It all began one morning when Nolemana and I went to a store that carried indoor fountains. They were really cool; you could have plants in them, and you could choose your own rock for the water to cascade down. The store also had pet supplies and a few pets for purchase, but all we were interested in was the fountain. We already had two cats and a dog and that was a full house for us. We found the fountain we wanted, including a really cool lava rock, and headed over to the cash register. And right there, in a really large kitten house… I’m talking about six feet high and a good five feet in diameter… were about five kittens. No biggie. We were only there for the fountain. But right in the middle of that kitten house, was the most beautiful calico kitten I’d ever seen in my life. I’m a sucker for calicoes. I asked the wahine at the counter if she could take out that adorable kitten so I could see her, which she was happy to do. And oh, did I get “the look” from Nolemana! We are not getting another cat!!!” he said in no uncertain terms. “We already have two and that’s enough!”
He should have known he didn’t stand a chance from the first minute I held that kitten. She just settled in my arms and began to purr, the loudest purr I’d ever heard before. And coming from such a tiny body, it was really something to hear. I just kept patting her, and Nolemana kept saying, “No, no, no!” “Okay”, I said, “but just hold her for a second, that’s all. You have to hear this purr!” What he didn’t know was that my ever vigilant eyes had spotted another wahine shopping in the store, and she had her beady eyes on my kitten, and I wasn’t about to let her have the baby in my arms. I knew that the kitten was mine. Mine. I just had to convince Nolemana of that. So he held the kitten. He rubbed her tummy. He listened to her purr. And then he handed her back to me.
A few minutes later, we walked out of the store, him with the fountain and me with the kitten, me filled with joy and him wondering what the heck had just happened. We got the kitten, as yet unnamed, her free vet check right next door. She got her first shots, and of course, once we’d invested in that, there was no way she was going back. Nolemana drove us home. Every once in awhile he’d get a kind of bewildered look in his eyes as if to figure out what had just happened, and how we’d suddenly gone to a three cat household.
The new kitten was a joy. The other cats didn’t seem to mind having her around. But she had to have a name! One day as I was watching her play, I saw the blur of her paws in motion, and her name just came to me. ʻUkulele. Her flying paws reminded me of how the ʻukulele got named when it was first brought to Hawaiʻi by the Portuguese laborers. The Hawaiians, seeing how fast the players’ fingers were flying over the strings, called the instrument ʻukulele, meaning “jumping flea”. And that’s just what my new kitten’s feet looked like. ʻUkulele. It fit. And she didn’t even have fleas! Sometimes I’d call her ʻUkie, and then gradually it was ʻUkie almost all the time.
Nolemana learned to love her, and after a few months he even said he was really glad that we got her. Back then, I never thought about the day I would have to say goodbye to her. Back then, I just rejoiced in my new best friend and the companionship we gave to each other. Back then, I just enjoyed our growing bond and gave her lots of love. But then, that’s the way it should be.