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Thunderstorm brings back memories, worries over tiny creatures

Jan Hearne • Sep 9, 2013 at 11:11 AM

The other night’s thunderstorm woke me and sent Sadie scrambling to the living room. (What dog doesn’t want to be close to its owner when lightning is flashing? Sadie, of course.)As I lay awake listening to the pounding rain and thunder, I remembered a night when I was 6. Our cat, the barely tamed Pyewacket, named for the cat in “Bell, Book and Candle,” had just given birth to kittens, but we had no idea where they were. Pye would come up to the house for food, then disappear. She barely trusted us and didn’t want us near her kittens. I worried they would drown in the rain.I lay awake and worried until I couldn’t take it any more. I woke up Mom. Bless her, she came and scrunched beside me in my twin bed and assured me Pyewacket was a very smart cat who would never endanger her babies. She promised me Dad would find the kittens that weekend and bring them up to the house.Dad and a couple of friends did just that. They found the kittens — three of them — on the abandoned property behind us. (This was 1959; parts of Atlanta were still undeveloped.)Mom made a box for them in the basement with blankets and food for Pyewacket. Pye waited until we left and began to move the kittens, one by one, back to their birthplace. I’m not sure what Mom did to convince her to leave them with us, but eventually she did.The kittens thrived and grew. We kept one, Messala, named for a character in “Ben Hur,” who moved with us to Knoxville in 1961.The other night, I lay awake worrying, but this time I wasn’t worried about kittens. I was worried about caterpillars. Five monarch caterpillars took up residence on a tropical milkweed plant I have in a pot on the back stoop. As the rain poured down, I worried one or more of them would be knocked off the fragile leaves into the planter, where they would drown. Sound familiar? Some worries we carry with us into adulthood.The next morning all five were fine. Still I worry. The tropical milkweed plant has been stripped bare. Since then I’ve been picking milkweed from the garden and placing it in the pot. I worry the coddling will weaken the monarchs. This is the generation that flies to Mexico for the winter. Will my wimpy “kids” be able to make it?I thought about bringing them inside to watch their transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis, but I haven’t had luck with that in the past (three fatalities). Besides, I thought they would enjoy the sun and night air. Yes, I am ridiculous.This winter I will think of the monarchs and imagine them in Michoacan, Mexico, their wintering spot. When the rain pounds against my window, I will imagine them warm and dry. Then I will get Sadie out of the living room and go back to sleep.Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her at jhearne@johnsoncitypress.com and follow her on Facebook.

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