those little hearts


When I was a nanny in Menlo Park, California (many years ago) the family that I worked for had a little white cat named Rajah. A month after I started they brought her home when she was a just a wee little kitten. All white with a black spot on her head and green eyes.  The family went on vacation to Hawaii not long after this adoption and I stayed home to house-sit and take care of the new member of the family. When they were gone she got really sick and almost died.  I kept her confined to the laundry room because, otherwise, she would puke all over the house and I needed to contain the puke. I felt bad about that but when I could I would hold her and pet her. I rocked her in the rocking chair while she purred on my chest. Eventually she was so sick that she wouldn’t come out of the little cubby space (inside a climbing cat perch that I left in the room). She lost tons of weight very quickly and became a little, delicate bag of bones. She wouldn’t move. I was worried. Finally I took her to the vet. The vet prescribed a pill that I had to force-feed her and in a couple of days she felt better. I will never forget how relieved and happy I was when I came home one day and she greeted me at the laundry room door playfully meowing.

We were inseparable after that. She followed me around the house while I did my chores. She was my little shadow and she kept me company. She snuggled up next to me on my bed at night. I felt bad about this because, technically, she was not my cat. She was the family’s cat. But what can I say? She decided I was her mommy.

I loved to give her hugs and feel her knead into the hair on my head and listen to her purr. When I want to conjure up the feeling of love this is what I think about.

We had a couple of really fun games we would play together. One of them was “murder the bird.”  I found a fantastic cat toy that was essentially a cluster of feathers tied to the end of fishing line which was then tied to a pole. When you swung it around it would flit around like a bird. Rajah went completely nuts when I brought this out. She would jump and twist around with super-cat-hero abandon to attack this “bird.”

The other fun game was “stalk Monica.” It was the cat version of Red-Light/Green-Light. This game was entirely made up by the cat. I have no idea how she came up with this (and how I figured out that this was a game) but it was absolutely brilliant. I would turn away from her and she would sneak closer to me.  When I quickly turned around to face her she would be frozen in place, her paw up and poised mid-stalk. I would turn around and she would sneak closer, and every time I turned around she would be frozen but just a bit closer to me. This went on until finally she got close enough to pounce on me and quickly run away before I could grab and hug her.

I worked for this family for 4 years and eventually needed to move on. I was getting married and starting college at UCSC, so I had new and exciting adventures to begin. But that cat. I was so heartbroken to have to leave my little Rajah.

She didn’t take it very well. She didn’t like the new nanny and would hiss at her. She hid under a bed most of the day. When I went to visit she wouldn’t come out to say hi. I would crouch at the bottom of the bed and see her laying there. She would peer out at me with her little green eyes. I would reach my hand under the bed to try to pet her but she would always be out of reach.

Eventually I lost touch with the family. It has been more than 15 years. I am pretty sure Rajah is not around anymore. She would be a very old cat if she was. Old and crotchety. She will always be my little sweet kitten.
Proof that we took pictures of our cats before the iPhone was invented.