On a chair in my guest room sit two handmade pillows with cats on them. Although I have owned dogs most of my married life, I really consider myself a cat person. But my husband is not. He wants dogs, only dogs.
I embroidered one of the pillows when I was in college. It was the summer that I attended Eastern Washington State College (now Eastern Washington University) in Cheney, Washington. I was there to earn some extra credits so I could graduate from college in three years. The college was mostly a commuter school for Spokane, particularly during the summer session. Few students lived on campus in the summer, only one dorm was open, and food service was limited.
I had four classes in the morning, then was free from noon until bedtime. I could easily complete my class reading and other homework before dinner was served at 4:00pm. I ate, then returned to my room to watch television (I think I got two or three stations on the tiny TV I had borrowed from my parents) and do needlework. I made three pillows during the eight-week summer session. One of them was this cat pillow.
My mother was also a cat person. We had three cats during the time I was growing up—four, if you count the old tabby that my grandparents owned when my mother, brother and I lived with them in the winter of 1957-58, while my dad was in graduate school. The only name this cat ever had was Kitty. She lived from the time my mother was in middle school until I was three or four. So I only knew her as a crabby old cat that hid from me under the sofa.
My parents got their first cat when we lived in Corvallis, Oregon. I was in preschool when they acquired this kitten. I don’t know if she had a name—if she did, I don’t remember it. I think I just called her Kitty also. She had a skin problem and had to be fed beef liver regularly. I remember my mother cooking and chopping the slimy red meat for the cat. This cat only lived a year or so before she was killed by a car on a busy street near our house.
About a decade later, we got a Siamese cat that preferred to live outside. We called her Sukiyaki, Suki for short. Suki was my little sister’s pet, though she loved my mother better than anyone else in the family. The rest of us she merely tolerated. Suki would jump into my lap to be petted. She’d purr, but when she was done, she dug her claws into my arms without warning until I put her down. And she clawed the furniture when she wanted outside, which was several times a day.
Suki, too, was hit by a car after a year or so. That happened when I was in high school, at a time when I didn’t want to have much to do with my mother. But my mother and I cried together when we learned what had happened to Suki.
We soon got another Siamese cat to replace Suki. My sister named this cat Susie Q. Susie only liked the indoors. Unfortunately, my sister was diagnosed with cat allergies about this time, and we had to give Susie away not long after we got her.
My father was always allergic to cats also, except for Siamese. (Or was he only allergic to Siamese? My memory on the issue isn’t clear.) My sister’s cat allergy didn’t have any breed limitations.
After Susie Q, my parents switched to from cats to Schnauzers. They got their first Schnauzer shortly after I left for college.
Despite the lack of cats in her life after Susie, my mother continued to love them. When her oldest granddaughter (my daughter) was young, my mother embroidered the other cat pillow I have and gave it to my daughter. This pillow depicts Chessie, the mascot of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. I’ve always thought the Chessie pillow was sweet, and perfect for a little girl’s room.
But like my husband, my daughter is a dog person, and has been since childhood. She didn’t have much use for the Chessie pillow my mother stitched, though I made her keep it on her bed for years. She finally rebelled and stuffed the pillow in her closet. But I wouldn’t let her give the pillow away, because my mother made it.
Now when I pass the guest room and see the chair with the two cat pillows, I think of my mother, of my college days, and of all the cats that have passed through my life.
What reminds you of pets you have had?