Although summer means fun, in the world of Eliscu, it’s never that easy.
To prepare for a carefree summer, I take a brief post-birthday jaunt to NYC to visit my daughter Sally. For the first time ever, I’m staying with her, even though she has a cat and I have allergies. Whatever.
I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I’m spending the weekend living inside a litter box.
First clue that things aren’t going well: Exactly seven minutes after I arrive at her sweet little typically-NY-tiny, just-vacuumed apartment in Brooklyn, my eyeballs turn the color of Satan’s pitchfork. My eyelids and the general condition of my sinuses? Reminiscent of the flu epidemic of 1918.
“Sal, there’s a lot of cat hair in the bathroom,” I wheeze out to her. “And the litter box is in the tub.”
She whisks in, moving it temporarily outside the bathroom.
“There’s still some kitty litter in the tub,” I add.
“It’s OK,” she says. “It’s organic.”
Her cat Layla, by all accounts, cares little for anyone’s feelings, and despite my sneezing and wheezing, chooses to blatantly ignore me. Instead, she continues to pose in any number of sexy positions, which would delight all but the most callous of visitors. I am not amused.
The next day, once we’re out and about, we eat, walk everywhere, go to a Broadway show, I laugh, cumulatively, more than I have in months. My symptoms calm down. Later, Sally gives me her bedroom, supposedly free of cat hair and dander. But each day, though I’m a sergeant guarding the bedroom door, that frisky, sassy cat finds just the one second when I open it to bolt in and hide under the bed.
“Layla? Treat!” Sally calls from the living room, Layla (or Sally) falling for it every time, and she (Layla, not Sally) leaving behind her a trail of allergens for me to inhale.
I get through that night with extra antihistamines, reminding myself that most of the next day we will be out. I’m saving money on a hotel, a result of my father’s insane frugal influence. Thanks a lot, Dad.
The next morning, in the pint-size bathroom, my expensive, special-thread dental floss flies out of my cosmetic bag, crashing onto the floor into pieces, the floss spool unraveling in a glorious pirouette over a few fragments of kitty litter and, I’m certain, thousands—no, millions—of microscopic feline fecal germs and God knows what. I’ve taken microbiology. Left up to my overactive imagination, I am, I’m sure, en route to a big ol’ case of bubonic plague.
“$@#&!!!” I shout. For good measure, I scoop up what’s left of the floss container and place it—OK, throw—into the sink and curse some more.
You may wonder why I don’t look up nearby hotels immediately. I’m wondering the same thing when Sally suggests “real New York pizza” for lunch. I lose track of my hissy fit long enough to get dressed, using last night’s nightie to step on, as if that will protect me from more sneezes.
Cheapness factor aside, I am already physically miserable. Now it’s becoming a survival challenge.
We have an amazing day in NYC and get back to the apartment in time to see Layla imitating Marlene Dietrich.
The next morning, I ask Sally if the stray kitty litter pieces in the tub bother her.
“That’s why I have the squeegee! Just run the shower a minute, then turn it off, and squeegee out the tub first,” she explains.
“That’s DISGUSTING!!” somehow slips out. Too late I realize it’s … too late.
Sally looks at me. In a moment I’ll forever remember, she looks directly at me (I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so she might have been rolling her eyes upward) and speaks calmly.
“Mom,” she says. “I don’t tell you how to manage your house.”
Things go much better after that. We go to a Weight Watchers meeting together and giggle over her “bravo” sticker, admire handsome young men in cafes, shop. The day after, she lugs my unruly luggage during the trek through Brooklyn and the crowded Penn Station.
On the train ride home to Maine, my eyelids are settling down. I’m dreaming about my spacious, clean farmhouse. Planning summer day trips. Thinking that next time I visit Sally, I’ll put us up at a hotel. Amazed at how I made it through Layla Boot Camp.
I hear a beep. It’s a text from Sally.
“I cried when you left. Please stay here again—someday. After all, Layla won’t be around forever.”
Oh, dammit. That kid really knows how to work it.
I hear some hotels take cats, too.
Kathy Eliscu, a retired RN, received a National Society of Newspaper Columnists Humor award in 2012 for her Maine Women magazine column. She is the author of “Not Even Dark Chocolate Can Fix This Mess,” a humor novel. She blogs at www.kathyeliscu.com and lives in Westbrook.