Friday, November 05, 2010

The Other

There is another cat in our household. 

This one is perhaps the most special of all.  

He doesn't soil where he's not supposed to.

He doesn't want treats or need to be fed. 

He is Sylvester, and he was lovingly hand crafted by my grandfather Herbert Lee Hurt. 

From the time I can remember he was a fixture in my grandparents house when they lived in Downey, CA  to their retirement home in Arizona. (then called "Holiday Shores")  I  coveted him.  Strange that my grandparents and father (their only child) always had dogs, BIG dogs; Dalmatians,
(my dad & one of their dalmations)

Rottweilers, Weimeraners, Dobermans (I LOVED their Dobies-such awesome dogs!).  And yet there was Sylvester; a 3 foot tall, perfectly lathed wonderment of all that is feline.  My grandfather and I had a very special bond.  At one time it was even written about in a newspaper article! Not because there was some rare blood or organ donation (other than the original one we shared through genetics) but simply because I answered the reporters question 'What are you going to do this Summer?" And I told him.   I was 11. 

"I'm going to visit my grandpa, and we are going to yell at each other and laugh a lot!" 

On some fundamental level we had complete understanding of one another very early on.  Grandpa was very gruff and didn't have patience with incompetence or ignorance. He could deliver a withering look or remark at one of my brothers & send them running to Grandma.  But me?  I would stand there, in my red headed stiff necked stubbornness & give it right back to him!  His trademark phrase was 'You can't do it like that!' and I would stand there and say, 'Oh Yes I Can!'.  And then his 'mean mouth' would crack ever so slightly; and the spell would be broken and  then he & I would yell at each other all the time and laugh and laugh and laugh.  My grandpa laughed like Smedly the old cartoon character and everyone loved it and him.
Such a handsome man my grandpa

When my dad had returned home one time, he had bought a cat that was maybe a foot and a half tall, that had been carved out of a single tree stump. It was very crudely done but it's slender neck didn't survive long in a house with 3 large boys & two or three large dogs yet it was charming all the same.  He showed it to grandpa who got an idea, and it was then that the idea of Sylvester was born.  

My grandma still has some shots of the work in progress; of grandpa carefully choosing the wood so there was no warp in it; of him gluing all the sections making one giant block 1ft square & 3 feet tall.  Then he placed it on the lathe and carved out the most beautiful, magical, mythical creature I would lay my eyes on.

Somewhere after my 16th birthday I was told by my grandpa that Sylvester would ultimately be mine.  I can't tell you exactly what that meant to me then, and what it means to me today.  I was beside myself.  But the trade off was that Sylvester would only come live with me when my grandfather had gone and when my grandma no longer felt like dusting him.

So much life and death has happened since then.  So many fortunes made and lost and reversals of loyalties in the family (such is the way of family life)  births, deaths, and in some cases, renewed, once broken relationships.

But last year, a year after my father had died & almost 20 years since my grandfathers passing, my grandmother gave me her wedding ring because she wanted me to have it while she was still living

My gram tending bar!
(she celebrates her 92 birthday the end of this month and still plays bingo at the casinos 3 times a week!) and when I went to visit her for the holidays (now with my own teenage daughter) she said it was time for Sylvester to come home too:  and I cried.  

I am now the same age my dad was when he moved to Arizona to be closer to his father because as he said at the time 'We only see the parents at Christmas time, how many more times do you think that is before they are gone?'  Point taken.  I went with him, my step-mom Milli, step brother Eric, Freddie & Misty.   I stayed with them in Arizona for a year.  Long enough to find out that the desert is not even remotely my cuppa.  But this story isn't about that...

It's about Sylvester, and a promise made and kept through all that.  And now he's on my mantle, proudly keeping watch with his lovely green marble button eyes over my little family.  Me, El, & our brood.

Here's some lovely green eyed magic for each of you.  Thanks for reading.


  1. Sylvester is a very VERY bonkhandsome kitty.
    I love the photos you shared of your grampa and your dad and you were very cute when you were little.... pretty
    orange hair, just like Milesy!
    Happy week-end. Thanks for sharing your good memories

  2. No wonder he is so dear to you, not only is he beautiful but there is so much love there.

  3. Oh...this had me all choked up, grateful for you and you love of your are what you are today because of him and he would smile to read your memories of him, too. And Sylvester, why he is amazing!

    Thanks everso for all your visits and sweet comments, Ms O'Houlihan...

  4. I loved seeing Sylvester, me and mommy did, and we loved the real life story of you and your grandparents and the story of Sylvester and how he was made.

    He is a lovely symbol and reminder of deep family love and regard.

    A dear memory and a solid reminder of precious times gone by.

  5. Oh, I adore that little story about Sylvester the beautiful cat that your grandfather made. How much it must mean for you to have Sylvester with you now. Beautifully told, Stacy.

  6. And Mrs. O'Houligan, we luffs you.

  7. What a wonderful, wonderful story! I lubz Sylvester. He is almost as beautiful as ME! It is very touching that the promise was kept while Grandma was still alive to enjoy passing Sylvester on to you!


We love to hear from you xoxo!