Cats in socks


An expectant mother placed a picture of three kittens above the changing table. She had purchased the item from a garage sale in the neighborhood.

The kittens dangled from a huge limb of a grand old oak tree. A unique picture for a room that housed a changing table full of diapers, wipes, assorted lotions and creams.

Each of the kittens filled a sock that left just their faces exposed. The first was white with brown spots — the kitten’s face, not the sock. All the socks hanging from the tree limb were white.

The second kitten was brown with white spots. And what of the third? Well, the third kitten was to become very special to the family. Unlike the rest, she had fur of smoky gray with no spots at all. Her name was Alex, and she was soon to have great influence on one child she looked over.

Over the years, Alex and her fuzzy-faced friends eventually looked over not one, but three newborns — keeping each of the children, two boys and a girl, captivated while their mom and dad attended to the business at hand.

The cats in socks brought forth endless smiles and giggles from the children that filled the room and echoed through the years. Over time, the children grew. The cats in socks did not. They stayed exactly the same size as they always had been. Except the one called Alex.

On her fifth birthday, the parents asked the little girl, “If you could wish for anything, what would it be?” She held their hands and excitedly pulled them into her bedroom. There, she pointed to the picture above her bed, to the picture of cats in socks dangling from a huge limb of a grand old oak tree and said one word: “Alex.”

The parents exchanged a knowing look and smiled down at the little girl as the father handed her the box he held behind his back – a box equipped with air holes. Inside was a kitten with smoky gray fur. The little girl named him Alex.

Whenever the little girl needed a friend to talk to, Alex was always there. It was Alex, curled up in a tight little ball of gray fur and purring next to her every night, that she shared her deepest secrets and dreams with.

One day she wanted to grow up and become a veterinarian. The little girl studied hard and all through school, if ever asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, her answer was always the same, “I want to be a veterinarian.”

Because of her grades, she won a scholarship to one of the finest veterinary schools in the country. After high school graduation, with help from her parents, she packed her life in two suitcases and left the house she had called home for 18 years. She also packed something else – a now very old friend named Alex.

What eventually happened to Alex and the little girl? I don’t really know. You see, their story isn’t finished just yet. He’s kept her company through four years of undergraduate school, and now into the four-year degree program, helping her with her studies and being a longtime friend to talk to about everything or simply nothing.

And every night he curls up next to her in a tight little ball of gray fur, and purrs her to sleep.

When you have children or grandchildren, give great thought to the pictures you hang on the walls of their bedrooms. You’ll never know how they’ll influence the child for the rest of his or her lifetime. Even if the picture is of three cats in socks hanging from a limb of a grand old oak tree.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]