My family always had cats when I was growing up. Mom and Dad had two cats when I was born, Nicholas and Alice. Mom has told me of precious memories in which Alice would lay across my baby body while I was being bottle fed.

I guess that’s when my connection with cats began. I adore dogs too, but we didn’t get our first, Molly, until I was in high school. Now I’m technically a cat and dog person, but cats will always hold a special place in my heart.

While Alice moved in with my grandparents when my family returned to Tennessee from West Virginia, Nicholas stayed with us until he passed away at the ripe old age of 18. He was a quirky cat. I remember being little and at the time Nicholas was a fat cat. Apparently, due to being nervous, at least that’s how my parents explained it, Nicholas incessantly licked every bit of fur off his stomach – he had a bald belly!

We have a bunch of old pictures of Nicholas just hanging around, lounging, with his tongue sticking out of his face. Mom and Dad also have told many a tale about that cat, who probably really had nine lives. For example, Nicholas was outside, near the road, while my grandfather got the mail. By Granddaddy’s account, a creep driver swerved to hit Nicholas, who survived.

Nicholas lived with my grandparents for a short time with Alice. My Mom has a story of Grandmother driving by our home with Nicholas, whom she tossed out the car window while saying, ‘Nicholas wanted to come home!’ and then sped off! Apparently, Nicholas drove Grandmother nuts because he always tried to run into the house. Alice got to live out the rest of her years with my grandparents, as she loved being an outside cat.

Another time, Mom recounted driving away from home one day. She said she glanced in the rear view mirror and ‘saw fur flying’! Mom instantly pulled over and there was Nicholas, on top of her car, with his claws dug into the top – perhaps it was cloth back then – holding on for dear life. That was at least the second life he used up!

There’s also a story in which Nicholas walked across the canopy of my parents’ bed as they slept one night. He ended up falling through the fabric canopy and landed, claws out, on Mom and Dad! Another time, when he was a kitten, he actually peed on my Dad while he was asleep in bed! Nick went to the vet for neutering the very next day.

When I got a little older, I would dress up Nicholas in my doll’s clothes and put jewelry on him. I could tell he wasn’t fond of playing dress-up, but he tolerated me. Essentially, I grew up with that cat – I remember him living with us at each home we were in, in every state. He slept with me at night every now and then, he liked to spread himself by sleeping somewhere different each night. I remember sitting in a rocking chair with him in my lap. I couldn’t stop wiggling for whatever reason and he literally kicked me with one of his hind legs, basically telling me to be still.

It’s interesting to me how animals seem to intuitively know when they are near death. Each cat we’ve had that was outside at its time of passing has simply wandered off into nature to peacefully die, never to be seen again. That’s what our Nicholas did. I remember our neighbor kids finding bones that were small enough to belong to a cat in the woods near their backyard. Assuming they belonged to Nicholas, I scooped them up and buried them in our backyard – that’s how much he meant to me – he deserved a proper burial.

To Nicholas, my first black cat and beloved buddy – I love you, always and forever.

Love, Maggie

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