A few weeks ago, I made a comment about my dead pets’ ashes.
In my bar. Their ashes are in my bar.
I thought nothing of the comment because I think nothing of those ashes being in my bar. That’s where they belong.
But then my editor said he was going to need more information about the ashes in the bar. Which is funny because my husband says the same thing. Like, all the time.
When my husband asks about the ashes in the bar, I roll my eyes, and my mouth does that thing it does when I’m annoyed, which telegraphs my exasperation, but I can’t really help because hey, you’re exasperating me.
The thing is, my editor doesn’t find the eye roll and ashes as charming as my husband does. He kind of wants answers. And he kind of pays me. So I have to stop doing that exasperated mouth thing and explain myself.
But I’m not sure I can.
See, when my first cat died, I was bereft. My adult life had begun with her — just the two of us in my attic apartment. She peed on my husband’s pants, that first time they met, back when he was only my sort-of boyfriend.
So when I found out she was dying, my then-preschoolers felt like what she really wanted was a chocolate chip cookie cake.
“Be honest,” my husband said to me one night. “There are people you’d see dead before your cat. Isn’t there?”
Yep. To this day.
So when I took my cat for that final vet visit — just the two of us, the way we started it — and my vet told me I could have her cremated, I leaped at the chance.
“You did what?” my husband asked. But I rolled my eyes and did that exasperated mouth thing because he should just be glad he won the argument against having her in our wedding, you know?
Then the ashes arrived.
And I was stumped.
What do I do with cat ashes?
I rolled my eyes. Pressed my lips in exasperation.
I never stopped to think of what lay on the other side of those ashes. I accepted the cremation because in my head I pictured my cat coming back to me all Pet Sematary-like.
Just, you know, without the evil spirits.
But what I got was a wooden box stuffed with a baggie filled with cremated cat.
What should one do, exactly, with a cremated cat? Placing her on the bookcase felt morbid. My bedroom dresser maybe?
No. My husband and I agreed my cat had, um, interrupted, enough when she was alive. We weren’t too keen on glimpsing my dead cat while we were, well, trying not to get interrupted.
So where then? We don’t have a basement. We did have an attic at the time. But one night, when I was home alone, a mouse trap snapped in the attic.
Then snapped again.
Then clunked across the attic floor.
And down the attic steps.
So my cat wasn’t going in the attic when Mighty Mouse was up there battling a spring trap.
That was when I thought of the bar.
The bar. The only things in there are martini glasses, bitters, and gin. But we don’t use any of that because what are we, Don Draper?
And after the gin and tonic debacle of 2006, that gin really should have been dumped down the drain anyway.
Once or twice a year I open the bar. Someone gets sick and someone else decides to make them a hot toddy and I always say there’s brandy in the bar.
But there isn’t.
You know what is in the bar? My cat. I say hello to her, then tell the sick person they’re not getting a hot toddy because gin doesn’t taste good in a hot toddy and one should really remember that gin and tonic debacle of 2006 and never even think about gin.
And sometimes I make chocolate mousse, and martini glasses are a fun way to serve chocolate mousse.
Not moose, moose though. You can serve that a lot of ways. But in a martini glass is not one of them.
Now, when our next cat died, I cremated him, too.
And yes. Put him in the bar.
Then our dog died. That cremation box was bigger than either cat’s. Or both cats put together.
So I dumped the gin and voilà! Room for my dog.
I suppose I could keep stacking the bar with boxes of cremated pets, like the world’s most macabre game of Tetris. But our next cat died at home, at the beginning of the pandemic. So we buried her in the yard.
But something dug her up. This was a little more Pet Sematary-like than my first cat.
But she was still quite dead.
Fortunately, my dog found her corpse rotting on the lawn.
Then he rolled in it.
I’ll be honest. I far preferred the smell of the chocolate chip cookie cake when my first cat was dying to the smell of my beagle when my last cat was already dead. But the universe doesn’t exactly let you pick these things. That’s why sometimes you need a gin and tonic debacle like it’s 2006.
So that’s why I have my dead pets’ ashes in my bar. And yeah. I still have my dead uncle’s ashes in my garage. I have my dad’s reel-to-reel movie projector in my closet and my mom’s sewing machine in my other closet. I have my aunt’s father-in-law’s metalwork on my bookcase and my husband’s great-grandmother’s art on my walls.
I am a collector. Of stories. Of objects that inspire stories.
So sit down. Tell me your story. I’ll pour you a gin and tonic, since you weren’t involved in the debacle of 2006.
And we can say hello to my pets.
You left, didn’t you?
That’s why I have my animals.