My 91-year-old grandmother died last week, and since her death I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood, and the amazing memories I have of visiting her and my grandfather on their beautiful Minnesota farm. Thoughts about childhood inevitably lead to thoughts about the brevity of childhood – how quickly we grow up, how quickly our children grow up, and how important it is to hold on to memories of the simple things that made us feel safe and loved as children.
With all these nostalgic thoughts percolating through my head, it seems fitting that my latest portrait commission should come from a mother who wishes to celebrate the birthday of her grown-up child with a special remembrance of her daughter’s childhood. Kate is about to turn 22, and her mother Donna commissioned me to paint a portrait of “Meow”, Kate’s best friend of many, many years.
Here’s a picture of Kate (known as Katie back then), Meow, and Kate’s sister Lisa from 1992:
Here’s a picture of little Meow now, after many years of being well-loved — a little less fur, a few spots of dirt, but nevertheless adorable:
Kate’s mom kindly wrote Meow’s story for me:
“Katie was born in April 1989 and Meow became a part of her life shortly thereafter – don’t know what is was about this little white cat but Katie would hold her tucked under her arm and from there Meow went everywhere.
We lived in California when Katie was born and the darn cat traveled all over that state as far north as San Francisco and as far south as San Diego! In 1992 we moved to upstate New York when Katie was three so Meow got the chance to travel by van across the whole United States tucked securely and warmly under Katie’s arm. Eventually the family moved to Centerville, OH when Katie was five and has lived there ever since.
During this period, Meow has traveled to Disney World many times and to family in Florida and to friends back in California. On one trip to Washington, DC somehow Meow got caught up in the sheets that the maid gathered from the room and it was through much sweat, tears and hard work that Katie’s dad went through all the dirty laundry in the basement of the Mariott hotel – along with all the hotel staff – and rescued Meow from a life of “we don’t know what” to the arms of her mom Katie! Needless to say after that trip Meow was accounted for every minute of the day, especially when she was traveling….
Katie is now “Kate” – something about being grown up? She is almost 22 and getting ready to graduate from college and take on the next phase of her life. As for Meow, while she is older now and doesn’t travel around the world anymore, she does sit in Kate’s bedroom at the top of her bed and keeps an eye on everything. In Kittie years, she is a bit older – she has lost some hair and her eyes don’t see as well but she will always be there keeping an eye on Kate!!”
Donna also included a recent photo of Kate and her sisters Lisa and Erin all grown up (Kate is in the middle):
Happy birthday, Kate! And thanks so much, Donna, for the beautiful story and for the opportunity to paint your lovely daughter’s childhood friend.