So a cat has nine lives. I have known many cats, from Bessie, of course, to Roger Wertenberger's Siamese that I called "Too High," who peed on my leg, to Rick Grabish's (doctoral candidate) Siamese who bit the back of my neck as we were going over a page of his dissertation in Carbondale. I am generally indifferent to them, and although cats endemically ignore humans, they do not seem happy when they are ignored. Exception: John and Claire had a cat for years, and I never SAW it! It was a recluse (Hermit? Misanthrope?).
© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008
Mama Kitty is an exception to the hostile tone of the above. We got her at a farm which is on the road to Thompsonville. When we got there, a cow was giving birth and Lucy Chase and I were thrilled for our children to see the coming into the world of a new creature. We parked and gathered at the fence to watch. The farmer's wife, who was to give us the cat, came screaming toward us, "Get those children away from here! They should not be seeing this!"
Lucy Chase and I looked at her and each other in bewilderment. "Why not? What an opportunity!"
The Beldame was adamant, furious, impatient and imperious. We, on the other hand, were just as adamant, serene, patient and determined. It took but a few minutes, as the event was already well under way when we got there. And there was a beautiful calf! All wet and slippery, blinking at the unaccustomed brightness and awkwardly struggling to stand up! What a thrill!!
All this is parenthetical to Mama Kitty's story. Nine lives? I think she must have had almost nine litters, and thus her life was perpetuated through several generations. When the agitated lady finally settled down, we departed with the little calico cat. Evie named her Meutuff because she mewed and was tough (full name: Meutuff Pussywillow), but not one of us could call her by that name. She became known simply as Kitty until her first litter was born, and was henceforth Mama Kitty.
Mama Kitty was with us through the PhD in Ann Arbor, for the 3 years in Kansas, for two years at Carbondale, and several more years in Kent. At one point in her maternal career, our heroine was nursing her own daughter-cat, Crybaby, who by that time had kittens of her own. So here was Mama Kitty nursing Crybaby, and each of them sharing nursing kittens: William Shakespeare, Baby Vicious Aloysius George and Pumpkin Pie, and all the rest of the brood. At one point there were twenty-two in all!
Lucky was always the keeper of the birth records (time, date, name) of the kittens as they were born. One of our foreign students (female from China) went to a mall one day with several of them, and when she would see a child would ask, "Would you like to have a kitten?" What could the poor mom do? She gave away six or seven beautiful kittens that way.
(Lucky's note: Mama Kitty's mama days ended in our driveway in Kansas when one of the KSU students who lived with us backed his car over her. Dad was in the house at the time, heard us screaming, and looked out the upstairs window to see John's legs sticking out from under the car. Thinking JOHN had been run over, he flew outside and was unspeakably relieved to discover that John was just trying to get to poor Mama Kitty. Dad put her into a box and took her to the nearby veterinary school, where the students practiced their skills setting her two broken back legs and operating on her multiple injuries. After that she went into heat but never again had kittens.)
Once, coming from Carbondale, Mama Kitty went out the back open window of our Oldsmobile convertible and we spent over two hours trying to find her to get her back in the car so we could continue our trek to Interlochen. She was finally found in the open basement of a house under construction - sitting on a pile of lumber, washing her face with her paw. Serenity personified.
Once coming from Kansas, Lucy Chase was "alone" with a trailer and a car full of kids and pets. A parakeet got out of its cage, and Mama Kitty deftly caught it in mid flight. It was rescued and re-caged in short order by the children.
Mama Kitty finally died at Interlochen - going under the porch of the little house across the vacant lot from us. We were not there, having let Craig and Darlene stay in our house for a time after camp was over.
Composed 24 October 2008; Transcribed by Lucky
Cast of Characters