Like me, my mom is the few-friends type. Neither of us will ever have a huge circle of gal-pals; we gravitate towards one or two special people and then hold on to them long-term. As I became an adult, Mom and I gravitated toward each other, and now we’re close friends who deeply understand each other. And with the advent of the internet and especially webcams, Mom has been able to stay in touch with and grow closer to her sisters.
But before all that, Mom had a very special friend named Kitty.
Kitty was an instructor at the teaching hospital where my mom worked as a nurse. She loved travel and art. Her beautiful little apartment, nestled into an elegant old home on a tree-lined street in Lexington, was filled with prints she’d purchased at various exhibits and a huge collection of seashells and sand dollars she’d collected on visits to the beach.
Kitty was also a member of our family. She came along on many of our outdoor activities, including berry picking, then always joined Mom in the kitchen to can what seemed like millions of jars of jam and jelly. When we hosted Thanksgiving, she was there too. And Kitty shared her world with us as well. We had a tradition of seeing Handel’s Messiah together at Christmas, and once she took us to eat at the prestigious faculty restaurant on campus, where I tried swordfish for the first time. (Mom told me, “You are so interesting!” and I was inspired to be as interesting as possible for the rest of my life.)
We all loved Kitty, and it was only natural for her to be with us all the time. She was Mom’s constant companion, confidant, and friend.
When Kitty got sick, Mom took us kids to her apartment to set up a few things to make things easier on her. We raised seat levels so she could get up and down with less strain, and we cleaned up after her dog.
The cancer finally took her. Her brother, who lived far away, said we could take any items that meant anything to us before he had her apartment cleared out. We went back for the last time, and it was like an invisible hole was sucking away reality. I tried to fill that hole with Kitty’s possessions. Most of the things I chose–an art book, those sand dollars, several prints–were later lost in an apartment fire.
One large painting still remains, hanging up at my brother’s house. It’s a simple, almost abstract portrait, a woman alone on a chair reading a book. When I see that painting, I think of myself, and I think of Mom, and I think of Kitty. I think of our quiet lives and our subtle worlds and how amazing it was when those worlds intersected.
I wish I could have known Kitty now, as an adult, and spoken with her on deeper matters. But I’m thankful that I did know her.
More importantly, I’m thankful that my mom did.