“Mom? Mom? Look.” It was my middle son, Anthony, and he was holding out a matted little kitten that sagged pathetically in his hands. I didn’t take the cat from him, I didn’t want another pet in the house. I already had to deal with four kids, an “artistic” (read not very helpful) husband and two dogs and a turtle. Hadn’t I just laid down a rule? “NO MORE PETS!” “But Mom?” Anthony said, seeming close to tears. “I don’t know what to do with him. Some kids threw him out a car window and he landed at my feet. He was crying, Mom……” DAMN! I took the poor little frightened kitten into my arms. and heart, and home where it stayed happily for about 15 years – during which time we discovered that “he” was a she and pregnant. Surprise – (actually surpriseS) – we had four kittens to deal with along with “mommy cat”. I never planned to call the cat Nothing, but while we were still deciding a name, a friend stopped by and ask what we called her. I said Nothing – as in “we haven’t named her yet.” But my friend said…”that’s a funny name for a cat.” We all agreed so that’s what we called her. She didn’t seem to mind. Fast forward about 25 years. By this time Nothing had gone on to cat heaven for assignment to one of her other nine lives. The kids were scattered around the country and we usually only all get together for big occasions…like weddings or funerals.- and an occasional Christmas. Whatever the reason, we were all together and someone mentioned Nothing. So I told them that I frequently used her sad story of being throw from a car to illustrate the thoughtless cruelty visited on animals by mankind. There was a long silence and then Anthony said “Mom? You believed that? I can’t believe you believed that!” And all the traitorous children I had cared for and loved, joined in a heartless laugh at their delusional Mother. I was humiliated! No! Stunned! No! Furious. Okay…getting close. But I was also curious. “You ALL knew?” They beamed at me tenderly. Yep. They all knew! And with that discovery, I got my first inkling about a little known under cover organization that every child in the world seems to know about instinctively. I call it – S.A.P.S. Siblings Against Parents Society Actually, their revelations about Nothing’s arrival unleashed the flood gates and I discovered that there were myriad examples of the kinds of plots ALL the kids knew and kept secret from me. For example, there was FORGERY. My beautifully evolved signature, ERB, that showed up on the children’s school papers was apparently the easiest thing in the world to copy…and also apparently, all of the kids DID just that. And then there was the extra joy of being off in their own side of the house. Joe and I had arranged to have our bedroom on one side of the house and the children’s rooms on the other, in the – I was going to call it The OTHER Wing – but that seems a little grandiose for a converted garage… Whatever it was called, the idea was to give the grown ups (Joe and me)a little privacy. The results, it seems, gave the children a lot more privacy than they deserved. When we converting the garage, we installed two very large front windows which, I discovered, allowed the kids to slip in and out at their convenience. It also gave them many opportunities to take unauthorized rides in one of the family cars….which, of course, explained why we always seemed to need gas in the morning. But I never put the two things together. As they happily giggled their way through this litany of deceit, I stared open mouthed that they could have done such things. At some point it occurred to them that I was not only unhappy about these “harmless” activities but I was also angry that they had united against me. WE were not amused. This was not the reaction they’d expected. The conversation flagged. Their enthusiasm waned with my growing displeasure. “Why are you getting mad now?” they asked. “It was forty years ago?” The next statement came by way of what to their combined thinking, was a sensible explanation. “Mom? Everybody did those things. That’s what kids DO!” “But YOU,” I sputtered, “YOU Did it to ME!” It took a while, but finally one of them came up with a happy thought. “Mom?” they offered, “You always encouraged us to do more things together…This is what we did – and we had a great time.” Sometimes, parents have to settle for what they can get. ################### I have a favorite phrase to share this month: MOT JUSTE (just the right word or phrase) I spend a lot of time searching for just the right word when I write or speak…I read a piece recently that described the right word as “the writer’s Holy Grail.” Actually, that DOES come close. Good luck finding YOUR right word. There really is great joy in finding it. And a bit of hell when you can’t.