This being Mother’s Day, Max has been thinking about his momma, and asked me to tell him a story about her. While I never got to meet her, I did get a little history when I adopted Max, and the story goes like this:
Once upon a time, in Upstate New York, there was a big momma cat named Phyllis who lived in the woods, and had lots and lots of litters of babies. No one could ever persuade her to come live indoors; she liked her wild ways. So a kind-hearted couple who lived nearby focused instead on trapping and finding good homes for her kittens, whenever they could. One spring day the couple noticed Momma Phyllis with two new yellow kittens. Try as they may, they were only able to coax one of the babies away, by baiting a Havahart trap with food. (Guess who?) They brought him inside, named him Max, took him to the vet to get all his kitten shots, played with and cared for him until he was just a little bit older, and then gave him to me. A lot of other stuff happened after that, but it all boils down to this: His new family loved Max very much, and everyone lived happily ever after. And every Mother’s Day we all—well, everyone except Charlotte—give silent thanks to Momma Phyllis for looking the other way for five minutes, so that Little Max could wander off and find his way home to us. The End.
Like Max and everyone else, I’m thinking about my own mother today. And I’m wishing she were here—for lots of big reasons, but also lots of small ones, like, I think she would get a big kick out of all the silly cat cartoons on this blog, like the ones I used to make for her during the last year she was here. Priscilla was a big fan of creative silliness in general (and of cats), and I learned almost everything I needed to know about both things from her by osmosis.
Mom was a wonderful artist, and had been a professional graphic designer before “retiring” to devote herself to raising us three girls. Later on she would paint, but in between and always, she would doodle and draw.
Below is a set of caveman paper dolls that Mom drew for my older sister Carol and I when we were small—one of my favorites things, then and still.
I especially love that Mom would make these beautiful, clean line drawings and then cheerfully turn them over to us girls to color in with loose, messy scribbles. Looking back, as a grownup artist myself, this seems like a real act of generosity, i.e., letting go of any attachment to the drawings she created, and caring only if we kids had fun with them, in whatever way we wished to. Here’s another example, showing little girl paper dolls. (Their clothes were cut out of old wallpaper sample books.)
Some of the drawings Mom made for us were instructive—not about how to color or draw (which there were never any rules about) but about how to read and write. Below are some pages from a little book she stapled together called, “The Alphabet Twins.” I think Alpha is modeled after me—and Betty after my sister Carol—since I never was very neat, nor was my writing. (But then again, I am also not very sweet.)
When we weren’t around, usually late at night, Mom would also sometimes indulge in what she termed “monkey business”—playful little drawings and cards, like this thank you note to Carol from the Tooth Fairy.
But even after we kids were grown and gone, Mom would still doodle on the notes she would leave around the house for my dad—which is maybe part of why I like to do that, too. Here are two of hers that I’ve always liked. (Apparently once upon a time, Charlotte did like to drink out of the potty. Who knew?)
My parting doodle today is the quick scribble I left on the breakfast table for Dad when I heard him getting up and moving around early this morning. But it pretty much sums up how I feel about mothers and motherhood, especially not being one myself: I’m in total awe of anyone who takes it on, and does it well!
I’ll be taking tomorrow off to catch up on some other projects, but will look forward to seeing you on here again on Tuesday or so. Until then, I hope everyone had a really good Mother’s Day today—whether you spent it celebrating, being celebrated, or just thinking about and remembering your mom, like Max and me.