Jul 25, 2013

Tabby Cat and the Mousies

Tabby was an ordinary  Calico Cat.  I don’t remember when she came to live with us.  It just seemed that she had always been there darting into corners avoiding the busy feet of the big people in our house.  I was fascinated by her crafty agility and often imitated her as I needed to stay out of the way, also.

Little me on 1947 Crosley Car at the age I am in the story
Dangling precariously, she relaxed in my grasp while I hauled her around and into the safety of the knee-hole desk in the dining room.  As I crouched, comforted by her soft body, she purred contentedly in my lap. We sat watching from our cozy corner while the busy world passed us by.
Mauled as she was by my three-year-old's hands, she never bared her teeth or drew a claw against me, but hung in trusting limpness like a chubby rag doll adoring me with her big green eyes.  Obviously, I thought, she loved me as much as I loved her.  And that was more than I could say I felt for any old stiff-legged Andy Pandy Teddy Bear uselessly standing guard upon the pillow of Big Bubber’s bed!  I wouldn't dare touch it or I’d get knuckled on top of my head by his nine year old over-sized fist.
I held Tabby close, staring into the kaleidoscope of her eyes. “Don’t let the kitty lick your face,”  Mommy scolded.
“But, it tickles so nice,”  I responded, immediately obeying, holding Tabby away from my face.  But, as soon as I was no longer observed, I couldn't stop from snuggling her again. “Tickle-Cat!” I whispered.
Many an early morning, before the rest of the family awakened, I quietly crept out of bed and snooped around looking for my pal. Sometimes, on such a foray, I found her on the windowsill. There, the rising sun, Tabby and I waited, listening for the morning bird songs.  I watched in fascinated anticipation as she balanced on her haunches, her pot belly protruding ludicrously, paws waving daintily in the air,
“Ch-ch-ch-chir-rup!  Ch-ch-chirrrr-up!” She sang; right in tune with the warblers outside. I stood there mouth agape, barely breathing, admiring her.
One early dawn, I awoke to discover that my furry friend was no-where to be found.  I investigated every nook and cranny. But, no Tabby. I dared not call her, as I didn’t want to waken anyone. I really appreciated our mornings alone together  and our freedom from the critical eyes of the big people. Then a glimmer of excitement triggered me to decide to go down  cellar.
I opened the creaky door with a click and, with my nose assaulted by the strange odors emanating from below, I peered into the murky grayness. For a moment, I hesitated at the top of the stairs, wondering if there really were bats and snakes and rats waiting down there to get me, or if Bubber had told me that to keep me away from his play area.  He had been known to lie to me before. Suspicion gave way to courage and logic prevailed. Bravely,  I took one step down and peeked below. The familiar Mason jars filled with last summer’s bounty glowed from the dusty storage shelves welcoming me to investigate further. Greeted by the assuring silence of the shiny new wringer washer, (wasn't making any growling noises today), I quietly closed the door behind me and ventured forth.  I just had to find my precious Tabby!
My diligence paid off; for there in the wicker laundry basket of clean sheets lay my fat furry friend.  I leaned over to pet her, then noticed what I thought to be a wet mouse lying near her. I was so curious, I had to pick it up. I pulled the little sac off its body and set the little mouse on my big brother’s pool table. The creature moved ever so imperceptibly and I gingerly poked at it with my finger.  It must have been the right amount of stimulation, because, just then, its little body gave a tremulous shudder, and its mouth opened, emitting a tiny squeak.
My Mom with her kitty 1934
I was just as mystified as Tabby appeared to be. I looked over at her surprised eyes glinting at me, as if to say “What in the world IS that?”
Then, I noticed another wet bag with a mouse inside lying near Tabby.
“Where are you getting these Mouses from, Tabby?” I queried, as I knelt beside the laundry basket staring at her unusual companion. I Reached over to pet her, and she began licking my sticky fingers.  I giggled. “You, Tickle-Cat!”  Tabby purred her pleasure.
 Then, picking up the second creature, I laid it on the pool table next to the first one.  A moment later, Tabby was vigorously licking a third little mouse, which protested loudly.  Its squealing cries pierced my ears.
“Yuck! Tabby! You’re not going to EAT it! Are you? Incredulous, I  snatched the helpless thing away from her and held it close to me within the folds of my flannel nightgown.
Its cries diminished somewhat until I tried to put it on the table with the others who were tottering blindly among the cue balls.  This last one’s little claws clung to the tangled lace of my gown as its cries piteously echoed off the furnace pipes.  I grew terribly concerned as the other two on the table responded in kind.
“SHHHH! Be quiet!”  I admonished
Worried, I looked to Tabby for reassurance “What should I do?” I beseeched her.  They were being awfully noisy. Noticing their eyes were not open, it dawned on me that they must be crying because they could not see!  These three blind mice were desperately nudging the green felt table pad. I sang to them. “Three blind mice........Three blind mice......See how they run......”  I picked up another mouse from Tabby’s laundry basket and clutched it to my chest.  This one suspiciously resembled Tabby; Same pretty colors splashed across its body.
Suddenly, as though antennae were attached to my head, something warned me to stand very still and listen carefully. I heard the sound of a click and a creak. Then, my mother’s voice tentatively intoned my name.  Shivers of panic itched down my spine. I silently crawled beneath the pool table, as she padded down the cellar stairs in her blue satin mules.  Her brightly flowered robe gently swished across the cold concrete floor.
“What are you doing down here?” she queried, as I watched her blue veined legs approach the table.  I did not respond.  Since  I believed myself to be well hidden, I presumed she had directed her question to Tabby.
The only response she received was a multiple chorus of mewing.
“Well, for Pete’s sake!” She exhaled. And in the next breath, “You get out from under that table this instant!!” I don’t believe my mother’s voice has ever unnerved me so deeply since that moment.
My mom with Pepper Cat 2006
I cowered as she stamped her foot, and carefully backed out away from her, emerging on the opposite side, with the table safely between us,  still clutching the little nudgling. My chin rested against it as I hung my head in guilt and stared at the evidence. Had I been caught red-handed? I wasn't sure what I had done wrong. But, judging from my mother’s tone, I was positive that Tabby and I were in deep trouble.
“You don’t have to look so scared,” she reassured.  “I’m not gonna bite you.” Then, more gently, she explained, “It’s just that when baby kittens are born they should never be touched or taken away from the Mama Cat.”
“Kittens!”  I exclaimed in wonderment.  “I thought they were mice!”
My mother’s blue eyes danced with delight. She tried to maintain a straight face while she carefully lifted each vigorously protesting baby kitten off the table and placed them next to our feline Madonna, who happily took them to nurse.
That was about 1948.  Now that I’m older and, (hopefully), wiser I find that I am still totally amazed when I contemplate this early and impressionable experience.  Why Tabby reclined there, placidly, among the newly washed sheets as I disturbed her first-born litter will always remain a mystery to me.
From: Niagara's Child by Elizabeth Munroz

Sorry, I don't have a picture of Tabby


Milo and Alfie Marshall said...

Beautiful pics! xx

Elizabeth Munroz said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

that is a beautiful story! I was mesmerized! Amazing that she let you handle her newborns. total trust!

Elizabeth Munroz said...

Tabby was my best friend and companion. So glad she was in my life.