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.