Before I really get into this blog I want to share that I’m taking the month of August off from blogging, column writing, and many other weekly tasks so that I
can focus on rewriting my second book, Sissy’s Story: Inside a Child’s Long Term Illness. I had a forty minute chat with a marketing person last week and he ended our conversation with, “I run into so many writers who are busy writing their second or third book when they haven’t even figured out how to market the first book.” Inside I said ouch, but outwardly I thanked him for his time. (Some of my problem is that people who have read A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir have forgotten to go to Amazon.com, click on the picture of the book which takes you to a second page, scroll down to where you are asked to write a review, and then enter their comments. Fifty reviews or more tend to get other publishers looking at your work.) Unfortunately, I’ve lived with me long enough that when the muses say ‘time to write’ I have to drop everything and go write—brilliant move or stupid. So this is the last My Little Bird Blog until September.
And now you are saying what does that first paragraph have to do with the title, Cats! Cats! Cats!? I’m a Jungian therapist and I do much of my counseling work through dream interpretation. If you are familiar with some of psychiatrist, Carl Jung’s concepts, you know that in dreams the dog represents the masculine energy and the cat represents the feminine energy that is within each of us, regardless of our sexual tag.
As I write stories about the people in my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Stories: A Memoir, it is so easy to just write about my daughters but they all live fairly close to me so I have to be careful as to which stories I share. In my book A Bird and the Dragon I paint a lovely picture of a blended family. I now don’t want to upset those precious relationships. So I’m going to talk about the cats each girl seemed to claim in their growing up years. Perhaps these animals were mirrors for the girls or maybe they were the counterbalance.
When my husband Sy and I married, each daughter, with the exception of Felicia, had a cat that came with them. Cora the oldest daughter brought Casey.
Casey was a mature gray and white striped cat and an explorer. I’m not sure how he got to Sy’s previous family but I remember he certainly played the part of the older sibling in our blended family. He was also the first to depart from our lives. Funny or sad, depending on how you look at it, that Cora was also the daughter who would excuse herself from as many family activities as she could. She apparently wanted to cling to the previous family. I tell the story in A Bird and the Dragon of first having to tell her that her cat had wandered down the hill from our house onto the main street below and had been killed. Then I walked with her to the spot where he lay and offered to carry him home. She told me no, Casey was her cat and she would carry him herself. I still have a vivid memory of walking behind her, her sturdy body dressed in a winter jacket, arms outstretched as she carried her precious cargo home. The same acceptance of the inevitable and the fortitude to handle the situation travels with her today. When we got back to the Ugly Green House all the girls came outside while Sy dug a grave for Casey beside the garage, said a few words over him, and we gave Casey up to God.
Next in our line-up is Pussy, May’s cat. She entered our lives back in my first marriage. May was at the age where both Harvard, my first husband, and I felt she needed an opportunity to care for someone beside herself. When we asked if
she wanted a kitty she jumped for joy. I believe Harvard found that the nursery school teacher had two fluffy long haired gray kittens and she was willing to give one up. He chose one of the kittens bringing it home to May. I can still see her hugging, to the point of squishing her new cat, dropping it and jumping up and down in glee, and then picking up and hugging the kitten again. When we asked what she would call the cat she said Pussy. Puss lived a long time and she, too, was a wanderer. One summer Harvard and I had packed up the old Mercedes ready to head to Maine and the cat was also a passenger in that ancient car where the rear seat slipped around. Harvard had a propensity for bargains! Puss was not happy to be a traveler and was making a lot of noise, so we stopped at the Mystand overlook to give everyone a rest. We had gotten out leaving the children with the cat. The back window was open and next thing we heard were the girls screaming that Puss had jumped out. Harvard and I looked for Puss for several minutes while we kept the girls in the car, it being too close to the main highway. In a short while Harvard said, “Well, we have to keep going if we are ever going to get to Maine.” The girls and I were heartbroken but he was adamant.
We had our vacation in Maine and I don’t remember May making much fuss about losing her cat. She still is a bit ‘easy come, easy go’ about things that would tear me apart. It was about two and a half years later when our neighbor called one afternoon and asked, “Didn’t you have a gray long haired cat with a white mark on her chest?” I respond, “Yes, but she ran away.” They said, “You had better come take a look. We have a gray long haired cat sitting in our kitchen.” May and I went to see. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I called, “Puss, Puss?” The cat got up and sashayed over to me. May was on her in an instant. How Pussy got from where she left the car to where we lived is mind blowing because she would have had to cross wetlands and skirt ocean inlets and we were just so glad to have her back. [On the map it doesn’t look very far but I doubt that she marched down Interstate I 95 to get back to us.] Puss was also the cat that when we left the Ugly Green House and built a new home on Lakeview, she would go back to the Ugly Green House. Because we were camping in the backyard of the new house without a telephone (no cell phones yet) the Ugly Green House owners would swing by and ask us to come and get Puss, once again.
Elizabeth was a little girl when we lived in Grows Town and I was still in that first marriage. The front door of our house had the sidelight windows down the side of the door. This fluffy three colored cat would come and sit in the bottom window. I didn’t pay much attention but soon I noticed there were dishes of milk out on the front steps. When I confronted my crew, May pointed to Elizabeth and said, “Elizabeth’s been feeding the cat milk and the dog’s food.”
I confronted Elizabeth and she confessed, “I thought if I fed her she wouldn’t go home again. Can we keep her?”
“No, we can’t keep her. She belongs to a family down the street,” I told Elizabeth.
This went on for a while and the cat sat in our window for much of the time. (Today, Elizabeth is our family’s animal whisper.) Finally, I said to Elizabeth, “If you want to keep her we have to go down to the neighbor’s house and you have to ask the lady if she is willing to let you keep their cat.” Now Elizabeth was my shy child so I was amazed when she agreed to my terms.
We took the walk and Elizabeth manned up and asked the lady if she could have the woman’s cat. The woman hesitated for a moment and then said, “The cat belongs to my daughter who is away in her last year of college. I will have to check with her and let you know; but I think she isn’t going to be able to keep the cat where she is going and if you want her and my daughter agrees, you can have the cat.” I was dumbfounded and Elizabeth was overjoyed. We had to wait a week but by the time the final yes came Elizabeth had already made the cat a bed in her room. When the three colored cat was finally ours I asked Elizabeth what we were going to call her and she responded, “Footsie. She has big feet.” And indeed the cat did have five toes on each front foot and walked a bit like she had on snow shoes. Footsie lasted until we were living on Lakeview and Elizabeth was about to go off to college in Bunker’s Town. The cat contracted feline leukemia and was getting increasingly sick. I pleaded with Elizabeth to let us put Footsie down but Elizabeth said she couldn’t go there. So Footsie held on until Elizabeth was off to college and then I took her to the vet and she gratefully passed out of this world.
Felicia didn’t have a cat growing up. She has made up for it in her adult life but that story doesn’t belong here.
Annie’s cat was supposedly found under the nursery school building and Sy had
to help Annie capture the kitten and bring it home. Impy was also a gray and white striped cat, and friendly, full of energy like Annie. Impy was tormented a bit by the other cats—I guess it is called being ‘low man on the totem pole,’ somewhat like Annie experienced her place in the family. Impy was our “mouser” because someone left a newly dispatched mouse on the front steps of the Ugly Green House for my new clients to step over as they left a session. Hey, life comes and it goes. When Annie was off to college Impy contracted an abscess around his front fang and the infection passed up into his brain. It became the humane action to have him put down. All of the cats and the dog, Hobo, which you have read about in a previous blog, traveled to heaven from the back yard of Lakeview, in Nerme, Connecticut. A family is just not a family without their animals! Do you agree?