Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mommy Dearest

I recently completed a book project on John Singer Sargent and his Houston connection. Unknown to many people, Houston has the third-largest concentration (after New York and Boston) of privately held masterpieces by the artist. In his essay for the book, Richard Ormond, a great-nephew of Sargent, paints an intimate portrait of the artist who was “always on the move.” Yet Sargent was introverted in his personal life, and, according to Ormond, his “reserve and shyness went back to boyhood, perhaps the consequence of a possessive and overdominant mother.” This statement prompted me to look at myself more closely and to ask: Am I guilty of overreaching with our ten cats?

Lucius, Lydia, Lillie, Leo, T.J., Perkins, Miss Tommie, Linus, L.B., and Alvar all consider me to be their mother, at least the human replacement for their own birth mothers. I am possessive of them to a fault, but I won’t beat myself up over having deep maternal feelings for felines. I suppose you could say I am bossy when it comes to telling the cats when I will, or will not, feed them outside of their normal schedules. I often go toe to toe, or paw to paw, with Lucius to determine which one of us will win the strategic game of domination and mental supremacy.

Only Leo would qualify for wearing the mantle of being reserved and shy. The other nine cats are sociable and outgoing, and L.B. wins the prize for being extroverted. So I believe I have good reason to think positive thoughts that my personality is not like that of Sargent’s mother, and that I am not scarring our cats for their next round of nine lives.

And then there is Lydia (pictured above), the only female in our household, and as such the only one who relates to me on a mother-daughter level. She likes the smell of L’Occitane’s verbena soap and Jo Malone’s gardenia perfume, and she loves to observe me getting ready for my “other job” each morning. One of the simple pleasures of my life is watching Lydia sitting in her sphinx pose, at my feet, and gazing at me. Is it too much to hope that she thinks of me as her mommy dearest, in the truest sense of these two words?

Query of the Day: What is your parental style?

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