As someone who lives to travel and hadn’t been on a vacation in years, my recent trip to the Riviera Maya in Mexico was certainly a dream come true. It encompassed the perfect balance of culture, relaxation, and the type of no-holds-barred fun that can rarely be replicated in the routines of day-to-day life. There were soothing tropical sunsets, drinks immediately followed by others, exploring ancient ruins, rowdy water sports in the pool, and the feeling of utter “I’m on vacation” satisfaction that every hard working adult deserves. Jealous, yet? You should be.
I went on the trip with a group of friends to celebrate birthdays. I’d known about the trip for more than a month, and I had already been concerned about having to leave my little Tulip for a whole week. (Come on, you know you worry, too!) The only thing that calmed my combo of guilt and slight annoyance with myself for caring so much was that Tulip would remain in her typical home environment with her catmate Jack and my roommate, both of whom she adores. Oh, and perhaps also that I was headed to a tropical paradise!
Anyone who has read about Tulip and me before knows that even on a regular day she follows me around as if I’m about to leave for vacation any minute. Since I adopted her a little over a year ago, we hadn’t been apart for more than a couple of days. I’d always figured I’d travel at some point and would certainly miss her, but that I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. Of course, I expected the bridge would be a bit of an emotional one. What I didn’t realize was that the very same bridge would lead to me being the object of endless jokes by fellow vacationing friends!
Thankfully, I had a cat-loving partner in crime on vacation with me to lessen the blow. My friend Emily, unbeknownst to either of us at the time, was also feeling a little homesick for her cat, Lucy. One hot and sunny day in Mexico, as our friends were gearing up to head down to the beach, Emily offered up an invitation I couldn’t refuse.
“I kind of want to paint pottery on the beach,” Emily mused, as if she thought none of her friends would ever agree to a vacation activity not directly in line with the sun’s scorching rays.
“I’ll do it!” I replied without hesitation. The truth is, not only did it sound pretty soothing to paint while listening to waves crashing in the background, but I’d actually already explored the little pottery hut on the beach the day before. In browsing the options, I’d discovered the possible antidote to my recurring thoughts. It was a ceramic cat, just waiting to be transformed into Tulip.
“Let’s paint gatos!” I suggested, remembering the ceramic cats.
Emily joyfully agreed. I’m still not sure whether her giddiness was from the actual idea of painting “gatos” or just the sangria we’d been drinking, but I didn’t care. After some rather unsuccessful haggling with the Mexican guy running the pottery stand, we settled down with our pricey gatos and paintbrushes. With sangria as our muse, we were ready to unleash our creativity. (Were you aware, by the way, that a ceramic cat laying down costs several dollars more than the same size cat sitting up? Clearly the man did not have his own gato, or he’d know it’s really much more unique for a cat to be sitting up!)
I painted my gato to look as much like Tulip as I could, while Emily went with more of a Caribbean style and represented Lucy with bright, bold colors. (Please refer to accompanying photos if you care to see our works of art. If not, well, at least keep reading so you can laugh along with everyone else who made fun of us.) When we were about midway through painting, our friend Annie took a break from the sun and meandered by us on her way to the bar. “Wait — you’re painting CATS?!” she exclaimed with just the tiniest hint of disgust.
“Yes, our gatos!” Emily and I replied happily, although we were no longer as giddy. Cat painting was fun, but the sangria was wearing off. We asked Annie if she wanted to paint a “gato” with us, at which she replied firmly, “Absolutely not. But I can get you more sangria.” Fair enough.
Later that night, after watching a flamenco show, our whole vacationing group was sitting around chatting about the day’s events. “Kate and Emily painted gatos today,” our friend Jen announced, opening the taunting for business. “What are gatos?” our other friend asked. “Cats!” Annie chimed in proudly. (“Gato” was Annie’s second Spanish word learned on vacation, after “mas,” acquired by asking repeatedly for “more” tequila.)
A chorus of laughter spread around the group, along with a few taunts of, “Who goes on a beach vacation and paints pottery?” followed by, “No, who goes on a beach vacation and paints their CATS?” Right when things were calming down and subjects were changing, someone else had to bring up that I write articles about my cat, which led to still more peals of mocking laughter.
Well, I’ve been back from vacation for over a month now and the “gato” jokes have multiplied and show no signs of stopping. It’s OK, right? I’m fine with it, to be honest. Just as a police officer can’t eat a donut without getting teased or a lawyer gets mocked for being a supposed liar, we cat owners have to expect a few jokes at our expense once in a while, too.
Do your family and friends make fun of you for missing your cats while on vacation? Tell us about it in the comments!
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