The Cat Grandma

Posted January 7, 2016

by Jenne Kleppe, Autumn Room Teacher AND Student


Outside door number 304 lives a small collection of stuffed animal cats. Once we discovered these kittens, children began asking to visit the cats every time we were out and about in Inver Glen. One day, a little girl asked, “What are their names?” There were more questions about the cats, their home, and their owner. We decided to investigate…

LaRue is a busy lady, often not home when we are out visiting, so we taped a  note to her door asking about her kitten family. Soon she wrote us back! The children were excited to receive her response. LaRue told us the kittens did not have names, but would we name them for her?
This became a project of great excitement for the Autumn Room. Children made lists of possible names and created drawings of the three cats. After a vote, name winners were: Cookie for the black and white cat, Fluffy for the white one, and Cheeto-Burrito for the orange kitten.
Each time we visited LaRue, she invited us inside her home. Low and behold, this grandma had MANY MORE CATS inside her apartment! With each visit, she had a new one to show us. The children love to visit LaRue and started calling her “The Cat Grandma.” Excited shouts of “Hi Cat Grandma!” are heard whenever we encounter LaRue. Each time she reminds the children to come play with her cats.

Visiting LaRue’s apartment to play with the collection of cats was the start of a wonderful relationship. As teachers, we worry about how the children behave in a senior’s apartment, remind the children not to touch things, and fret they are too rambunctious. In LaRue’s home, she welcomes the crazy, the noise, and the excitement. Several times, I have said, “I’m sorry” to LaRue when I think it has gotten too wild. Her response is always, “What for? This is the best part of my day!”
Ah, the teacher becomes the student. For me, her simple statement highlighted the essence of visiting LaRue. This is not a meaningless visit; this is the real thing. Our time together reflects mutual love and respect. This is what I want to teach.
At LaRue’s we have performed impromptu puppet shows, sorted cats by characteristics, named more cats than I can recall, looked at her family photos, observed her collection of handmade carvings, described Christmas decorations, tried out her many chairs, listened to stories about her life, and given hugs many times over. LaRue describes these visitors as “her preschoolers” and has told me she sees these children more than her own grandchildren or great grandchildren. We are her family and she will always be our Cat Grandma.