While Matthew is, undeniably, loved by hundreds upon hundreds of people, he has always been somewhat hesitant to open himself up to others. He is friendly and kind, but I would venture to say that few people, if any, are fully aware of the inner workings of my brother's mind. I believe this is why Matthew has always been so happy around animals. There need be no worry, with animals, about what they are thinking or, more specifically, what they really think of you. Either they like you and are friendly towards you, or they don't and are not.
Growing up, we had a cat named Pilgrim. Matt had had a cat previously-- Romeo-- a mean spirited tabby who was not missed when he ran away from and never returned to our old house in South River. Aside from numerous scratches and bite marks, Romeo didn't leave much of a mark on the Collura family, so I would call Pilgrim our first real family pet. She was an adorable, loving, long-haired, black and white stray that my family adopted when she was hardly more than a kitten. She came into our home around the time of Thanksgiving '95 or '96, hence the name "Pilgrim."
Matthew and I could spend hours playing with Pilgrim, and she was so laid back, she didn't seem to care what we did with her. One of our favorite things to do with Pilgrim was to pretend she was Simba from The Lion King. We would hold her high up in front of us and sing, "Ahh, savennnya, ba-da-beee-sa-ba-doohh!" I'm sure she hated this, but she took it like a champ.
My senior year of high school and Matt's senior year at Boston College, Pilgrim developed a tumor in her mouth which prevented her from eating or cleaning herself. She grew irreversibly ill and was put to sleep on March 1, 2006.
Though we had adopted a second cat, Earl, a few months before Pilgrim fell ill, no cat could ever fill the gap which Pilgrim's death left in our hearts.
This past October, my roommate and one of my best friends, Kaitlin, and I adopted a calico. Her previous owner had called her Muffins, but we found that name terribly unfit and renamed her Franki. Franki took to being a member of our small family right away. As soon as we set her loose in the apartment, she hopped atop the kitchen cabinets and, purring, gazed lovingly down upon her two new mommies. This immediately reminded me of Pilgrim. She used to love curling up in the baskets on top of our kitchen cabinets. From there, she would stare down at my family who always stared back in awe of her cuteness.
Despite my efforts to explain to Matthew and my parents just how much Franki reminded me of Pilgrim in her affectionate and playful ways, Matthew was still stunned by Franki when he first met her.
"Alicia, why didn't you tell me how cute your cat is?!"
"I thought I did."
Matthew quickly became one of Franki's biggest fans. He never passed up an opportunity to pick her up or play with her.
A few months after meeting Franki, Matt, along with some of our other close friends, came up to Boston for New Year's. Again, he spent as much time as he could with Franki. He made up a multitude of nicknames for her. I believe the evolution of her nicknames went something like this: He initially started calling her Franklin, Franklin developed into Freglyn which was eventually shortened to Freggs. I hardly ever call Franki by her given name any more. Freggs, Freglyn, Freggers, Freggy. Even the other day, my mother asked Matt to spell out the name of my cat (he's answering questions by pointing to letters on a letter board, now), and he wrote "F-R-E-G-L-Y-N."
Anyway, one morning during the visit, while we were all attempting to get showered and dressed for the day, I let Matt change in my room for some privacy. After a few minutes, I noticed the door was ajar, so I figured I could go back into my room without compromising my brother's modesty.
Well, modesty has never been one of Matthew's finer qualities. When I opened the door, I found my brother standing shirtless in the corner of my room, staring out my window, holding Franki against his naked chest. This sent me directly into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
Matthew claims to have planned the whole thing for a laugh, but I don't know. He really does love that cat.