“I have a birthday present for you, but it’s not ready yet,” my friend Lisa told me. “So you’ll have to wait a little while for it.”

Several weeks later, in the summer of 1996, a tiny tuxedo kitten was bestowed upon me. She and I shared confusion over what to do next.

But both of us learned quickly. I had not been owned by a cat…ever. Growing up in the country, the occasional stray would wander to the house. One longhaired brown tabby lady even gave birth in our basement, a warm refuge from a cold Ohio winter. But with jobs that required a lot of travel, it just wasn’t possible to care for a cat of my own.

Now settled in Hawaii‘i, still without cat, it was a birthday gift that forced the issue. While I never would suggest giving an animal as a gift, in this one, specific case, it was perfect. So the little tuxedo kitten was named Makana, which in Hawaiian means gift.

That was the meaning I thought most appropriate. But Makana preferred the alternative definitions: prize, or reward.

As usual, she was right.

Here she is, in all her kittenhood gloriousness: