Home for the Holidays

As it is the holiday season for most of us, I thought I would share a nice holiday story from my own personal life.

In fact, it happened today!

Summer Kitchen

My wife and I bought a house here in Tiraspol this year.

I remember the summer afternoon we went to go look at it for the first time. It was the first truly hot day of the year, and the real estate lady and I were sweating buckets.

The ad spoke of a house for sale, as in one house. And the real estate lady, too, kept telling us about The House (singular) on the way over.

But when we got there, I saw that there was a second, smaller house behind The House, a sort of mini-house, if you will.

Both Russians and Moldovans call this mini-house a “summer kitchen.” Why they call it that, I have no idea. Because these “summer kitchens” almost never have a place to cook food, and the one we were looking at certainly didn’t.

Furthermore, in both the Romanian and Russian languages, it’s a mouthful to say (bucatarie de vara/летняя кухня) “summer kitchen” every time you want to refer to the building, so I am completely stumped as to how they got this name.

Nevertheless, we ended up buying The House (with the mini house included), so that gave me the chance to really explore what our “summer kitchen” was all about.

Winter Quarters

The “summer kitchen” was built a long time ago by someone who was not the person who sold us the house, so we had no preparation or information about what was in there.

For instance, the “boiler” or gas heater that warms both the mini-house and the Big House is located inside the summer kitchen.

When we first moved in, the days and nights were still pretty warm. When it came time to firing up the heating system, we were a bit stumped, and it took us a while to get all the parts moving correctly.

Fortunately, the gas company sends inspectors around every fall to help people safely manage their gas heaters. When they came by our house, they insisted that the room with the heater have some ventilation to the outside air.

As far as we can tell, there once was an electrically powered fan to provide that ventilation, but it certainly does not work anymore.

What does work, however, is the mini door built into the door of the mini house. I swear I am not making any of this up.

There is a small wooden door cut into the bottom of the regular door that goes into the boiler room, and it has a small panel on the back that I removed to open the door. This satisfied the gas guys, and they went on their way.

It was only long after they were gone that I realize, holy shit, that “ventilation door” looks exactly like a cat door.

A Japanese Ghost

As I said, when we first moved in, the weather was still pretty balmy.

On the weekends, we’d light a fire, sit outside and sip on some drinks, listen to music, and enjoy the first fruits of homeownership.

One night, as we were wrapping up, and my wife had already gone inside, I suddenly came face-to-face with a large Siamese cat.

I was completely stunned.

Siamese cats are pretty rare in these parts, and the people who do have them usually keep them inside.

Either way, he was a gorgeous purebred cat, and I tried talking to him for a minute, but he ran off.

A week or two later, I saw him again. But again, it was when I was putting away the chairs and the party was over. And oddly, I only seemed to see him when it was me alone out there.

I began to doubt whether I was just seeing things or if there really was a mysterious Siamese cat that lived in the neighborhood. Maybe he was one of those Japanese nature spirits that live in semi-wild places. I couldn’t tell.

A Guest Arrives

But then one night in early November, the temperature plunged to below zero. When I staggered to the mini house in the morning to crank up the heat, I saw the Siamese cat perched directly on top of the heater.

He scattered the moment he saw me, but I realized at that moment that he was definitely homeless. No one with an indoor cat would have left them outside on such a bitterly cold night as that.

Previously, I had been keeping the boiler room closed off from the rest of the summer kitchen, but the adjacent room in the “mini house” has a rather old dilapidated bed in it. The frame is what is broken, but the mattress is actually in good condition.

On top of that, the room with the old bed in it also has a working radiator, so it’s quite warm. I put a small crate on the windowsill and lined it with a towel, thinking it would make for a pretty comfortable place for a cat.

Sure enough, the Siamese cat moved in once the weather grew colder, and I got used to the sight of seeing him through the window, stretched out on the bed.

And then, of course, it wasn’t long before I was feeding him alongside our two (Big House) female cats.

Home for the Holidays

I have no idea where that Siamese cat came from. He’s quite a big boy, so he’s definitely an adult. Perhaps he’s been on his own for years. That’s the feeling that I get because he’s not too interested in human interaction.

What I do know is that I doubt there is a single other person in this city who has a “spare house” for a cat that includes heating, a comfortable bed, food, and a special cat door entrance.

It’s almost as if our “summer kitchen” was built for this cat.

You know, maybe it’s healing karma for him. Maybe he’s lived a long and hard life, surviving on scraps. After all, something had to have happened for him to go from a purebred Siamese cat to a homeless vagabond.

I know it’s certainly healing karma for me, after the loss we suffered this year.

It’s nice to have a big boy around, once again, living the life of a cat emperor. That does my soul good.

When I stepped outside the Big House a couple of hours ago, a gentle snow falling from the pewter sky, I saw him there in the mini house, snug as a bug in a rug, the Siamese cat who found himself the best of all possible homes on a cold winter’s day, and it made my heart quite warm indeed.

And now you know about the cat we call Orochimaru.

☃️ Happy holidays, everybody!

3 thoughts on “Home for the Holidays

  1. The old 1700s house built by Michel Brouillet (our ancestor) in Vincennes has a summer kitchen…but it’s the more usual kind, shares the fireplace chimney (other side) and is therefore attached, not something one walks to. Also had all the usual cooking implements. I guess they used the stove out there instead of in the house to keep the house from getting too hot? But you’d think it’d have cooking materials. (Then again, the summer kitchen in the old 1700s house had only the fireplace, no “sink,” which would have been portable at that time anyway.)

    But a curious set up. And of course you have a Siamese now. Seal, I assume? Or Blue (or something else)? Ian and I have a seal brother and sister now: Kleopatra and Theodore (Kleo and Theo…not named intentionally to rhyme). First time I’ve ever had a seal point. Kleo is very “toasty.”

    Merry Christmas.


  2. I’ve seen these summer kitchens often with a nearby/attached covered patio where people relax, barbecue, and drink. The summer kitchen often seems convertible to a guesthouse, kind of like a mother-in-law apartment. Maybe you have the makings of a B&B.


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