I hear a meow in my bedroom doorway. Smaller than her Siamese sister, Cuddles has escaped the kitchen gate again while my husband sips his first cup of coffee.

At 6:45 a.m., amber eyes and whiskers plead a place on my bed.

“Come on up.”

In one leap, Cuddles commences to nuzzle the journal on my lap and pen in my hand. In constant motion, she claims my books, pillows, comforter, and pajamas with her scent. She seizes my fine-point Bic in her jaws. Our tortoiseshell kitten is plum happy to interrupt my morning devotions.

She attacks my toes under the comforter, stops to lick herself, then pounces again. I recall hot summer mornings when my sisters and I would wake with Toby biting our toes through the sheet. There was no sleeping in with Toby around.

A lifetime later, I’ve become accustomed to what my mother often referred to as her “routine.” After raising five daughters and spoiling sixteen grandchildren, Mom had earned the privilege to rise no earlier than eight o’clock. She brewed her coffee, fetched the newspaper, fed Socks, her cat, and settled into a new day at her own pace.

What is an empty nest for, but to watch a kitten play? As my mother, I learned too late to leave dirty dishes and laundry behind to allow blissful moments like this with my children.

Those nights I followed Mom upstairs to our guest room come to mind.

“Iris, don’t ever get old,” she’d say.

“I’ll do my best.”

“I love my five babies,” she’d say when I tucked her in.

“And we love you.”

Mel brewed their coffee each morning. He offered Mom the paper before he drove off to work. She could no longer read or remember Socks to miss her companionship. The day came when she mistook hot chocolate for tea. Mind, my mother loved her chocolate.

I use my feet to fold the covers over Cuddles. She springs up and bites the comforter again. Lick. Lick. Lick. She paws and chews the ribbon ends that mark pages in my puddle of books.

Two weeks ago, to protect our favorite chicken chair, Mel and I hauled it from the kitchen up to the guest room and brought down the wooden rocker. Next morning, he opened the basement door for Mittens and Cuddles. They darted to the chicken chair corner and stopped short before the rocker. We’d foiled their morning shredding routine.

We may solve such simple problems easily enough. Brevity of life, however, is stamped within our flesh.

At the sound of the sliding kitchen door, Cuddles jumps down from my bed. Mel’s finished his second cup of coffee. Soon, I’ll rise for a fried egg and sourdough toast breakfast.

Lest our routines become ruts, the season changes. The gardens call and I must go weed and sow seed. We’ll see if Mittens and Cuddles follow—if they earn their keep.

But for this moment, dear Reader, I reflect; glad Cuddles found her place in my morning routine.

Email Iris at irisleeu@sbcglobal.net.