He was the TreMENDous cat
. A New England moggy brown tabby
, with the bone structure of a Maine Coon, he was my mom’s birthday present, with a bouquet of Sweet William on his collar. Sweet William
might have been his formal name, but he was always Mr. Stripes to us.
Maybe a cat never mentally goes beyond the level of a human toddler. But,as my mother once said, he had a lot of experience in it. And I was his kitten, and part of his colony.And there hangs a tale…tail...
I was eighteen months old, when I was deposited in my grandparents’ house.
We were pretty much the same size.
He liked jumping into my crib.
(Yes, I can remember that far back.)
Cats like babies, they’re warm.
He taught me several things:
I am one of your parents, because the others can’t always be there.
Do not go too far in the yard, or any other place, unless some one is with you. If you do, I will hunt you and bring you back, no matter how far.
Be nice, and others will be nice to you. Hurt them, and they might hurt you.
No matter what you do, you are still loved.
He showed this by jumping into my crib, my bunk, and then, my bed.
I went to sleep with his purrs.
This went on for several years.
“He scratched me!”
“So…what did you do?”
Young childhood metabolism being what it is, I healed within a day or so. Now and then, he’d give me a swipe, just in case I had a few ideas.This never broke skin. He never, ever bit.
Perhaps, he was the beneficiary of the media of the time: while Tom & Jerry and Herman and Catnip were violent stories where the Mouse always got the better of the Cat, I learned the wisdom of Felix and Top Cat. Felix always outsmarted his opponents, no matter how “smart” they thought themselves to be, Top Cat was part of a network of friends, who always backed him up. I adored Mr. Stripes, even when (a rare occurrence) he caught sick. (During a sunset, in a color coordinated room, just in time for a can of tomato sauce to explode. My single word, at the age of four, resounded through family history…”Incredible.")
He was a surprisingly durable cat. After being fixed, on a diet of meat by-products and cereal, supplemented by table scraps (tomato sauce was a favorite; we speculated that he might be Italian) he lived for 25 years.
One day when I was five, and I’d moved out to my mom’s house, he went across the street into the deep woods of theWinchester Testing Ground, and never came back. I still love him so.