The Patchwork Cat

One day when I was a little kid, my brothers and I were sitting around the house bored on a gloomy, rainy summer day.  My Mom, being one of those Moms that always had something for us to do, pulled out three plaster cats, the kind you can buy at the craft store, to paint.  She set us up in the kitchen at a table covered with newspapers, a bunch of paint and paint brushes and water to rinse them in.  “Have fun”, she said.

I was five years old at the time, I hadn’t started kindergarten yet and my painting skills were about what you’d expect from a five-year old.  My brothers on the other hand, were respectively three and four years older than me and although still in elementary school, old enough to be able to know how a cat should be painted. So we painted and painted and painted.

My oldest brother painted his mostly black, like a Halloween cat, with some silver highlights here and there.  He spent most of the time on the eyes using yellows and greens and whites and diligently adding all the fine details that you’d see when you look at a cat face to face.  He painted the inside of the ears a mix of black and pink, just like you’d see on a black cat. He painted the claws.

My other brother painted his orange and black.  No, these were not jungle animals, they were cheap craft store domesticated cats.  But he made his look like a fierce tiger with crisp stripes down the sides that ended in sharp points.  He also painted the eyes, although not quite as realistically as the Halloween cat, and the ears and the claws.

I painted mine… red and blue and yellow and green and purple and orange and brown and white and black and…

A red splotch here, a blue smear there, a purple blot here, a red smudge there, an orange stroke here, a green splash there.

Then my brothers teased me.  They teased me because my cat was all different colors.  They said “it doesn’t look like a cat.”  They said “cats aren’t red and blue and green and purple.”  They teased and teased and teased and then I started to cry and I ran to my room.  Yep, I did… I cried my eyes out.  Of course, I was only five!

A little while later, my Mom called me back out.  She said “I have something to show you.”  So I came back out to the kitchen and there was my cat sitting in the same place I had left it.

But it was different.

Around each and every splotch and smear and blot and smudge and stroke and splash, my Mom had painted tiny little lines and stitch marks. It looked like a cat that had been sewn together with little pieces of colored fabric.  She said, “what do you think? It’s a patchwork cat.”  It was amazing and I thought it was the coolest cat in the world at that moment.  My brothers actually kind of liked it too.  Sorry, I don’t have a photograph to show you, you’ll have to use your imagination.

My Mom kicked ass as a Mom.  I couldn’t have asked for one any better.  We lost her to brain cancer back in 2002.  I’m not here to mourn, but instead to celebrate. Not for any particular reason, this story just happened to pop into my head the other day and I thought I’d write it down.  Perhaps one of these days I’ll try to turn it into a real kid’s story and dedicate it to her.  She’d like that.

Wherever she is now, I can only imagine she has a cat with her… a cat that’s all sewn together out of pieces of fabric.

A patchwork cat.

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26 Comments

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26 responses to “The Patchwork Cat

  1. bigsheepcommunications

    That’s a lovely memory and an early clue to your creative side : )

  2. What a wonderful memory and what an amazing mom!

  3. That was great man…sorry to hear about your loss, but she sure was one great lady to do that for you. You should post this on Mother’s Day every year!

  4. Great story 🙂 You’re Mom would be proud once again…

  5. What a beautiful memory. I imagine each “patch” as a memory of another loving moment.

  6. Love this story! Your Mom was great!
    My mother was pretty wonderful about setting us up with crafts and papers and markers, too. What Moms have to do not only to entertian kids, but also to medicate the emotions that get hurt by teasing and humiliation. Sadly, I was on my own there. Glad you posted this. I’m sure it made everyone whose read it or will read it, a little happier.

  7. Shoo wee that was special Steve! Your mom sounds awesome! My mom didn’t do anything of the sort. Makes me want to be completely opposite. X

  8. The first thing that came to my mind was the Dolly Parton song “My coat of many colors”…my momma made for me.
    Wonderful story!

  9. Sending out a toast to your mom. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story.

  10. Loved this post!! And I love your idea…I think it would make a great children’s book. What do you have to lose?? I have contact information for a great artist (he is helping me with my book) if you’re ever interested in pursuing the idea…

    • Thanks, glad you liked it. I’ve already started brainstorming and writing down some notes. And thanks for offering your contact. Problem with kids books is the pubs typically will select the illustrator. You have to sell them the story without the illustrations, which is difficult considering what makes most kids books so great is… the illustrations!

  11. Great story, I bet your mom would love to have read this….cheers.

  12. What a wonderful story! Your mother sounds like she was an amazing woman!

  13. Beautiful story – sounds like you had an amazing mother.

  14. Very touching, Steve. It has the emotional ring of Dolly Parton’s “A Coat of Many Colors” minus the religious themes. I’d absolutely love to see this in book form, and I’m sure she would be proud 🙂

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