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So yes, this is an ode to her. But it’s also a thank you to my kind neighbors.
You might think it is a not appropriate thing to write about the burial of a cat on Memorial day. I shall segue it thus: My father was a Navy man. My brother wrote a beautiful tribute to his service in the Navy HERE.
One of the few times I ever saw my father cry was when he returned from a business trip back when I was a teenager in Cedar City, Utah.
He’d been seated on the plane next to this woman who had recently lost her cat. And in retelling the story, my father cried. “She really loved that cat!” he said, wiping his eyes of uncharacteristic tears. Granted he was tired. But he understood, even though he was not a pet person. And I think he would understand now.
I have had Elsie for almost seven years. Here in Iowa, we have many riches, one of the chief amongst them being the ability to pluck little kittens right off the street! Hence the constant need to fight becoming the Cat Lady of Rolfe.
That long ago spring, my sister Julie informed me they had a mother and her kittens living in one of their little outbuildings.
We approached the building. The mother cat, seeing us, ran away. We looked at each little kitten one by one, and I picked out Elsie, a pretty black and white “tuxedo” cat. She was far too tiny to take right then, so we said our goodbyes and left.
That was one good cat mother. She moved her kittens away and I wasn’t sure if we would ever find them again. But several days later we did! Or rather, Julie did. They were at the side of an abandoned house. When a week had passed and it was time, Julie bravely made her way through the overgrown bushes, picking out the distinctive cat with the white just so over her eye and the little black dot on her nose, and that was that.
I held her tiny body right here at this desk as I soothed her. She was so scared! As was only natural, as you can imagine. But winters here are very hard for outdoor stray cats, so in a way I rescued her. She rescued me back, many times.
Elsie was affectionate enough, but what I loved most about her was that she would follow me everywhere. She would rarely beg for pettings (although she got them plenty), she would simply lie at my feet wherever I was in the house. It was as if she just happened to be going the same place I was. At the same time. And it was oddly comforting to have her there.
She was my snacker and beggar of milk. My other cat Lily is as fat as a folk art cat, but Elsie is the one who would beg for milk and treats. Of course she got them! It is Elsie’s tiny green footprints that are on my dining room floor from the time I thought it would be a good idea to paint my kitchen floor (long since stripped and stained).
So, yes. I shall miss her. But at the same time, I am grateful for good neighbors. First for the one who saw it happen and who kindly came and told me, which is not an easy thing to do.
Second, I am grateful to my other neighbors across the way, a wife, a husband and their toddler son. The husband went and checked Elsie for me, lying so pristinely in the street as if she were only sleeping but not responding to my calls. He gently picked her up, confirming my fears and took her at my request to my other house behind me. Julie and Scott pulled up as he was getting a spade, I fetched my two shovels and together they dug as I cried and went back and forth trying to find my other cat Lily and tried not to look at Elsie my love.
There was even a funny moment, although I didn’t hear about it until later and didn’t smile about it until then. The young toddler was right by Elsie’s side the entire time preparations were being made. Julie later told me that his mother confided how happy he was. Because he had desperately wanted to pet a cat, but none would ever let him. Elsie did! So he was happy as a clam, and petted to his heart’s content.
Well, one takes one’s smiles from wherever one can.
We found rocks to put on the grave and a plaque from my garden at Julie’s suggestion. I noticed that one of the rocks was not only nice and flat with a base to stand upon, it was shaped like a cat! So I painted it. And there she lays. And I shall miss her. And I’m thankful for so many good people.
Now to search the streets once again.
When my family moved to Hawaii in the sixties, I was three or four years old. How lucky was it that we just happened to move next to a family with an equally strange little girl? Her name was Holly and we were inseparable. Beyond friends, beyond sisters even at that time.
Our mothers, when they bought us dresses, would sometimes buy an extra one for the other of us. Holly and I were both blond, her eyes were brown and my eyes were blue, and therefore our dresses would be the same in everything but color. She would get the orange dress, I would get the navy, we got our hair cut alike…practically twins.
It was Holly that I played dolls and made up dances and plays with. It was Holly who was coaching me as I sang on top of that rabbit hutch. I still remember exactly where Holly’s teeth landed on my cheek when we hugged so hard after she got back from a trip to Europe. We were so glad to see each other again that she didn’t have time to close her mouth from our shouts of excitement before we were in each others arms, crying with joy.
Then finally came the time seven years later for my family to move back to the mainland. Back then there was no such thing as Skype or Facebook, and long distance phone calls were only for the direst of emergencies. We wrote for quite awhile and I would have dreams of Hawaii being just on the other side of that snowy mountain in Cedar City, Utah, but inevitably, Holly and I lost touch and grew apart.
Because she was such an important part of my life, my memories with Holly figure a lot into Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway, including one of the sadder situations.
In Chapter 22 Remembrances & Regrets, it’s revealed why Hazel’s mother is the way she is, so careful and afraid of everything, and why the mention of relatives makes her cry: Olivia’s husband, sister, mother and niece were all killed by a drunk driver who later escaped.
In one fell swoop, Holly’s mother, sister and grandmother – three generations – were killed by a drunk driver who later escaped.
When this terrible event happened we were grown women with families of our own. We’d seen each other once or twice over the years but had changed too much over time; the childhood closeness was gone. But for that one awful conversation we were back to where we’d always been; Side by side as little girls, sharing funny and sad and scary remembrances of when we were younger. Those formative years when a mother’s love is so important.
We’ve drifted in and out of each others lives over the years and I can’t recall when I spoke to her last, but still. I am heartily, heartily thankful for that childhood we had together. I’ve said it often: Holly saved my life.
This is an “About” from last week’s chapter. Last night’s Chapter 23 Leap of Faith that premiered last night is a continuation of 22’s Remembrances & Regrets.
Have you ever wanted to utter those words? Well, I actually have!
This is not really “About” Chapter 6, that’ll come tomorrow. It’s pretty much just about a single line in chapter 6 that talks about the motel Ruth and Hazel stayed in: the room was strictly decorated in turquoise and red. Quite a long time ago too, apparently.
My very first “official” job was as a motel maid and I started in high school. I spent the second half of my childhood in the wonderful Cedar City, Utah, home of the marvelous Utah Shakespearean Festival which gave me my love of Shakespeare to this very day.
I’m sure this was me just being dramatic, but when I was a maid the owner’s daughters were maids too. There were two halves to this motel, the old and the new. The daughters got the new, of course. The rest of us got the old. I’m sure they’ve changed by now, but back then the old rooms were dingy things. Flocked red bed covers and turquoise shag carpeting that would never come clean.
Still. To this day I make my bed like a motel maid working alone: first one half all the way done, then the other.
As for the quitting, I worked there faithfully all through high school. But then came college. What fun! What freedom! I was not as good an employee as I should have been. Ahem. One day I got the only migraine I have ever had in my life, thank goodness. I couldn’t even move my eyes without flinching in pain. So when the owner called me and demanded that I come in “or else,” I uttered the words that some only dream of.
“You can’t fire me, I QUIT!”
Shame on me. I deserved to be fired by that point but I confess, it felt a little bit good uttering those words.
Afterwards I got a job at the pre-show of the Shakespearean festival, walking around in Elizabethan costume, singing songs hawking lemon and raisin tarts (we got to take home the leftovers at the end of the night. They were WONDERFUL!) or horehound candy or oranges.
Yep. All that, for one little line.
What if you could pick out your own car? The “rusty old white car” that Ruth is driving is a blend of two cars from my past: My trusty white ’93 Ford Explorer steed that I’d owned since before Adam was born and that brought me to Iowa, and The Bomb.
Back in the 1970’s when we were living in Cedar City, Utah shortly after having moved there from Hawaii (THAT was a tricky transition, let me tell you!), my big sister Carol entered a contest given by the local car dealership: Put your name in for a raffle, and if it was drawn, for $25 (which basically covered registration) you would win a car. My sister won!
Not being a car expert, all I remembered was that “The Bomb” (which is what we affectionately called it, before calling something “da bomb” was cool) had rounded corners and tail fins. And THAT was the car I wanted Ruth to have, except white in honor of my Explorer. So I sent Nina these pictures(‘cept I asked her to make it white):
Turns out (I talked to Carol last night) it was a ’56 Chevy Bel Air!
And more than once, my poor son or I or my sister Julie have had to retrieve cans after they fell out of my car and rolled onto the ground upon opening my car door, because I am a lover of Diet Coke. And I am a thirsty driver. Better than littering, right? Of COURSE right, I’d never litter! Even WITHOUT the nickel deposit!
I’ve decided to find that clanging sound in the middle of a crowded parking lot of an empty can rolling away humorous. Look at the can lady!
Why has no one snatched me up yet?
Tomorrow: Nina vs. Ruth round 4. Maybe THIS time I’ll win! Maybe not…