In praise of Gris-Gris
While we might have observed Gris-Gris’ birthday a month ago with all appropriate fanfare and enthusiasm, the second anniversary of Katrina is also the second anniversary of Gris-Gris’ membership in our family and is cause for celebration and reflection. These have been two years of change and adventure and the youngster has participated as a trouper through displacement and recovery.
Gris-Gris’ first days with us were spent in a cat-carrier. Originally, when I brought him back from the LA/SPCA Shelter, I wanted to introduce him into our household slowly. Since my house is one continuous space, there wasn’t a separate room I could keep him in and, anyhow, I wanted the older boys, Felix and Rocco, to become familiar with his sweet scent. And then Gris-Gris and I evacuated leaving his newly adopted brothers to manage for what we thought would be three days. It was only after our three months exile in Austin (reunited with the older cats) that the youngster had the run of my house in New Orleans. Did I say run? Well, Gris-Gris, at 4-months was an agile leaper and discovered nooks, perches and crannies that larger and less agile Rocco and Felix could never consider.
Fully grown Gris-Gris is considerably smaller than his brothers. They weigh approximately 17 pounds whereas Gris-Gris seems relatively small at only 12 pounds. My house is on three levels and there are many parapets (best translated as “for pets”) throughout. As I move through the house, Gris-Gris hops onto these low walls and meets me at the head of stairs poised for a petting.
Apparently, all of my cats are quite unusual in that they love to meet and greet any visitor. Growing up in our Forest Hills apartment, we never had any pets other than Gary’s tropical fish. My first cat, Black Tom, came about as a consequence of discovering a mouse in my apartment when I first came to New Orleans leading to a bad experience with a successful mouse-trap. I have had cats now for some 36 years. I have become more and more appreciative of each cat's unique personality.
Rocco lavishes affection and demands the same. Felix loves the attention of being fed by hand, comes when he’s called and loves an occasional snuggle. Gris-Gris is a gentleman, very courtly and with dignified. His solid warm-grey coat makes him virtually invisible at night but, in the day, emphasizes his sculptural form – very much the Egyptian. His long ears, pointed chin and luminous light brown eyes suggest that he is from another branch of the cat family than the chunkier two-toned Felix and Rocco. When you pass your hand in the vicinity of his head, he stretches up to be petted. Gris-Gris, you are an essential part of this family and we, the older members, hold you in highest esteem.