Our turn with Ginger, the kindergarten cat

Last Monday when I went to pick Leo up from school, he couldn’t wait to show me what he had inside his backpack.
There it was: his classroom’s stuffed cat. It was Leo’s turn to take Ginger home for a whole week.
Our assignment was to take pictures of the cat spending time with our family. Then we would write a summary of our time together and send the cat, book, and photo album back the next Monday.
I shared Leo’s excitement, of course. Along with the cat came an amazing week for Leo in the classroom where he got to be his teacher’s special helper. I knew he would love every minute. But I also could not believe our luck in adding Ginger to our family during our first week living in our new home. I could barely keep track of my car keys. Here we were entrusted with a stuffed animal loved by a whole class? I wasn’t sure how we’d do.
On Ginger’s first night in our house—our second night sleeping there—she took some time adjusting. She whimpered and backed away from people, hiding in Leo’s arms.
“She’s shy and a little scared,” Leo said. “She doesn’t know us very well.”
Our son never assumes a new animal will love him from that first moment—probably because we talk about the boys’ adoption experiences. Leo knows a child can take time to warm up to his parents.
At first Leo also told me that his favorite stuffed friend, the Cat in the Hat, wasn’t being kind to Ginger. But they made up soon enough. Gaining a new family member can be challenging.
Although I saw in the photo album that other children had taken her to baseball games and other outings, Ginger spent her week with us mainly at home. Because it was our first week here, and because we were madly trying to dig out of piles of stuff, it was pretty exciting.
When we unpacked boxes, she popped bubble wrap.

When Leo tried on his Darth Vader costume, she wore a little Darth Vader mask.

When we decorated the boys’ room, she helped stick the decals onto the wall.
She even got to meet some of the boys’ cousins.
It ended up being quite a full week for Ginger. As we packed her up to return her to school—and we actually remembered her—I was afraid Leo would be sad to pass her on to the next child. But he seemed fine.
That night when I asked which child had taken her home for this week, Leo told me.
“Ginger seemed a little sad,” he said, “because she doesn’t know that family yet.”
We’ll miss Ginger, of course. But Leo tells me she might be back for another visit one day.
Kindergarten is full of fun surprises. So I’ll just be waiting to see what Leo has in his backpack tomorrow.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.