The Second Life of St. Nicholas, The Cat
My attempt to preside over peace between my mom and her mother-in-law's kitty.
Illustration by Jess Smart Smiley
My mother once believed — mostly jokingly, but at some moments more fervently — that my childhood cat Nikki had been sent as an emissary from beyond by my grandmother (her mother-in-law), a devoted cat lover who passed away not long before Nikki sashayed out of her cardboard box carrier and into our kitchen.
My mom is allergic to cats and has always disliked them. While my brother and I carried the kitten around like an infant and dressed her in Halloween costumes, grasped her paws in our fingers and tugged her tail, my mom watched with wary eyes. She referred to Nikki as “that damn cat,” or “fat thing,” if she was feeling charitable. It didn’t help that Nikki was pompous and defiant, stalking the house as if it were her kingdom and all the food in it her rightful spoils. My mom attributed her decision to let us take the cat in to an unfortunate hiccup in judgment.
What first sparked my mom’s suspicions about Nikki was a story from my dad’s childhood.