Tales from my Past
By Myra Vanderpool Gormley (c) 2013
A-Hissing and A-Tickling
She was just a ball of fur when I first saw her on that October night — the night Mother sent me out on my first “trick or treating” adventure all alone and on the wrong date.
The nice lady at the antique store located just a couple of blocks from where we lived was caught off guard and without any treats for a kid who arrived on the wrong evening. However, she graciously offered to save me the kitten of my choice — if it was OK with my mom.
Mother, as I was to learn many times, was a soft touch when it came to animals, so she agreed to let me have a kitten — if I would learn to take care of it.
Of course, I would. I was eight years old and would do everything. I stopped at the antique store every day after school to check on the kittens — torn by which one to select. They are all so cute. One day the antique store lady told me I could pick out my kitten and take it home. They had their eyes open and were weaned.
Decision time! Oh, how I agonized over which one to pick. Finally, one of the kittens stole my heart. She was feisty and impish — arching her back, jumping about, hissing playfully and pouncing on her siblings.
I named her “Curly” though the reason escapes me. She was just a nondescript multi-colored kitten who might have had some calico ancestry.
Curly made herself right at home at our house. Her homemade litter box (a cut-down cardboard box with dirt from the backyard) was placed in the bathroom and she soon learned that when anyone went to that room, she could go too. In fact, soon no one was allowed in there without Curly. She asserted her rights from the beginning. Going to her box and watching was a favorite game. Her ability to mimic the humans’ facial expressions while utilizing the facilities in private moments became legendary family tales. One day we heard my Aunt Thelma laughing so hard at Curly’s bathroom antics that Mother thought her sister was going to pass out and sent me to check on her —Aunt Thelma, not Curly.
Curly was allowed to sleep in my room and she soon took over our twin bed and learned that my feet were ticklish .We would play the tickle game under the covers until I would give up exhausted from giggling or mother yelled at us.
Mother was about eight months’ pregnant when Curly arrived and the cat discovered that mother could not reach her if she perched underneath the easy chair up in its springs and swatted away the broom. Mother was pregnant with my twin brothers, but we didn’t know it was twins back in 1948. Everyone kept saying what a big baby it was going to be. It became increasingly difficult for her to bend over, let alone chase a rambunctious kitten.
Curly seem to realize that and took advantage of having full run of the house — especially at night.
Once upon a time, Mother and her brother had gone to the Texas coast to visit other family members and she brought back a collection of beautiful seashells. She displayed them on the second shelf of the tiered coffee table. Curly considered the shells her personal toys — as well as the floor-length lace curtains on either side of the fireplace.
Scrape. Scrape…. The sound was unmistakable. It was Curly, standing on her back feet, playing with the shells on the coffee table.
Many nights, Mother, who was having difficulty sleeping in the last trimester anyway, and was becoming increasingly large, would venture forth before the crack of dawn to yell at Curly or try to swat her away from the shells to get her to stop that *&^%$ noise.
Curly would arch her back, hiss, and run for the lace curtains — take a swing on the left one, then the right one and when Mother came forth with the broom, Curly would head for the hallway and my bedroom.
The hallway — with its lovely oak hardwood floors waxed to a glowing finish —sported a couple of throw rugs. This was Curly’s private slide area. That cat could take a flying leap from the living room, hit the first throw rug and slide into the second one and then into the linen closet at the end of the hallway. She’d unroll herself from the rug, bouncing stiff-legged into my room and be under the covers in slightly under nine seconds.
The birth of my twin brothers just after Christmas that year changed many things for my family. I caught the mumps and Curly and I were shipped off to my grandparents’ farm. Sometime later in January or February, my folks and the little twins moved to the farm, too.
By that time, Curly had discovered the joy of being a barn cat. She had made new friends and no longer cared to sleep with me.
Through the years though, I have wondered if Curly’s descendants might roam the Muskogee, Oklahoma environs — arching their backs, hissing, pouncing and making little girls giggle as they tickle their feet.