by Ardeana Hamlin
Sissy, my 16-year-old black cat, seats herself expectantly by my feet. I am sitting in the wing chair. I know what she wants and she knows what she wants, and for the next few minutes there's going to be a power struggle waged for possession of my lap. We both know who is going to win.
Sissy dislikes it when I knit and will do whatever it takes to derail my progress. First, she sits there at my feet, boring into me her feline thoughts, which I read with great ease. (I find this a bit unsettling - it may indicate I have lived WAY too long with this cat.)
Her thinking goes like this: Soft lap, warm lap, friendly fingers to pat me - stop knitting, stop knitting.
But I'm on to her attempts to brainwash me into her way of thinking. I keep on knitting.
Next, she jumps up on the arm of the chair and nudges, very gently, my hand with her head. She looks at me intently and I know exactly what she'd say if she could speak: Hel-lo. I am much more interesting than that ball of stuff spun from the fleece of a large cloven-hoofed animal. See how much more cute and cuddly I am. Plus, I purr.
I keep on knitting, but, heaven help me, I reply, "Yes, you are a beauty. And a very helpful cat, too. I'm very proud of you for catching those 62 mice since you came to live with me in 1996 after your 'mom' got sick and couldn't keep you with her in Denver anymore. I know your worth, Sissy. But right now, I want to knit this sock."
When I first met Sissy she was about 6 years old, and was so aloof communication was impossible. She went around with an evil look in her eye and well deserved the label, "The Cat from Hell." Every time I tried to touch her, she bit me. But given time - a lot of time - she learned that I am the mother cat in this household and won't tolerate rude manners. She learned not to bite and to come when I whistled - an old cat learned a new trick for which she was lavishly rewarded.
Encouraged by my praise of her mouse-hunting exploits, Sissy sets one dainty paw into the narrow space between the arm of the chair and my leg, as if testing the waters of my tolerance. Her other front foot quickly follows the first, then both hind feet. I shift over to give her a few inches of space. She hunkers down and waits.
I keep on knitting, but now I have to retrieve the ball of yarn from under Sissy's body. The yarn is wrapped around her tail, too, and a loop catches a hind foot. She glares at me with a look that means: See! I told you knitting was annoying.
After I untangle the yarn from Sissy's extremities, she goes into her "sidling mode." Slowly, almost imperceptibly, she brings one paw up and lays it across my knee. That paw is followed by the second front paw.
"Sissy," I say, by way of warning. She freezes a moment, then relaxes against my leg.
I knit a few more rows. Then, without warning, Sissy's head appears under the knitting in my hands. She rises up to butt her head against my chin in a display of such unadulterated joy I forget that we are engaged in territorial warfare.
I butt back.
Her ritual of head butting grows in intensity. I try to knit around her, but it's hopeless.
"Lie down," I say. She ignores me and keeps butting her head against my chin. I say it again and she folds up with a boneless kind of grace right squarely in my lap - precisely where she wanted to be 15 minutes ago.
The volume of Sissy's purr ratchets up a couple of notches and the triumph in her raspy tones is unmistakable.
4 hours ago