October 1978 - June 4, 1999

The following is a set of memories about Toes that I wrote after she died. I hope it conveys some of her unique spirit and personality. She was a treasured member of our family for over twenty years. I also have some pictures of her as a kitten.

I snipped out the sadder parts of this narrative, which talked about Toes's death.

I remember the day she joined us. I was almost 5 and my brother was 2. It was the Christmas/Hanukah season and my mom had decided we should have a new kitten for a family gift. So we went to these people's home where they had kittens to give away. My mom really wanted a grey one but they only had one and it was spoken for, so we decided to take one of the two black-and-white ones. My brother and I were having a great time chasing the kittens around these strangers' house. :) We decided we wanted the feistier kitten -- the one that led us the merrier chase! We finally cornered her under the radiator in the bathroom. I can only imagine what the little kitten thought to see those four chubby grubby hands reaching in after her! :)

We put her in a cardboard box between us on the backseat of the car. The whole way home we giggled at the mysterious scratching noises from inside the box. Every now and then a little white paw would poke out and we would giggle more and poke it back in. :)

She was mostly black. She had very neat, symmetrical white paws -- just the tips of her front paws were white, but her back legs were white all the way up to the "knees." She also had a white tummy and a streak of white on her forehead and nose, and a neat triangle of white on her breast.

When we got home, we rushed upstairs to show the new family member to our upstairs neighbor, Marvin, who always took an interest in our doings. We showed him the new kitten's cute little black face and her little white paws. "Twinkletoes!" he said, and the kitten was named! She had many nicknames including Tyrannosaurus Kitty and That Little Sneak, but mostly it was Twinkie.

Our other cat, Pandora, was not very pleased to see this young whippersnapper invading her territory. But Twinkie was not a kitten to be intimidated! Luckily for all involved, they eventually worked out a truce.

Twinkie and Pandy were both outdoor cats and they both knew the special whistle we did at the front door to call them in -- or more properly, since they WERE cats, I should say "the whistle we did to let them know we were holding the door open in case they felt like coming in." :) I was desperate to learn how to whistle so I could call them in. (She also knew the sound of the can opener -- this was before catfood came in easy-open cans. Even after the easy-open cans, she would still come running if she heard the can opener. Of course, for the last few years she couldn't hear anything so she just watched you carefully to make sure you were feeding her. :) )

Anyway, Twinkie would stay outside for hours at a time, coming back scruffy and dirty and sometimes bloody. She got in fights with the other neighborhood cats, defending her territory. Sometimes we'd hear the yowling and rush to the door to call her, and she would come streaking inside with her tail three times its normal size. We had a small hole cut in the door of our apartment, at cat-height, so they could jump in and out and then they just had to wait for someone to open the main building door. In the winter, before bedtime we had to make sure to "brick the door" -- put a brick in the hole (first making sure both cats were in!) so they couldn't go out during the night. In summertime, though, they would often stay out all night. Twinkie knew which window was my mom's bedroom, and she could jump into the flowerbox outside the window -- easily five or six feet off the ground -- and scratch on the window screen until my mom grumbled and leaned over to open the window and let Twinkie in.

Our house is at the end of a dead-end street, which fronts on Massachusetts Avenue, one of the main streets in Cambridge. Twinkie would go all the way down the driveway and lurk in the bushes at the corner of Mass. Ave., waiting for unsuspecting pedestrians to walk by. Then she would come out and do her patented "no one has fed or petted me in months!" act, complete with pitiful meows. The people passing by would be taken in. They would stop and crouch down and pet her, and she would lap it up, purring and rubbing against them and giving them adoring looks. Then I would step forward laughing and tell the person that in fact this cat had just been fed half an hour ago, and I had spent all afternoon petting her till my arm nearly fell off! They would walk away, but as soon as I turned my back she would be pulling the stunt on the next cat-loving victim....

All that running around in alleys with strange tomcats took its toll, and Twinkie had two litters of kittens. The first time, she found a little nook under my mom's bed -- if you squeezed into the space between bed and wall, there was a spot where that space opened up and she crawled underneath to have the kittens. We could hear them mewing, but it took a while to figure out where they were! We had to put a mirror down on the floor and shine a flashlight on it to see the kittens. The second time, she had the kittens on the couch with my mom helping. There were six kittens the first time and seven the second time, and we gave them all away. Sometimes I'm walking the streets of Cambridge and I see a cat that looks just like Toes and think, that could be one of her great-great-grandchildren!

After the second litter of kittens we had her spayed and she eventually calmed her wild ways a little bit. She still loved to chase stuff, of course. She liked to follow my mom when my mom had neglected to tie the sash on her bathrobe. The sash would dangle as my mom walked, and Twinkie would run after her, attacking the sash. She also liked to play with the wrapping paper on Christmas morning after we had unwrapped the presents. And sometimes we would make her catnip toys -- a little bit of catnip in the middle of a piece of cloth, tied up with string -- and she would completely destroy it, ripping the cloth open and scattering the catnip across the floor where she would lick it up. Then she would run around being loopy and beat up on Pandy, who was not amused. I think I was about 15 or 16 when Pandy died; she was quite old too -- my mom got her before I was born.

Twinkie liked to sleep in odd places. Mostly she slept on my mom's waterbed, but sometimes she slept on mine, and she liked to climb into my underwear drawer and sleep among my undies. Once she got into the clothes dryer and took a couple of spins before we realized what that horrible thumping noise was. It's hard not to laugh at a cat with its dignity ruffled! ;)

When I got a little older, I would ride my bike home from school, and when I turned the corner, I could see a little black blob on the front step of our house. She would get up as soon as she saw me -- I swear she recognized me even from that distance -- and meow. Sometimes I couldn't hear her, but I could see her mouth opening. She would wait while I tied up my bike, and then rub against my legs while I unlocked the door.

For years we had the same weekday morning ritual. I would get up first and have my morning cup of tea and read the paper. Then I would get into my mom's waterbed with my mom and Toes (we switched her nickname from Twinkie to Toes at some point during my teenage years) and we would all cuddle and laze around for another fifteen or twenty minutes. Then my mom would go have *her* cup of tea, usually with Toes following, and I would get ready for school. Often when I came home from school, after watching the afternoon soaps I would get into my mom's bed again and lie there cuddling Toes and doing homework.

She loved to sleep under the covers on the waterbed, where it was most warm. She was expert at nudging the covers up with her nose and slithering underneath them. Before you lay down, you had to carefully pat each lump on the bed to figure out which one was the cat. Sometimes I would uncover her and she would blink up at me. When I picked her up, she gave a little squeak. She loved to be picked up and held and walked around with. She would nestle in your arms and purr and bump her head against your chin.

Lately I've been starting to feel guilty because I wasn't sad enough about losing Toes. I know it's silly. I still don't think it's fully sunk in (even though it's been almost two months). Every time I go to my mom's house I have to remind myself that she's not there. I can pull back the waterbed covers all I want, but there's no lump under them. I almost can't believe it's been so long. It feels like forever and just yesterday at the same time.

I can picture Toes beyond the Rainbow Bridge. She's found a nice bush to lie under so that the sun dapples her fur but doesn't get her too hot. She's all curled up waiting for me.

I miss her a lot.

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joan the english chick
Last updated 15 August 2000