Dear Mama Cat

Dear Mama Cat

Dear Mama Cat,

Your presence really surprised me when I learned about the not-so hardscrabble life, compared to other feral cats that you'd inexplicably managed to finagle at the apartments on Tustin Avenue where my son and I rented starting in early 2014.

The news that we would be living under the code of an entrenched HOA didn't exactly thrill me. The list of regulations, while somewhat quirky--"No smoking in bed." was the rule, not "No Smoking," a delightfully archaic yet silently resolute "We don't want to hear it," to those desiring to regulate others' behavior--certainly wouldn't seem to allow for any type of squatter on the property, even someone with a fur coat as intricately patterned, with warmly gold-grey banded over with black tiger stripes. It was even specified that pets could not be outside on the grounds, however, we soon noticed that cats seemed to be everywhere and the community of residents never seemed to care.

Mama Cat, just as you stealthily evaded animal control officers that snagged your siblings after being abandoned at move-out time, little con that you are, you stole the hearts of those supposedly charged with ordering your removal.  The brusque manager could have, and I might have expected would have forbidden such an unscreened, non-paying resident, but this woman's kindness would astonish me over the three and a half years we lived there; I could work things out when needed as long as the communication and progress was frequent. It was really the assistant manager, though, who had not only fed, watered and provided bedding for you; the trust she built through her love allowed you the confidence to take the risk of venturing inside the office when the rain started to pour--and you would let her pet you! It would take many months of my son and I living there, and you eventually would respond to our greetings, even rolling over to expose your belly which I understand to be the ultimate sign of love and trust: "I know I can relax with you." Thank you for the compliment, sweet girl.

The sheer size of the expansive, lush garden apartment complex with its two swimming pool areas would seem to offer unlimited chances for cat exploration, yet you seemed to hug the office closely, as so many territories had been staked out by others. Though I am normally outgoing and confident, I, too, found it at times intimidating to step through the pathway leading past several sets of buildings before I reached my own place atop the landing. Eventually, we became part of the scenery though having been reminded on a few occasions that we didn't fit in. Enjoyment of beautiful floors, big rooms and the view of the park area with its playground and gorgeous trees helped endurance with harsh realities and even cruelties that were happening constantly then. Mama Cat, you were there the whole time, part of what made our close to four years as HOA residents pleasant and special.

As I negotiated my way out of the apartment when I needed to, at an epiphany that proved a major life change really needed to be made, the news that you had passed away caused a lot of sadness. It also made me incredibly grateful to have had the pleasure of photographing you, and then sending the pics to the assistant manager. She seemed to really appreciate having a way to keep looking at you, having been your friend and caretaker for so long. This was the best photo of the three, I believe, for showing you as you were: wild and beautiful, with a forgiving, open heart. Rest in peace, Mama Cat. Thank you for trusting me with your beautiful image.

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