The first being I ever loved, as in the first thing I felt love for and recognized the feeling to be love, was for my cat Milo. I loved my family, said "I love you" to relatives, and loved abstract things and ideas, but the first time I had that feeling and knew what it was it was directed at a cat.
However, anyone who has known me really at all knows that cat wasn't some ordinary cat. Milo was a family member, he was known around the neighborhood, and he was loved by almost everyone. (I only say almost because he was a cat and some people really hate cats.) My former neighbor enticed him back to our old neighborhood with chicken so he would scare off or kill the rats in her garage, leaving me, a 14 year old girl, sobbing every night for two weeks because I was terrified he'd died. Milo helped himself to our neighbor cat's food, then woke up the neighbor's daughter by just walking into their home and hopping into her bed. He brought me a prize about once a month, showcasing his talents as a hunter (which I eventually accepted).
It seems unsurprising to me that the first time I knew what love felt like I was feeling it for that cat. After that, I knew when I really felt love for others. My sisters, my best friends, my pets, other people's pets, my boyfriends, my city, jobs, an apartment, even my old car... all of these things and more I've felt that unmistakable pang of love for. I always referred to Milo as the love of my life, something that's gotten harder to keep saying.
I've had that same lovin' feeling a lot the last year. Far more than usual, even. It seemed like every day I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach, usually when I was doing something mundane like typing or watching TV or getting the mail. All of a sudden I'd just feel it and get really happy. But I also felt being loved more than I ever have. I recognize that feeling in the boyfriend and I know he feels the same thing. It's the intensity that's new.
And it all started 15 years ago with that cat. Happy 19th birthday, Milo. I still love you.