Summer, Tigger, and an Alternate History for My Mother

It is a lovely summer night, as cool as autumn, and I sat looking at the moon.

The 17-year locusts have come and gone. We heard them on the bike trail, but they didn’t make it to our neighborhood.  All summer it was silent, but now the cicadas are chirping.

I didn’t stay out too long, because it is very dark without a garage light.  Obviously there can’t be a garage light when there is no garage.

Tigger on the porch.

Tigger on the porch.

It has been a difficult summer.  A storm destroyed our garage, family members have been ill, and our lovely 18-year-old cat Tigger died.

I am trying to think of things to be thankful for.

We’re very lucky to live in a beautiful small city.  As I biked around doing errands today, I realized how fortunate we are to be able to bicycle everywhere.  The tree-lined streets and boulevards, Arts-and-Crafts houses in huge yards, stores within a few blocks of where we live, the garden, the fresh sweet corn at the markets, and our plants thriving in the humidity.

But it is also the anniversary of my mother’s death this week.  Anniversaries stir up emotions.  A few weeks ago I felt tired, stressed, and a bit angry that she wasn’t around.  Whom am I supposed to talk to?  I wondered.  Gone with the Wind, her favorite book and movie, provided answers to everything.

“Fight for him, Kat,” she said years back when I was having marital problems.  (That’s pure Scarlett, don’t you think?)  And she confided that she had not wanted the divorce from my dad.

Mom. the college graduate.

Mom. the college graduate.

The remembrance of my mother’s pragmatism and the stress of Tigger’s death have changed my perspective. I need to learn acceptance.  Perhaps there is an afterlife.  Who am I to say there isn’t, though I have said that.   A little bit of religious philosophy wouldn’t hurt. I hope my mother and Tigger got to walk, or in Tigger’s case, race down the tunnel of white light before they passed on.  I love the idea of an afterlife where my mom and Tigger get to hang out.

Thinking of my mother’s love of her dogs, a Scottie, a poodle, and a Pekingese, also helped me out of my panic yesterday.  She grew up on a farm and understood the cycle of life.

The truth?  I lived with Tigger longer than I lived with my mother. Cats are people, too.

My mother compensated for her dogs’ deaths by putting little china figures of dogs all over her house.  I DO have some cat mugs.

Thinking of my mother as the anniversary of her death draws near, I wish her a happy afterlife, and I also wish I could give her an alternate life, as Doris Lessing gave her parents in the novel Alfred and Emily.

She told me many times that she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, but she stayed home and majored in political science because the education program was at another university.

I wish she had been a teacher.  She was a gifted woman, and I’m sure she would have been good in the classroom.  It would also have given her something to do after the divorce.   At the very least, it would have helped if my grandfather and uncle had given her a job in the family  business, but it never occurred to them.   She worked as a clerk in an office, and later, after health problems developed, got a small allowance from the family.

I think she was contented, but I wish she had not had to be alone so much.

She met Tigger and liked her, as well as a dog person can like a cat person.

A  link between Tigger and my mom:  Tigger liked to sit on a box of childhood memorabilia my mom gave me a few years ago.  I am going to put it away now that Tigger is gone.  In it  are my troll dolls, my Tammy and Pepper dolls (Tammy was a more wholesome Barbie, and Pepper her little sister), my first communion dress, a beaded purse I’ll never carry, a Barbie watch, and…)

Goodness, did a girl ever have so much!

How I wish I had brought home more of my mom’s things.  I have her yearbooks and some photographs, but perhaps I should have hung on to her china dogs.  These things become a little clearer as time goes on.

Tigger (1996-2014)


Tigger helping with the housework.

Tigger was a cat.

She was more than a cat.

She was our housemate for 18 years.

Tabbies are gentle, but Tigger was also fearless.  She was our most amiable cat.  She recently made friends with a contractor and a plumber. She strolled right up to them and seemed to say,  “Who are you?”  She was so tiny (four pounds at her biggest) that they thought she was a kitten.

As a kitten, she was a techno-cat.  She loved sitting on the computer.  Once she hopped on the keys and sent an email that was not quite ready to go.

Tigger, preparing to read Dostovesky.

Tigger lounging on a book mailer and preparing to read Dostoevsky.

Tigger also enjoyed faxing.  There’s nothing like waking up to the buzzing of a ’90s fax machine and finding your tiny cat on the dial.  What and where she faxed we didn’t know.

She ran faster than any of our cats, and she loved to be outdoors. She would run out the door, race around the house, or back and forth across the parking lot in our urban neighborhood.  “Tigger!”  Once I couldn’t catch her before I went to work.  The minute I returned, she came racing back from wherever she had been.  She definitely knew where she lived.

Tigger watched me read, and though she didn’t quite get it, she marked every book in the house.  Here she is preparing to read Crime and Punishment in the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation.

She was known as Tigger, Miss Tigger, Mrs. Tigger, and Ms. Tigger.

Tigger’s favorite things:



1.  Snacks:  Tuna.

2.  Sitting on top of boxes.

3. Sitting on our screened-in porch.  She had a favorite spot on the couch.

4.  Sitting on her special cushion on her special chair beside the bed.

5.  Making funny little cat-whirring noises.

6.  Running and jumping.

7.  Watching “Dancing with the Stars.”

8.  Listening to birdsong recordings.

9.  Sitting on the windowsill.

10. Sleeping on my hip.

I am really at a loss. You know how it is.  We love our cats and dogs so much.  She got sick when I was away last spring, and I haven’t dared to travel since.  She died today.

We have never had a better friend than Tigger.

Yes, there may be other Tiggers, but she was as bouncy and curious as THE Tigger. She is the only Tigger, as far as we are concerned.