Last year, my family and I moved to a lovely town called Brookline, just outside Boston. The perks of leaving New York City continue to flow. We can breathe in the air around us without choking. It’s a short drive to Maine. And we’re no longer bleeding cash.

But I miss New York. Its intensity and creative energy. I miss the anonymity of living in a big city. Boston is comparatively provincial, and though I’m all for making new friends, I don’t really want my neighbors poking their heads into my business.

You see, there’s a middle-aged Russian lady in our ‘hood who regularly bangs on our front door to say hi.

Her mission? To return our cat Viktor from his daily walkabouts. She’ll find Viktor somewhere and bring him home, banging on the front door in the middle of the day to announce his return, causing me to stop mid-salted-caramel-ingestion and think to myself,”Who the f@!% is that?” and momentarily contemplate being axed to death, before I realize it’s probably the Russian Cat Lady.

I will open the door and there she will stand, holding Viktor in her arms. Typically, our conversations go like this:

“He has come home, my dearrrrr,” she’ll say, rolling her r’s like a Checkhovian pro.

“Thanks!” I’ll reply, thinking Listen, he’s a cat, he’ll come home, he always does, please don’t worry about him and bang on my door in the middle of the day like a crazed UPS delivery person in need of meds.

“Have you ever thought about putting in a cat flap?” she’ll ask.

“No!” I’ll reply smiling,  thinking I’ve thought about a lot of things lately, Cat Lady, but cat flaps ain’t one of them. Try saving for our kids’ college accounts and finding a writing job with decent pay. Though you might be right…there have been numerous reports of coyotes and raccoons in the area. Is Viktor prepared for battle?

“It was so sweet the way I found him,” she’ll continue. “He was rrrrubbing up against my leg, and I thought it might be the missing cat from the posters on the street, so I checked his collar. He is so frrrriendly. It is as if he rrrrrecognized me!”

“I know, isn’t he sweet?” I’ll reply, thinking: Are you trying to tell me he needs more attention? Listen Cat Lady, why don’t you try remembering to freshen his water bowl when you have a 2-year-old clawing at your leg for “More wawa please” every 5 seconds?

So imagine my surprise, when last week at the public garden down the street from our home, I spied Ms. From Russia with Love for Cats. A sunny, 4:30 in the afternoon, I was with Miss B, watching her play in the giant sand pit, when I noticed Cat Lady sitting on a nearby bench. As I squinted, trying to figure out whether it was actually her, I noticed she was swigging something out of a bottle that looked remarkably like a Heineken.

Gasp! Shock! Horror! An open container near my 2 year old! I knew there was more to her story. She is a lush!

I texted hubby, who advised me to “Make a citizen’s arrest.”

And then,

“Not a good influence on Viktor.”

Ha!

And then I realized. It’s happening. I have just taken the perilous first step to becoming the very person I loathe: a nosey, hypocritical puritan!  Give this poor woman a break — she’s from Russia!  She probably brushes her teeth with vodka!

In that moment, I realized that it doesn’t matter who my neighbors are and whether I live in a small town in Kansas or the top of a skyscraper in Dubai. I’ve got to remember to take New York with me. It’s OK to embrace the odd animal-loving nosey parker…as long as I don’t become one myself.

After all, Perhaps Cat Lady is Viktor’s guardian angel in disguise. She might save Viktor’s life one day (sniff). 

The next time she drops off Viktor, I’ll invite her in for a beer.

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