So many, many, many years ago, when I was quite young (probably around 13 or 14 because that’s about the time I started remembering things about my childhood again (long story, might be handled under D is for Daddy Issues)), my sister and my next door neighbor friend Linda and I had gone to church (this was when I went to Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi and it was the best church in the world and I miss it but it is in Mahtomedi and I don’t live there anymore (They had bagpipes on Christmas! It was awesome!)) one Sunday and, you know, I think I’m going to start this over because I tend to run on just a bit. In case you didn’t notice.

Okay. Kari, Linda and I are walking home from church one Sunday in December. For some reason, Kari and Linda are up ahead of me. Anyway, this orange tabby cat walked up and started purring at me. I am a sucker for a cat, especially a friendly cat, so of course I started petting him. He rubbed up against me and then trotted off, heading after Kari and Linda.

When I got home, a few minutes after Kari, she was telling Mom that he followed her home. Could she keep him? He was the best cat ever and look how cuddly he was and he would be a great companion for Kitty (Real name Buttons. We did not name her. She was given to us by our half sister years before. And she was the best cat ever and I still miss her because she would let me cry into her fur while I was being an angsty teenager and purr at me. But this cat was a pretty close second).

Mom, being a mother, did her job properly and said that we needed to find out if he had a family. So the plan was put in place for Operation Pretend We Are Following Instructions. We decided that we would go caroling and we would take the cat with us but we would disguise him so no one would recognize him. For some reason, we decided the disguise should be a clown costume. Apparently my terror regarding clowns would not begin until years later, probably when I read It for the first time. I blame Stephen King for a lot of my fears. Clowns, the common cold, foggy days. Vampires in the freezer (although I’m not sure he has anything to do with that one).

Anyway, cat was dressed up. We needed a name. A good cat name. What should we name this cat that we weren’t supposed to have? Hmm. I remembered reading my Bread for Children* magazine that day. The editor had written about how her husband had died. In honor of him, I decided to name the cat Clyde. It stuck.

*Religious magazine my mother decided I needed to read. It wasn’t overly annoying and sometimes could be quite fun. Plus, I have rarely ever turned down reading material. Good messages for the most part. Although they thought ET was an evil movie. That’s about the time I decided to quit reading them because I distinctly remember rolling my eyes over this.

We wandered around the neighborhood, finding that caroling was a great way to get treats (do I miss the mentality that it was okay for four young girls (our friend Molly came along) to wander the streets after dark and go up to houses of people they don’t know? Yes, I do) and meet people. It was fun and oddly enough, I barely noticed the cold. Until my nose froze off.

It was at one house that Clyde decided to get into the act. We were singing Silent Night.

Girls: Round yon virgin, mother and chiiiillld.

Clyde sticks his head out of the blanket he is covered in (because, hey, can’t find his home if no one can see him, right?)

Clyde: Mrrrrroooow.

No one ever claimed Clyde, we ended up keeping him. Mom was less than thrilled with this, since she is not a cat person (and wonders how she, a dog person, ended up raising two cat people). She was also less thrilled the following morning when Clyde, in a “Hey, welcome me to the family!” gesture decided to sleep on her pillow. This wouldn’t probably be so bad except that Clyde had obviously been a fighter and part of his ear had been ripped. It looked as though it was starting to heel but the coldness of Minnesota in winter had ended up with the tip of his ear freezing. And falling off on Mom’s pillow.

Clyde was an outdoor cat. I will never forget the time he decided that he had to feed us, these poor defenseless humans he protected, and came in one night clutching a mole in his mouth. Mom wasn’t home and Kari and I, to put it lightly, freaked the heck out. We ran from room to room, screaming, while Clyde trotted along, his kill proudly displayed. Finally Kari and I locked ourselves in her room.

The next morning we woke to Mom screeching at the top of her lungs, wondering where her babies were. I suppose if you came home and found a dead mole on your daughter’s pillow, you’d be a little worried about the serial killers grabbing them as well.

He was constantly on the table when he didn’t belong there, driving Mom crazy. He seemed to enjoy the thrill of the water bottle spraying him when he jumped up there.

He scared the heck out of me again one night when I saw him fishing something out of the buffet drawer. Turned out it was the hair Mom had collected from my first official haircut when I was 13 and she had saved in a plastic bag for years. She was less than thrilled with Clyde for messing up her memory (she cried as she collected the hair. It was something I never understood until I started scrapbooking).

One night I had made myself a sandwich and was watching TV. As was his wont, Clyde jumped up on the couch behind me. I thought nothing of it until this little paw reached out, dragged the sandwich to him and took a bite. Apparently he was also fond of summer sausage and mayo. He also expressed a desire for Mountain Dew and would drink out of my glass.

He was spoiled and rambuctious and a pain in the ass. But we loved him. Even Mom grew to tolerate him.

When Kari was in high school, Clyde was diagnosed with cancer. There’s a picture in my head, a memory of a real picture that was taken right before Clyde went to the vet. Kari is clutching him while he sits on her books for school, her eyes filled with unshed tears. It’s a picture I will never forget, one that makes me teary-eyed even now. Clyde was Kari’s cat just as Kitty was mine. And she had no idea what was going to happen. The vet told Mom that he would open Clyde up and try to save him. Unfortunately the cancer had spread and Clyde was put to sleep. The vet did not charge us for this and also sent us a Christmas card that year, wishing us well with dealing with the loss of a beloved pet. I’ve always remembered that kindness.

I think of Clyde every year, every time I hear Silent Night. The first time I hear it each year, I always hear “Round yon virgin, Mother and Chiiiillld…Mrrrowww.”

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