The Forgotten Cat
I went with my mother this morning to Petco to pick up dog food. She was amazed by the size of the store – all of it devoted to pets! We browsed the aisles, as if it were at a zoo, looking at the birds, ferrets, snakes and fish. All of this reminded my mother of her own childhood pet.
When I was young, maybe 10 or 11 years old, Little Flower was the household cat. Her job mainly was to keep the house free of mice and other rodents, and she did this job well. But to me, she was my cat. Little Flower followed me everywhere and would wrap her body around my ankles lovingly when I returned from school. In the winter chill she was my body and feet warmer. We would feed her rice topped with bits of fish and she always seemed satisfied with her meals.
In 1941 I was 12 years old. The war was raging through the world, and our family heard that the Japanese Army was pushing their way toward Shanghai, where we were then living. We were living in the Chinese part of Shanghai and just a few miles from the British occupied portion of the city – just over a connecting bridge. One night we were all awakened by cries from the neighbors that the Japanese were rapidly approaching our area. The Japanese army had a reputation for being absolutely ruthless and we knew that we would all perish at their hands if we didn’t leave immediately. My father and mother told us to gather as much of our belongings as we could gather and that we were to hurry to the bridge and cross into the British territory. It was chaos! I grabbed whatever seemed to be important at that time – some clothing, some nick-knacks, anything that I could stuff into a bed sheet.
We were perhaps a mile away from our home when I realized that I had forgotten Little Flower! “Little Flower! She’s not here!” I wailed to my mother. Tears streamed down my cheeks uncontrollably. My mother did a quick check of our belongings and confirmed my fear. “We have to go back to get her!” I cried. “Don’t be silly!” my mother answered. “Is that cat worth your life?” I couldn’t answer that question and continued trudging towards the bridge. It took perhaps 45 minutes before we reached and were able to cross the bridge. I learned that my parents had already made plans to stay with friends who had an extra room above their tailor shop in British occupied Shanghai.
When we finally reached our destination, I was exhausted. We quickly settled into the extra room, and ate a hastily prepared meal. I knew that my parents were grateful that we were all still alive, but I continued to sob over losing Little Flower. Over 70 years have passed and I still think of her often.