A Cat Story
When I was a kid, my mom had a cat named Smokey. We got Smokey as a kitten when my parents found him behind a bush in the front yard. (This would become a common theme for our family, and in fact when Smokey showed up we already had a dog that had followed us home from church). I'm sure he was intended to be the family cat, but I was a rambunctious five-year-old willing to try anything that my not-always-mature father suggested. After I put the cat in the toy box, I think he pretty much made up his mind about me. We would eventually develop a relationship based on mutual respect of personal space, but it took years.
He was always sweet to my mom, though. From the beginning, if she lifted him to her shoulder, he would "kiss" her neck. Smokey was an indoor / outdoor cat, which actually led to his name. He was gray on top with white feet, face, and belly, but he was named because he used to go hang out by the fire with the little old man who lived in the big old house down the street and come home smelling smoky. He also liked to sneak into the attic and emerge hours later with dust all over. But his independent streak eventually led to trouble. On Christmas Eve, my mom was making tuna noodle casserole - as demanded by family tradition - and Smokey wouldn't stay out of the kitchen. She finally got sick of him putting his nose in the food and tossed him outside to roam the neighborhood until she was finished. I was so little that I'm not sure if my memory of that day is a true one, or just something I made up because it makes sense. I think I remember looking out the kitchen window and seeing him squeeze under the back gate into the driveway. I do know that this is true, though: Smokey never came back.
We waited and watched, but Smokey never returned. Almost a year later, a woman who lived at the other end of our block across the street approached my mom about adopting one of her cats. She knew that Mom had lost her cat and was hoping to find homes for some of the strays she'd taken in as housecats over the years. Mom walked down to see if any of the cats felt like a good fit. When she got there, she spotted a big gray and white male cat who reminded her a lot of Smokey. When she approached him, he allowed her to pick him up. And then he kissed her neck. The handsome tomcat was Smokey. Mom brought him back home and he lived with us for another five years or so. Even after she had him fixed, he continued his wandering ways, but remained true to Mom for the rest of his life. I used to wonder what he'd tell us about his missing year if only he could talk.