Cool Cats Kringle

shopping-christmas-%22wishing-you-the-cool-side-of-yuletide%22-sherrie

I love, Love, LOVE this 80s card from my sister, Sherrie! From the punk hair and Catasonic boom box to the Cats Fifth Avenue shopping bag, this cat exemplifies its era and stands out from the cards with perennial scenes of cozy cottages and snowmen. It shouts (yowls) its contemporary spirit, one that feels amusingly retro some 30-odd years later.

But then cards aren’t designed for the ages. Each folded bit of cardboard in its flimsy envelope is meant to be opened and enjoyed for a moment, displayed for a week or two, then tossed out with the crumpled Christmas wrappings when the season ends. Saving such a card is akin to tucking away a time capsule. You may not remember the gifts you received or the holiday TV specials watched, but the flavor of the era remains.

The card also reminds me of my own cats in the 80s, complete with high tech electronic flea collars and a bit of tinsel garland.christmas-1980s-cats                                          Mickey 3 and Piwacket

Hi from Arizona

burro025Here’s a fun find from my postcard collection — though I suppose any statement that includes the words fun find and postcard collection might be tagged an oxymoron by many…

I don’t know whether you can tell from this image, but the postcard follows the contours of the burro and his silly photoshopped hat.

Several years ago my mom sent it to my daughter and me from Arizona. She affixed a regular postage stamp to it, but the post office stamped a “12¢ postage due” message on the back, maybe because its irregular shape required special sorting methods.

By the time my parents took this trip, my father was in his 80s and my mom in her late 70s. I can date the card even though the postmark isn’t legible because of Mom’s reference to our cat Junior, short for Mickey Jr. Clues like that not only help us sort incidents into our lives’ chronologies, but trigger reminiscences to cascade like dominoes through our family histories until another story pops out. Not necessarily grand tales, the stuff of sagas and best-selling biographies, but little stories like the history of cats being named Mickey in my family.

Mickey 1When my parents drove east to California as a young couple, they smuggled in and out of motel rooms an orange kitten named Mickey. In a sense, he was their first child, and as such we have many photos of his kittenhood, including one of him sitting on the plaid upholstery of my dad’s prized Packard.

I remember Mickey as the old gentleman of my childhood as younger cats and kittens came and went in our household, living the free — yet dangerous — lives of outdoor cats on a busy street.

Mickey 2When I was given a new fluffy orange kitten of my very own, I named him Mickey Junior. He was a polydactl, seven toes on each of his front paws. Mom called them his baseball mitts. That first Junior lived with my parents until the ripe old cat age of 19.

A few years later, I visited the shelter to find a friend for my Siamese and brought home a white cat with orange spots and an orange striped tail, enough for me to dub him Mickey 3. And so it has gone, my daughter calling her orange kitten Mickey Junior and our collectively naming our current orange fluff ball Mickey Lu (after the friend who gave him to us), though we simply call him Kitten.

Mickey 3 Mickey 4 Mickey 5

That little story of the five Mickeys encompasses a half century, from the British rock invasion of the 60s to Neil Armstrong landing on the moon to my heading off to college and Australia to home computers, the Internet and blogging.

And it all leads to me sharing a postcard from my mom: Hi from Arizona.

burro card back

Postcards to Pets

socks029OK. Yes. I once sent a postcard to my cats. My parents watched them while I visited England, so, to vary the mail routine, I addressed one postcard to Piwacket and Mickey 3 (pictured below).

The postcard featured Socks, the White House cat. Most presidents have brought pets to the White House, primarily dogs, but Thomas Jefferson kept two bear cubs, Andrew Jackson had a swearing parrot and William Harding boasted Pete the Squirrel.

Teddy Roosevelt is famous for his menagerie that numbered a barn owl, badger and guinea pigs among more mundane dogs and ponies. But Calvin Coolidge gave him a run for his money with a large assortment that included a goose, bobcat, pygmy hippo, and lion cubs named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau.

Cat boys 2Besides the Clintons and Socks, other cat-loving presidents included Woodrow Wilson and Abraham Lincoln, who once remarked that his cat Dixie was “smarter than my whole cabinet.” The Carters, Fords and Rutherford B. Hayes all kept Siamese cats in particular. In fact, Hayes’ Siamese cat — Siam — was the first of its breed in the United States.

But all of these fascinating facts stray from the point that I mailed a postcard to my cats, and since it was from England, I have to wonder where I found one of Socks, an American pet of renown. Did I carry it with me for the express purpose of writing to Mickey and Pi? That’s a slightly embarrassing thought but not outside the realm of possibility.

socks030