Reject. That’s what I was. My parents claimed that eight children in the house was too much for them to handle, and that they couldn’t support them all, so they sent me away to live with my grandparents. That wouldn’t have been as much of a problem, except that Granny and Gramps lived in Maine, thousands of miles away from my original home in Salem, Oregon. I only ever got to see my family at holidays, birthdays, and one month in the summer.
And that wasn’t all that bothered me. It’s just, being sent away by your own parents, rejected from your own home, isn’t very comforting. In fact, it made me downright mad, and sad, and homesick. Even though I’ve been living at my grandparents’ house since I was four (I’m eleven now, almost twelve), and I don’t remember much of my other house, it still hurt to think that I was the one picked to be shipped off. I felt like an outcast.
Sometimes I sat on my bed, seething, and thinking, Why me? Why couldn’t it have been one of my brothers, Carl the troublemaker maybe? Why did I have to be the one with the unfortunate fate?
Whenever I asked my mother this, she just tersely told me, “Because you’re mature enough to deal with it,” and then changed the subject. But I was only four at the time. How could they have known I would be “mature”? Maybe they just chose me because, being the youngest in my family, I was too young to understand and wouldn’t put up a big fuss. I probably just thought I was going to see Granny and Gramps for a visit, and that in a week or two, my parents would come to pick me up and take me home again. Unfortunately, they never did.
So now I was living in a little cottage by the sea and had a tiny bedroom in the attic with a little round porthole window, which I could look out of and see the ocean with its rolling lace-trimmed waves, spraying salty sea foam up into the misty air. And the gulls waddling across the beach and soaring in the ever-cloudy sky, squawking in gull language to each other about some fish they had found.
I often sat and stared out that window, across the ocean, wishing I were back home with the rest of my family, and feeling lonely. And that’s what I was doing just then, looking glumly out of the porthole and feeling sorry for myself.
I turned away from the window and glanced around my room. The ceiling took the shape of the roof, pointed at the top and slanting steeply down, so that I had to bend down or bump my head on one of the thick beams running down from the tip to the floor. This was also a hazard I had to remember when waking up in the morning. Even though my bed was pushed out slightly, I could still sit up in the morning and hurt myself.
On the same wall as the porthole, I had an old mahogany desk that Gramps had given me when I first came here, along with a stack of stationery and writing utensils, though I couldn’t even read yet, much less write anything but a crude and barely recognizable version of my name. Now I used the desk all the time, journaling, drawing, and writing stories.
That’s another thing: I loved to write. It was a way for me to escape my troubles and write about someone else’s, or create a world all of my own, one where no one was sent away by their family or forced to live feeling regret and longing all their life. It helped me express the way I felt about the world. When I was feeling angry, resentful, sad or confused, I would sit down and write, and it helped somehow. It was like giving away all of my unwanted emotions, like lifting a load of bricks off my shoulders.
I emerged from my daydream when I heard my grandmother calling my name. She was yelling something about a phone. Oh, that’s right, it was time for the daily phone call to my home in Oregon. OK, so it wasn’t always daily, more like every other day, but daily phone call sounded better than every-other-daily phone call.
I sighed and started down the rickety old staircase. I reached the bottom and briskly walked through the living room and into the kitchen, where Granny was frying scallops on the stove.
My grandmother is younger than most grandmothers, only in her mid-sixties. She always said that was lucky because if she had been any older, she might not have agreed to take me in. I didn’t totally think it was so great because if she and Gramps hadn’t been able to house me, I might have stayed at my own home. But then again, my parents probably would’ve found some cousin to take me.
Granny is only a few inches taller than me and has gray hair tied back into a loose bun. She has soft features and a very kind smile. Her skin is pale and slightly flabby in some places, but tough like an elephant’s. She is not hunched over at all and always likes to have her fingers moving, so I usually find her knitting, sewing, finger knitting, typing on her laptop, or just drumming her fingers on the kitchen counter.
I said hello to her and she smiled at me and said, “Hello, Cincinnati.”
I unhooked the phone from its place on the wall and stared somberly at the keypad. I always felt excited when I called, but a bit dejected too. I stared some more, as if willing the phone to disappear in my hands, but I knew it had to be done. I slowly punched the numbers and put the phone to my ear, anxiously wrapping the cord around my hand.
I listened to the ring, half-hoping no one would pick up. But they did.
“Hello?” My sister Clara’s voice sounded in my ear.
“Hi, it’s me,” I said, a bit more perkily. I like Clara. She was one year older than I and had sympathy for my situation.
“Cincinnati! Hi!” Clara gushed. She sounded like she meant it.
“How are things up there?” I asked.
“Fine,” Clara replied airily. “Noah’s grounded because he messed up the satellite dish and now we can’t watch TV until the repairman comes to fix it, but otherwise everything’s normal.”
I smiled. I would have loved to be there to witness it, but too bad for me. “Sounds exciting,” I said.
“Moderately,” Clara answered, sounding bored, like things like this happened all the time. “I suppose you want to talk to Mom.”
“Oh… I guess so,” I said, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. There were some scuffling sounds and then my mother’s voice.
“Hi, Mom,” I said awkwardly.
“How are you doing? I’ve really missed you, you know,” she said.
Enough to send me home? I thought miserably, but I just said, “Me too.”
“I hope you’re doing all right up there,” Mom said.
“I am,” I assured her, but I was half-lying. I was doing fine, just not exactly feeling fine.
“Well, I’ve gotta go,” she said.
“OK,” I mumbled.
“Bye.” I hung up and untangled myself from the telephone cord. I couldn’t believe that I’d been here for seven years, and yet I still couldn’t let it go. Couldn’t I just accept that this was where I was living now, that my parents had put me here and this was where I was going to stay until I was eighteen and could move away? I just couldn’t.
After dinner, I told my grandparents that I was going for a walk along the beach. I yanked on a sweatshirt and pulled open the door. A blast of cold air shocked me for a moment, but then I recovered and shoved the door shut. I turned and ran down to the seashore. I sat on a log and stared glassy-eyed out over the vast ocean, churning and sloshing like a giant blender, only much more beautiful. At least that’s one good thing about being here: the ocean.
I sat for a while, not paying attention to anything, until a flash of movement on the beach caught my eye. I looked up, expecting to see Granny or Gramps telling me to come in, but it wasn’t either of them. Instead, peering out from behind a cluster of jagged rocks, was a kitten.
It was small, with scruffy gray fur, streaked here and there with brown and black. It had huge but very cute green eyes with an unsure look in them. Its tail was held high and twitching back and forth, as were its two abnormally large ears. It had a white muzzle and a little wet nose, and it was very thin. Its right back leg looked crooked and it walked with a slight limp. It seemed uncared-for, but by the way it didn’t seem to know quite what it was doing, it obviously had had an owner at some point.
With a shock, I realized that this kitten was like me: a reject. Its owners had cast it away, to fight for its own. Well… I had someone to take care of me, but still. Maybe it felt the way I did, lost and alone in the world. I felt a pang of sympathy for the poor creature and a strong urge to take it back to the house with me and raise it as my own.
I fished around in my pocket and found the remains of a granola bar. I held it out for the kitten to sniff. The kitten looked at me hesitantly, then took another step. I waved the granola bar under its nose, coaxing it along. Finally the kitten took a flying leap, right into my outstretched arms. I gave it the granola bar, pressed it tightly against my body, and ran back to the house.
I yelled at Granny to let me in. She opened the door and I ran inside. She gave me a quizzical look when she saw the bundle in my arms, and I quickly explained the situation to her. I couldn’t read the look on her face. Maybe she liked the kitten, maybe not. But either way she let me keep her.
I took off my sweatshirt and used it to make a bed for her. I gave her a bowl of water, since I read somewhere that kittens can’t digest milk, and she lapped it up gratefully. She was probably relieved that she had something other than salt water to drink.
“What about food?” I said suddenly, realizing we didn’t have anything proper for her to eat.
“I’ll have your grandpa drive into town tomorrow and get something,” Granny decided. “For now she can eat table scraps.”
I nodded and fed her some chopped scallop. She didn’t seem to like it that much, so I got some ground beef from the fridge instead. She gobbled it up, then curled up and fell asleep on my sweatshirt.
“What are you going to name her?” Granny asked me.
I thought about it for a minute, then said, “Misty.”
Granny smiled. “I like that name.”
And then I realized something. I hadn’t been thrown out of my home. I still had my family, and I was still cared about. Granny and Gramps had cared enough to take me in, and it wasn’t like my family was abandoning me, they just simply couldn’t handle such a large family. And of course they didn’t want to send me away! I was their kid after all. And even here in Maine I still had family. I should be happy for everything I had. To think that I needed a kitten to make me realize that! I stared lovingly down at Misty. She had just taught me a very important lesson. One that I would never, ever forget.
I bent down and whispered, “Thank you.”