The Imaginary Kitty


‘Few people saw Wombat. Now no one ever will.’

My Oldest Younger Brother Scott swore that Wombat was an imaginary cat. He and his sons stayed with me in Amagansett a whole week and never saw her once. Oh, maybe one of the boys glimpsed a little black shape slinking down the stairs in the middle of the night, but not well enough to establish that it was an Actual Cat.

Can you find the cat in this picture? Wombat was notoriously good at hiding. Sometimes in plain sight

Well, I’m sorry to say that yesterday Wombat left this earth and went to Wherever Good Animals Go. Perhaps she is hanging out with Mango. (I would say Mango and Tuna, but Tuna had issues. (See “Tuna finds the Baby Jesus Sweet Spot” for details.)

Once in a while Tuna would deign to play

Tuna wouldn’t sit on your lap or even let you pet her. Which is really all you ask for in a cat, yes? But even though she didn’t do her Cat Job, Tuna had her fine points — for one thing, she loved The Dude’s playing so much she would sit on a pile of music books next to the piano — so I’m betting she’s Up There teaching Wombat some bad heavenly habits right this very minute.)

Mango was like a large stuffed animal that purred. For three different families

Mango, on the other hand, was everybody’s best friend. He was so indiscriminately affectionate that he “belonged” to no fewer than three families — all at the same time. (You can read more about his shameless exploits in “Lost Cat: Answers to the Name Mango.”)

But this piece is about Wombat.

Wombat demonstrating her Doorstop Pose

Dear little Wommie may have been elusive and slow to make new friends — she once famously bit The Beau so hard that he had to take antibiotics; in her defense, Beau’s approach to patting her head was the same approach Dude Man made when he wanted to “play,” which usually involved biting — but when Wombat decided to befriend you, well, you were befriended for always.

Wombat displaying some Catitude while “guarding” a needlepoint project

Wombat making like a meme. (That pillow is the finished project from the previous photo)

Wombat remembered all the people she spent quality time with when she was a kitten — all, like, two or three of them — and, no matter how much time had passed since she’d seen them, she would refrain from hiding when they visited. (Julie and Reva, I’m talking about you.) But with everyone else — no matter how nice they were — she would hide. Usually in the bottom of my wardrobe.

Wombat’s preferred hiding place. She would nudge open the door on the right and hide among my shoes

Once, when the apartment was being shown, a prospective buyer was measuring the wall where the wardrobe was and Wombat popped out — just like a cat-in-the-box — and scared the guy so much he dropped his tape measure. (He didn’t buy the apartment.)

Wombat at an impressionable age

She may not have cottoned to outsiders, but Wombat sure as heck loved her family. The Dude called her “The Creature” and, when he didn’t think anyone was listening, talked baby talk to her in a high squeaky voice. If she was sitting on my lap when he came home, she would immediately run to the door to greet him. (To this day, I don’t know how she knew it was him getting off the elevator and not our next-door neighbors. But she knew.) Dude Man was the Play Parent. He would engage in horseplay (see above biting note) and when he said the words “laser light” in a certain tone, she would run right into his office to chase the little dot around — even if he didn’t have the laser pointer out.

A boy and his kitty, less than a week ago. Sigh

Once in a while, she and I would play games, too. “Fetch” and “Hide and Seek” were our faves. (Yes, she would fetch a toy and bring it back. And yes, she loved it when you peeked around the furniture and said “boo!”) But, most of the time, with me, it was all about my lap.

Sometimes she’d chase me and bat my legs so that I’d sit down and make a lap

As for The Child, well, Wombat was actually The Child’s Kitty. When her Childness was a sophomore in high school she begged for her “own kitty,” so we went to Strawberry Fields in Montauk and picked her out of a rescue lineup. We almost took her brother too, but we had Tuna and (sometimes) Mango at the time and I drew the line at three cats.

The Child and Wom sharing beauty tips

Even though The Child disappeared soon after into the World of Higher Education and then Grownup Life, Wommie didn’t forget her — perching on the end of her couch and even (sort of) keeping her company in the tub.

Want me to wash your back?

But the person she adored the most was, well, me. It would be easy to say that her adoration was due to the fact I was the One Who Fed her — but she ate kibble pretty much any time she wanted, poured by all and sundry.

Perhaps if the others had been around her as much as I was, I wouldn’t have won this particular popularity contest. Who knows? All I can say is, whatever her reasons for fixating on me, I sure did like it. There really isn’t anything quite like being absolutely and unconditionally adored by a furry little animal.

I bought her a perfectly good cat bed. But guess where she slept?

Well, it’s getting late, and I’m getting sad. It was almost exactly 24 hours ago when I said good-bye to her Womness, stroked her cashmere-like coat, and patted her silky ears for the very last time. It’s time to wrap this up — and go mix myself a stiff Manhattan.

I miss you, sweet dear little cat. Sleep well

Amagansett, New York. December 2020



The friend who had a nanny for her dog


‘Way up on the Upper East Side’

One of the many things I enjoy about living in New York City is the, well, mix of people. Where I grew up in the Midwest — at least when I grew up there — a brunette was pretty darned exotic.

But here you get to rub elbows (and sometimes much much more) with a wide variety of folks. Some of whom live on a scale that can take some getting used to. Like, one day The Child came home from nursery school with this to say: “Mommy, Helen’s mommy has a couch in her bathroom!” Me: “How nice for Helen’s mommy!”

And I once shared Safety Patrol duty with a very congenial fellow mommy who, it turned out, had the same last name as a whole wing of the Metropolitan Museum. (No, she wasn’t named after it; it was named after her.)

My mommy friend’s namesake

And you may recall (from my story “Three, and You’re Under the Host”) that when The Child was attending that Quite Distinguished Private All-Girls School, we were invited to some pretty swell parties. (All the parents, not just us, were invited to these parties. But still.) Continue reading

“Swim, Sandy, swim!”


‘Equal time for dogs’

My Porn Star Name is ‘Sandy Peterson’. In honor of Sandy the Dog, the beloved Pet of My Youth, pictured above in a moment of not-unusual adorableness.

But before we get to Sandy, a quick word about that word game. Maybe you played it too. It’s the one where you take the name of your beloved pet, add your mother’s maiden name, and, voila!, you’ve got your Porn Star Name. (The Child’s is ‘Tuna Henry’.)

I must admit ours are pretty tame. Over wine at my dining room table I’ve heard some easy-to-imagine-clad-in-fishnets doozies: ‘Pinky Parker’, ‘Missy Goodbody’. Though the Dude’s is ‘Duffy Miltner Flockmaster Cromartie’, which is pretty darned racy.

But back to pets, which is the point of this piece. A couple of weeks ago I waxed nostalgic about felines of yore in ‘The Cat Who Ran Away from Home and Broke My Heart’.

I finally found a picture of me with Aunt Marilyn’s Herkimer, the first cat I adored. And tortured with two-year-old abandon

Continue reading

The cat who ran away from home and broke my heart


‘And other feline friends from days gone by’

Somewhere among the snapshots that used to live in the attic in a big cardboard box — the photos we were allowed to rummage through on rainy days (see ‘In An Alternate Universe, I Would Have Been a Redhead’) — is one of me with my Aunt Marilyn’s cat Herkimer.

I’m, oh, two in the picture, and poor Herkimer looks about as pleased at being clutched by a toddler as you can imagine. Aunt Marilyn said I used to thread the poor thing through the gaps in a wicker chair.

Now the cat in the picture at the top of this post looks marginally happier. And I look pleased as punch. This kitty never had a name that stuck (I kept coming up with names that didn’t ‘take’; for some strange reason, Christopher Columbus Kitty was one) so everybody just called him Kitty.

(I am notoriously bad at naming. As an adult, I had another cat named Kitty. In fact, when I was pregnant and trying to think of baby names, my Oldest Younger Brother Scott said “Why not just go with ‘Baby’? Since that’s what you’ll end up calling it.”)

The Dude poses with The Other Kitty Named Kitty. Before we had the Baby Who Is Now Called The Child

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Walking the goldfish


‘And other Dear (Metropolitan) Diary entries’

A couple of weeks ago, my story (‘The time I had a blind date with an eye doctor‘) came by way of a suggestion by my friend Mary Ann. (Thanks again, Mary Ann!) This week’s is thanks to an idea from another friend, Jim. (Who writes a very cool blog called ‘Forged in Buffalo’. Plug plug plug.)

Jim reminded me that my stories used to appear fairly regularly in the New York Times. Honest. There is this column that appears on Mondays called The Metropolitan Diary. As the Times website puts it, ‘Since 1976, Metropolitan Diary has been a place for New Yorkers, past and present, to share odd fleeting moments at Bloomingdale’s, at the deli around the corner, in the elevator or at the movies.’

You can well imagine that I’ve overheard my fair share of ‘odd fleeting moments’ (emphasis on ‘odd’), and that I haven’t been shy about sharing them. Only now I share them with dozens of followers of my blog rather than with thousands of readers of the New York Times.

Hmmmm. Continue reading

Lost Cat: Answers to the name ‘Mango’


‘Or “Salmon” or “Steve”. Or maybe just “Kitty.”‘

I’m kicking myself that I can’t find that poster. The Child made it herself, when she was, oh, ten or so. See, we had this most amazing cat at the time. His name was Mango. And he went missing.

He was an orangeish tigerish marmalade cat. So The Child named him Mango. She was very good at naming cats. She was responsible for the late lamented Tuna (whose runner-up names were ‘Grandpa’ and ‘Lipstick’), and our current cat-in-residence, Wombat. When I was a kid, I was terrible at naming cats. I would give them names like (barf) ‘Buttercup’. And then everyone, including me, would just call them ‘Kitty’. We had two littermates once called ‘Black Kitty’ and ‘White Kitty’. They were both brown; one was just darker than the other.

Alienation of Affection, feline style. The Dude captures the heart -- and fur -- of Kitty

The Dude captures the heart — and fur — of the kitty in residence when we met (the ‘Kitty’ whose real name was supposed to be ‘Flicka’)

When I was pregnant with The Child and considering names for her As-Yet-Unbornedness, my Oldest Younger Brother Scott would tease me and say ‘Why worry about names? You’ll just end up calling her “Baby”‘. (He wasn’t far off the mark, since I do in fact refer to her as The Child.) Speaking of names for The Child, remind me sometime to tell you about how The Dude wanted to name her after a Greek goddess. (‘Persephone’ was one of his suggestions.) Continue reading

The Year of the Snake


Year of the Snake


Or, How The Child almost did not come to exist.

First, let me just say that, yes, I know that 2015 isn’t really the Year of the Snake. It’s the Year of the Sheep. Which doesn’t sound nearly as sassy. As a matter of fact, Chinese families everywhere have been working the calendar so that their babies’ births do not fall during the Year of the Sheep. (If you care, you can read why here, especially if you think I might be making this up.)

Well, anyway. It’s the 7th of January, and I know I really should have written this post last Wednesday, but it was New Year’s Eve and I was afraid everyone (but me and the Dude) would be out celebrating, so I posted that piece about ‘When Harry Met Sally’ instead. So sue me.

But back to me and snakes. Continue reading