we aren’t desperate new moms clinging to a life raft. But we can laugh over her son’s voice changing. We can gossip; I can tell her things I would not spill to anyone else.
Nicole has cleaned my house without asking. Dead cat friends do that. Once we were both fully vaccinated, hers was the first indoor house I visited, and I ran around her kitchen yelling, “I’M TOUCHING YOUR COUNTERS! I’M TOUCHING YOUR COUNTERS!” She laughed with me, not at me: the mark of a true dead cat friend.
I can name her cats. I can name her favorite book series. She gave me fresh eggs and now my kids refuse to eat regular eggs because “Nicole’s are better.” They’d hug her, but you know, pandemic. When I visit, I know where to park. I can work her finicky backyard latch. She knows how to comfort my whiny seven-year-old.
I absolutely, positively, and completely adore her kids.
I miss having more dead cat friends. But better one awesome dead cat friend than more … regular mom friends. Nicole loves her cats so much she’ll hate this term. I’m sorry, honey.
But I’m sure Mrs. Norris forgives me.