She lived in the field surrounding our neighborhood in Mississippi when we moved there in 2006. All the homes were brand new, and as each family moved in, we collectively became a larger family, making memories often on the driveways after work accompanied by wine and laughter.
Almost immediately word got out that a community of cats lived nearby, as they approached each homeowner for handouts. Of course I was a sucker for anyone homeless, and left out kibble and fresh water for the needy. And, of course, that brought in the gang of raccoons, but that's another story.
I'd moved to Southaven with nine cats from Kentucky. There had been a barn on the corner where too many unwanted cats congregated, and I adopted those who found me, among them Herman.
In Southaven once again I became the target of stray cats. But that was okay. My motto has always been: there is room for one more.
Across the street our neighbors, the Haleys, fed two cats, one black they named LaPark and the tabby, whom they called Chauncey. Shelly did not realize Chauncey was a girl until she got pretty fat. After having her kittens and the Haley boys naming them Bucket and Barney (both girls) Chauncey and LaPark moved to our yard, full time. I got them vetted, but unfortunately LaPark had a lot of serious health issues and he went over the rainbow bridge. That left Chauncey on her own.
While getting to know her, she told me she was French, so I named her ChauncieMarie. She loved shoes, especially my flipflops, and she liked to wear her ear on a flip with the feathery hairs acting like a tabby fascinator. So Oo La La!
I noticed immediately that ChauncieMarie came alive around boy cats. She took a flirty liking to my boys while they were in the garden. She continued to be an outdoor cat for a few years after I adopted her because I had nine cats indoors, and frankly she was not immediately trusting of the idea of sacrificing her freedom.
We had a lot of boy cats that rolled into town with their macho swaggers and tails waving high in the air with proud arrogance. Nobody was gonna tame them! Until I romanced them with fresh food and clean water, and soft blankets, accompanied by heat lamps and insulated houses during winter.
Time and again when ChauncieMarie lost her current boyfriend, she powered through with grace. Ever affectionate, ever sweet and hopeful.
One day - I remember it vividly - as it was a few days before Valentine's Day and she was crushing hard on one of my indoor boys, she peeked with curiosity into the kitchen when I opened the door. I opened it wider to allow her to come in if she wanted. She went for a stroll through the kitchen into the sunroom, then returned outside. She did that a few more times before, one day, she just stayed inside.
She has never desired to return outside since that day, and has made herself a comfortapurr member of the Wonderpurr Gang.
These days she's enjoying retirement life in Florida by taking a morning stroll around the pool catio, and sniffing at the evening breeze with the full moon shining through the trees. She still loves boy cats, and she crushes on her Daddy Ray by snuggling against him during evening Couch Time. Still agile and spry, able to leap onto the bed without the assistance of pet stairs, she has yet to acknowledge the encroaching kidney dysfunction heading her way. We are giving her the care she needs, although she's still feisty enough to need two strong arms to hold her down while getting a mani-pedi.
Sharing our lives with senior cats is a double-edged sword of joy and heartbreak. I love watching their faces age with whitened muzzles and wizened expressions. But I hurt seeing them move slower, their fur easily mat, and their bodies turn against them with disease. It's a part of life, a sad one, but still it's a blessing to have shared my life with ChauncieMarie and my other seniors.
Happy Birthday, dear lady. May you continue to Age with Grace.