Over time Ota didn’t just become a favorite toy. It was more like a sensory comfort. He always liked rubbing it or banging it against his cheek, he stroked its tail every time he took a bottle and clasped on tight to it while he slept. Deep in his sleep his hand would move around until he found Ota’s tail and clasp on it and settle back into sleep, he didn’t wake up or open his eyes, he did this in his sleep.
Bilal holding Ota’s tail while taking a bottle
Because of my don’t go out with Ota rule, my mom bought a similar toy cat to be kept at their house so Bilal can play with it there and have it in case he naps or we stay over. That extra cat came along to the trip to the US when I was pregnant with baby brother. He had both cats by the tail on the plane with him and they came along for the our 12 hour car trip to Southern Florida to visit family.
Ota and Twin
Needless to say Ota has been through a lot, she’s been around longer than Bilal has, she’s been washed and dried countless times, she’s traveled continents. She’s an old little thing… the plastic glass eyes are scratched and chipped, her stuffing has long been unfluffed, her white fur has turned a shade of grey that doesn’t come out in the wash. A few months ago her back was ripped and I stitched it up. Last month her neck was torn and her head was held on by a small part. So I took to taking out all the unfluff, wash it, stuff it with new fluffy fluff, put in a few drops of lavender essential oil for calming effects, and stitch it back up.
New fluffy fluff
Stuffed clean lavender scented Ota
Still sleeping with Ota
Ota is the Arabic (Egyptian) word for cat. It was the first word said by both my boys at around 12 months. Cats have been a large part of my life especially during my teens and early twenties. There was always a cat in the house during those years. At 13 my friend’s blue Persian got out the house and got pregnant by a stray tabby. She had 3 kittens and I took the runt of the litter she was a medium haired white and grey tabby. She was like my baby, I dotted on her, talked with her and she was really my everything then. We had her for 6 years and during those years whenever there was talk about giving her away due to my parents fear of Toxoplasmosis or being unable to find someone to care for her over the summer while we traveled until the last minute, I would go through the extremes of teenage drama, bawling and crying and being utterly depressed not wanting to lose her, we always kept her. Along with Tooti we always fed the strays in the area and several times they would come give birth in our balcony finding it safer and with a supply of food, so we had a lot of cute little kittens running around as well. In college I adopted two small kittens and took care of them as well. So oddly enough during my first trimester with Bilal I had constant dreams about kittens. I woke up feeling that I was pregnant with a kitten instead of the baby from all the dreams. The only thing I’ve ever babied or taken care of was cats, so either my subconscious was saying I would make a horrible mother and treat the baby like a kitten or that I would be a good mother because I already know how to take care of something small and dependent. Go figure.
During the pregnancy hubby and I decided to check out Toys R Us and see what products and toys were available what I would need and the cost of everything. I found a soft stuffed white and grey toy cat and said I’ll get this for baby, it looks like Tooti and baby should grow up loving cats too. So that’s the beginning of Ota’s story, she was bought even before Bilal was born and placed into the crib we bought for when baby came. When Bilal was born Ota was placed on the other side of the crib, it was always close by. I think about 12 months he fell in love with it and it became his toy, always making sure it was there when he slept and nearby during the day when he played.
Heart to Heart
In this photo Bilal was about 4 months old babbling with Ota in his crib.
This picture Bilal was about 11 or 12 months old and sleeping with his two favorite toys.
I only had one rule regarding Ota, he wasnt allowed to go out with it. I’ve seen parents battle with their kids over their toys when they went out and then when it was lost or forgotten the crying and tantrums that followed and trying to distract the child or having to find and buy a replacement. I just didnt want that, so when we went out we would say “Bye” to Ota and leave her by the front door and there she would be the first thing he saw when we got back home. Ota only left the house if we were going to spend the night away from home.
Traveling with Ota
On a car trip from Cairo to Alexandra, Ota came along.
Because of Ota he fell in love with real cats. The streets of Egypt are full of stray cats and he always saw them, pointed them out shouted “Ota!” and if possible ran after them.
Ota was always around and close by, played with all the time in dusty Egypt and with Bilal’s reflux and frequent vomiting Ota was usually a victim of yuckies and needed to be washed a lot. A damp soapy towel wouldn’t do of course when vomited on so she was put in the washer and dryer or placed in the sun. She soon lost her softness and fluffiness. Next part more pictures of Bilal and Ota and the continuation of their relationship till today.