The sweet face profiled above is that of an unexpected visitor who showed up at our house last week.
Our Christmas With The Celts schedule was jam-packed. A Wednesday night rehearsal was followed by two Thursday performances, to be followed by a Friday night performance and, later Friday night, the cast party. Sandwiched in between was a Friday morning breakfast with my friend Ray, who'd only be visiting in the area that one day. Since I'd be out on Friday morning anyway, I scheduled a couple of other errands -- a recipe for exhaustion, I know, but somehow you do what you have to do ...
On Friday morning I went out to put my purse in the van when I ran into Candy (Matt's mom); they always park their RV at our house when we're doing performances in the area. Candy and I wanted to visit for a bit, so we went back into the house for a few minutes, then returned outside. We heard a "meow." Then "Meow, meow." "Where are you, Kitty?" Candy softly called. Out from under the van came a small gray cat. Not shy, as most strays are; this one seemed to crave human company. Candy scooped the kitty into her arms, and was immediately rewarded with loud purring and contented nuzzling. This was definitely no feral cat, nor even a stray; it must be recently lost.
But lost from where? I quickly reviewed the neighboring homes in my mind: one dog owner, one two-dog owner, one who owned no pets, one vacant home ... this cat had not simply wandered over for a visit. Candy's brief examination of the kitty yielded a clue: the kitty was pregnant.
We were still pondering over the expectant momma cat when Ray came over. I sent him off to The Bean On 41, saying I'd be along shortly, and then Candy and I began to consider the kitty's options in earnest. We couldn't simply let her continue to wander: although our home is in a residential neighborhood, the traffic commission is not yet on board with that notion; the speed limit on our street is 40mph (meaning, of course, that people drive even faster). Candy couldn't take the kitty, because Matt's deathly allergic to cats. I couldn't take the kitty, either, because Maggie (our dog) isn't used to cats. What to do?
Then I thought of my friend, Vicki, who's such an animal lover that she's on the board of our local Animal Welfare League. Vicki would know what to do! Candy -- still cradling the kitty -- and I piled into the van for the short trip to Vicki's house. Even when the diesel engine revved up, the kitty continued to purr! What a cat! -- as most of them hate riding in vehicles. But this one was so happy to be around humans, that she seemed not to mind, but rather to actually enjoy the trip. Vicki greeted us thoughtfully, immediately going into rescue mode. With five dogs, she, too, would be unable to take the kitty, and it was too early in the morning for the shelter to be open yet. But she lent us a small pet carrier, and the kitty slipped inside, still purring and rubbing against the carrier door to mark her new territory. Vicki promised to investigate the possibility of a foster home, and, feeling that we'd done the best we could do for the time being, Candy and I returned home.
We set the kitty and her carrier in the main living area under the supervision of Greg, "Uncle" Jerry and Maggie, then I went on to my by now seriously-delayed breakfast with Ray. Ray and I had a very nice visit, said our goodbyes, then I headed to the supermarket for the rest of my errands -- and to that list was added the purchase of cat food, kitty litter, and a makeshift litter pan. Greg reported that the entire time I'd been gone, the kitty purred blissfully; Maggie had expressed only brief interest before going off to do her usual "routine."
That was all about to change, however, as I appropriated Maggie's large crate, out in the garage, for kitty's temporary home. "I have only a few possessions," Maggie seemed to say, "and you're giving my crate away to a cat? Woof!" The kitty, however, reacted with only mild surprise before resuming her purring. She devoured the first bowl of food that was set out for her, poked her nose about in the second bowl, then arched her back and started to rub to mark this newest territory. What an absolutely sweet personality this cat had!
She was never far from my mind, as we did our concert preparations, the concert itself, and then the party. It was funny -- during the party, I'd catch one person or another sneaking into the garage to check up on the kitty. Same thing the next morning; each person, in his or her own time, arose and dressed for the day -- then checked up on the kitty. And when Vicki called to announce that she'd found a foster home, then later came over to escort the kitty to her new -- albeit again temporary -- home, everyone took time to say goodbye to the furry little creature who'd lived with us for less than 24 hours, yet had so profoundly touched each of us.
I'm grateful to report that kitty is happily exploring her new home. She sleeps with her "foster" owner every night, and delights him with her sunny disposition. She's going to make someone a wonderful pet!
As of this writing, there are no kittens yet. But I've thought of a name for her: I'd name her after another expectant mother of 2000 years ago, who had no place to have her baby, yet displayed the same calm and serene trust that all of her needs would be met.
In my mind, she will always be -- Mary.