Monday, July 17, 2006

Tribute to a friend

cottons2
1995

Today, I said good-bye to one of my best friends and most loyal companions – Cottons, my cat of 21 years.

Twenty-one. Think about that. If she had been a person, she’d be an adult of legal drinking age. I’ve loved her several years longer than my husband. And there is only one friend I’ve known longer who I still stay in regular contact with.

cottons
1997

She had two striking features—her bright, Arizona-sky blue eyes and her thick, glorious white fur.

That fur - oh my. It was like rabbit fur: thick and soft. I loved running my hands through it and brushing it until it gleamed. But it had a tendency to get everywhere. It was all over my bed and pillowcase. I’d wake in the middle of the night with cat hair up my nose and stuck to my eyelashes. I’d find it on my toothbrush and in my hairbrush. Huge balls of it would blow down our hallway like tumbleweeds.

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With Peanut in 2004

For years, I was unable to walk out of the house without being covered in it. I have lint rollers everywhere—in the car, at work, and several at home. And of course, despite my best efforts to integrate more color into what I wear, I still have a primarily black wardrobe. So it was always noticeable. I was endlessly picking it off of me.

Her fur on my clothes became my own private joke. It became my mission to cover the world with Cottons’ fur, leaving cat hair everywhere I went. Commuting by bus in and out of NYC, I’d always pluck a few hairs from my jacket and leave them on the seat next to me in hopes that they’d stick to a future passenger and be carried elsewhere. The same with airplanes. Spreading her fur was my own personal version of “you tell two friends, and they tell two friends and so on, and so on.” I imagined her fur circling the world sleeve by sleeve.

I dropped her hair all over New York City: Central Park, the Public Library, the Seaport, the Port Authority, Grand Central and numerous museums, subway lines, bars, dressing rooms and restaurants. She was left on the Weehawken and Staten Island ferries and was deposited amidst incredible flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. She was even dropped – twice – in the lobby of the World Trade Center.

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Cottons and Loaf, October 2005

But it didn’t stop there. Cottons made it to Bermuda and Africa’s North Coast where I stood on a beach in Tunisia and let a tuft of her fur fly along the Mediterranean. Tossed from the bell tower at Notre Dame, she danced over the streets of Paris. Her hair went over a cliff in Jerome, A.Z. and was dusted onto the floor of a cable car in Albuquerque, N.M. It flew from my hand over the railings of Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon.

She found her way to Moab and Milan (both the one in Italy and the one in Michigan); San Francisco and Dubuque; Boston and Houston. She was left in the sand of beaches across this nation: from Cape Cod to Florida; the Jersey shore to Cannon Beach in Oregon; Montauk, Long Island (extreme east) to Queen’s Bath in Kauai (extreme west).

From the local Gap to a trans-Atlantic flight, she went where I went. Always with me. Always in my heart.

DSC00063
My first baby, November 2004

So today, after we buried her in the yard next to a new Rose of Sharon shrub, I looked down at my shirt. It was coated with her fur. I started pulling hairs off in clumps and tossing them into the air. Some fell to the ground around my feet. Others seemed to take flight – soaring up into the summer the sky on their way to another place. Gone from sight but not from memory.

So if you’re ever out and about and look down to find a long, pure white cat hair on your clothes and can’t imagine how it got there, please take a moment to think of Cottons and her amazing traveling fur, and the girl back in NJ who is still missing her.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Polichick said...

What a beautiful, moving tribute. You both were lucky to have each other.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Andrea Hamacher said...

I'm teary right now after reading that. It reminds me a lot of a joke about my Siamese who died last year at 18: wherever my husband and I went on vacation, some lone animal would show up and hang around us at some point. A pelican in Mexico on the beach (like 1 foot from us), a seagull in Carmel, a dolphin in Honduras, etc. We would joke that that was just Chelsea, morphing into other animals to follow me around.

I'm so sorry you lost your friend.

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Courtney said...

You are making me cry. I love the fur idea. I was just laughing about this myself on our trip -- was on a boat in the middle of the Gulf and looked down to find cat hair on my bikini. :-) Seems like a nice tradition when you put it your way. I'm so sorry she's gone.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

I'm sorry about Cottons. What a lovely way to remember her.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Ang said...

That was an incredibly moving tribute. I don't even like animals and I'm crying.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous mingaling said...

I'm so sorry, sweetie. What a beautiful tribute.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Woman with a Hatchet said...

That was lovely. Thank you for sharing that with me.

My last tribute was to my cat Pixel, who made it to 17 years old. Twenty-one is great! I liked how you spread the fur around. I did something similar but inadvertently, since Pixel shed everywhere, all the time!

10:39 AM  

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