Sadie Leaves Her Legacy

Valentina Carina Willoughby-Hofstadter, the only child of Catherine Willoughby and Carl Hofstadter was known simply as “Sadie,” her lengthy given name being abandoned during her first experience with death. Sadie and her mother had moved to the port city of Astoria, Oregon when she was in first grade. Astoria boasts one of the roughest shipping channels in the world because here the great Columbia River enters the Pacific Ocean with a push and pull that often challenges even the most experienced ship captains. This push and pull also enticed Catherine who had always admired the historic charm of Astoria so after she and Carl divorced, Catherine left their original home in Bellevue, Washington and headed south for a less hectic existence near the mighty Pacific.

Like all Willoughbys, Catherine was artistic and musical. She taught music at Lewis and Clark Elementary, played several shows each month with her classical ensemble and owned a ceramic shop on the first floor of a converted warehouse in downtown Astoria where she hosted classes for people of all ages. Catherine loathed the paint-your-own pottery shops, particularly because no one made their own pottery. She believed that creating something from clay with your own hands was akin to a spiritual act and nothing would convince her otherwise.

Carl Hofstadter was a consulting engineer who inspected bridges and overpasses. His frequent travel was the eventual cause of their divorce. Whoever said absence makes the heart grow fonder was being quite optimistic; the constant separations were hard for both Carl and Catherine and they decided that fighting around Sadie was not an option, so after some deep soul searching and many sessions of couple’s therapy, they amicably parted.

Sadie saw Carl often, several times a month in fact. After she and her mother relocated to Astoria, Carl bought a modest, well-built cottage less than a mile away from Catherine and Sadie, and whenever time permitted he returned there for visits. The best part of this arrangement was that Catherine and Carl were much better friends than when they were married.  

Sadie was born on Valentine’s Day, which was where she received her unusual moniker, Valentina Carina, a name that she held until she was almost three. Carl and Catherine at that time lived in Bellevue and their neighbors Arturo and Cynthia owned a beautiful Maine coon cat named Sadie. Little Valentina loved Sadie the coon cat. Sadie liked anything sparkley and Cynthia would often let Valentina borrow a green sequined scarf and play with Sadie in their back garden. Although Sadie was an old cat, she happily played with the little girl who came to see her each day. All her energy was reserved for the time they spent together so when Sadie died, Valentina had an unusual reaction.

She’d found Sadie curled up under a maple tree one summer day as she entered Cynthia and Arturo’s back garden. Cynthia and Arturo had an adjoining gate with Catherine and Carl’s garden so it was common for Valentina to visit.

Valentina called out that Sadie would not wake up and play. Her mother Catherine leaned over the white picket fence to see what was the matter and immediately went to get Cynthia. When Cynthia saw the cat, she felt as if the ground beneath her was suddenly shifting. She sunk to her knees, scooped up Sadie, and began to sob; Sadie had lived to be sixteen years old and Cynthia had raised her from a kitten. Little Valentina stayed by Cynthia’s side, crying along with her, patting her back until Arturo hurried home from work. Later both families came together to bury Sadie and Arturo prepared a small eulogy, conveying that Sadie would always be in their hearts.

The next morning as Catherine finished making Valentina’s breakfast she called to her daughter who arrived in the kitchen, her face fixed in a pout and her blonde hair knitted into mess on one side of her head. “No more Valentina. I’m gonna be Sadie!” she said as she stamped into the kitchen rubbing her eyes.

Catherine smiled sympathetically. “I know you will miss Sadie. She was a very good cat, but you are my Valentina,” said her mother gently setting a bowl on a placemat.

Green eyes stared back at Catherine resolutely. “No. I’m Sadie!” grumped the little girl knocking a bowl of granola from the counter splattering oats and nuts all over the kitchen floor. Catherine was taken aback at this reaction but did not try to enforce the name. Obviously little Valentina was grieving and would need some time to process the death of her four legged friend.

However, each day that passed the answer remained the same and even increased in gusto with stomping, crying, fit-throwing and the general terrors of a stubborn almost three-year-old. Carl and Catherine finally conceded. Embarassed in defeat of their daughter's willfulness they spoke to Cynthia and Arturo explaining that for now they would be calling their daughter Sadie as she refused to answer to anything else. Rather than being shocked, Cynthia nodded, suppressing a smile; she understood why. The little girl had loved the cat and wanted to keep a piece of her, so she kept her name.

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