I made this cat when I first learned to knit, about 16 years ago. I learned how to knit in the Parent-Child class I took at the Chicago Waldorf School. I teach those classes now, and this cat lives in the classroom. It was easy to make–I just knit a rectangle and then sewed it into the shape I wanted and embroidered eyes and whiskers. He’s held up pretty well.
When I was in first grade, my parents sent me to a private school for gifted children. I didn’t really like it very much. I transferred to the public school in the middle of 2d grade. It was just a block or so from my house and I was so much happier there.
But in first grade, when we finished our work, we could get mimeographed (does anyone remember mimeograph machines) pages to color. I always finished my work quickly, and I loved to color. One day, I went and got a picture of a cat to color in. I colored it all in pink–quickly, because I liked to do stuff fast. I took the drawing up to my teacher and asked for another picture to color. She told me that cats weren’t pink and that I couldn’t have another picture to color until I colored that one the right way. I told her that I knew that cats weren’t pink and that I could color my pictures whatever color I wanted to.
She didn’t give me another picture that day, and I didn’t change my cat.
I didn’t think about this incident too much for a while. But when I became a parent and then a teacher, I thought about it a lot. The pink cat became a symbol for me of freedom of creative expression–and also a celebration of my own strength in standing up for what I thought was right.
Another thing I didn’t like at that school was the cuisinaire rods. I remember they would wheel in this cart every once in a while and it had all of these wooden rods of different colors and lengths. Then we would get a mimeographed work sheet with problems like red+red+red= . I knew that we were supposed to say what color 3 reds equalled, but to me 3 reds just equalled red and it was silly to say that it equalled green, even though I understood what they were trying to do. I wonder if I annoyed my teacher. I was surprised to see that they still used these rods, although I suppose that they could be helpful for some children.