Parlor Cats...a Victorian Tradition thrives.
We're all about tradition here at The Dempsey Manor. The fact that we absolutely adore, spoil, fuss over and coddle our resident kitties is only a minor contributing factor as to why we keep up the Honored Tradition of permitting our Reigning Felines to rule the domain.
The Leap to High Society...
Queen Victoria not only gave her name to her era; every fashion and fancy she invented or adopted became standards for the civilized (and genteel) world. Of course, our purring partners were always an English favorite. But when the public noticed that her love for them raised her own cats to the status of Members of the Royal Family, the Victorian Home was incomplete without a beloved and treasured monarch of its own. The Reign of the Cat began.
As Cynthia Hart says in her wonderful
book Parlor Cats, "Nor was their reign
limited to England. In America their
popularity grew by leaps and bounds,
until an article written towards the end
of the nineteenth century could declare
that a 'cat craze' had seized the nation."
And so it continues in this stately
Victorian Mansion in Manistee, Michigan.
Meet the Two
Well...actually Blanche wouldn't know what a mouse was nor what to do with it. From her inscrutable gaze we suspect she spends her hours contemplating higher realities.
And Abigail would assume she had met yet another new playtime pal for fun and games.
Two cats couldn't be more different than these. In fact, they demonstrate the adage, "There are no ordinary cats."
Blanche is around fourteen years old and is the Dowager Countess within these walls. A haughty Burmese with extraordinarily pure blue eyes, she only moves to summon the Help; and then she voices her requirements tersely. If necessary, loudly and persistently. After her needs are met (usually some cat confection from the fridge), she again retires in her slightly arthritic gait to her private apartments, away from the riff-raff and the hustle and bustle of her busy Manor.
Her great-grand-niece (with whom Blanche has no patience) is Abigail, the young, slim and ingenue-sweet tiger-striped Orange Tabby.
Alas, Abigail has definite petty bourgeoisie propensities. She is the oil to Blanche's water.
Abigail never meets a stranger at the Mansion and is always there to greet each new face: yes, face-to-face. She accepts every compliment but with a girlish coyness that belies her three years of age. There is a kitten in her that won't grow up. The only time she has ever been "aloof" (as cats are often misrepresented) has been when Blanche has made an entrance into the room. On which occasions, Abigail will hightail it to the handiest and loftiest cabinet, well out of reach of the ground-bound Old Lady.
Did we say, bourgeois? Perhaps common would be a bit more precise. So if you don't want an affectionate nuzzle while you slumber, or want to wake up with a furry face nestled next to yours, perhaps you might sleep with the bedroom door closed when you take your rest.
A Welcome Winter's Addition to the Manor's Family
It was a cuttingly cold, but quiet and still, January afternoon in 2019 when Jim stepped out of the mud-room door into the freezing air and onto the heavy new-fallen snow lying on the raised deck of the service porch. When he started shoveling the planks to forge a path across the deck, the sound of scraping carried deep into the yard. He hadn't cleared more than three feet of snow when - for a brief couple of seconds - he thought he heard a baby crying somewhere, seemingly outside on the grounds. He startled at the sound. But in a moment a memory kicked in. He remembered mom telling him as a kid that kitties in trouble cry like babies.
The sun was setting. Oh no - if a young kitten were out there somewhere, it had no chance of making it through the sub-zero night to come. So cupping his hands around his mouth, he called out 'Here kitty. Here kitty kitty.' Before the next 'kitty' was called out a streak of near-black fur shot out of the yard, onto the deck, and right up to the top of Jim's right shoulder pressing against his neck and ear desperate for safety and comfort. Sure enough - it was a shaking, scared, skin-and-bones, freezing, one or two month old dark-haired kitten, in a bad way and about to freeze to death.
From its tiny frame came a purr like the idle of a diesel engine and tiny little claws that sank into Jim's coat - a helpless little ball of terrified fur. Jan and Jim put a little of Abigail's food in a bowl and made a warm little bed in the kitchen, but the little fur ball (whose eyes stayed closed fast through all of this!) preferred to cling onto them. It craved shelter and gave love; ate, healed, grew, charmed, entertained; and became Jan's closest companion. It was a she; she was now family; and she chose her own name. Sophie.
Exclusivity. [Or, How to Deal with the Competition.]
Blanche, Abigail, and Sophie (our Queen and Two Princesses), together lay claim to every inch of the James Dempsey Mansion as their own. No pretenders can ever voice any claim to their sovereign territory.
That means that, wish otherwise though we may, The Manor cannot accommodate any other four-legged citizens or visitors, domesticated or otherwise. [In a rare show of unanimity, they apparently crafted this proclamation without thought to the two-legged feathered citizen that also dwells in this realm: our 30-some-odd-year-old Yellow Nape Amazon parrot, Josefina.]
But -- if you miss your own fur-babies, and you must have a feline fix -- visits from Abigail and Sophie are guaranteed.
Audiences with Blanche can be arranged in advance according to her pleasure and, of course, if her schedule permits.
Our friends wait at the Bridge.
The sun is warm. And they are content knowing we remember,
and that someday we will come.