The story of the pink cat

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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.

I am a writer, handworker, artist and teacher (a WHAT!), and a mom of two beautiful daughters who are amazingly 17 and 21. I am working on getting my first book, a fantasy novel for young people, published and am busy spinning on my new spinning wheel. I have been a Waldorf early childhood teacher for 10 years now, and before that, I was a lawyer. Teaching is much more fun.

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