“That’s the thing about this city mom, it welcomes you, draws you in and accepts you as its own. I swear it was as if Chicago itself decided I belonged in Old Town and it was going to make sure that’s where I ended up . . . well, with a little help from Moffat,” Sarah grinned as her mother wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, then adjusted Sarah’s veil.
“Tell me again how you met Davante,” her mother sighed as she looked at Sarah’s reflection in the mirror. She’d never seen her daughter as happy as she was at this moment, looking so beautiful in the wedding dress they’d picked out together, counting the minutes until she married the man she loved.
“I've told you the story a thousand times. You must be sick of it by now,” Sarah laughed.
“I’ll never get tired of hearing how you found not only your soul mate, but an entire family here in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood.” She nudged Sarah’s shoulder. “Tell me. We have time.”
“Well, it was love at first sight when I saw Davante at Trey and Nevaeh’s family picnic. It was just a few days after I met the two of them, but I already knew they liked me. No, that’s not it exactly; I knew they already considered me part of their family even though we’d just met, and I felt the same way about them.”
A knock at the door interrupted Sarah.
“Hey, it’s me … Trey … and Moffat. Can we come in?”
“Of course,” Sarah answered. “As long as my husband-to-be isn’t with you.”
“No, Uncle Davante isn’t with us. It’s just the two of us. The ring bearers extraordinaire,” Trey replied. As he opened the door, Moffat bounded into the room heading straight for Sarah. He plopped down at her feet, his tail thumping madly as he looked up at her.
“Whoa – you look amazing Sarah!”
“Thanks Trey. You look pretty amazing too.” Sarah smiled as she watched him fidget in the fancy suit. “Never thought I’d see you all dressed up like this.” She reached down to scratch Moffat’s head, giggling when she saw the red bow tie around his neck.
“Me neither,” Trey laughed. “Your dad sent us to get your mom. Says he needs help with his bow tie and cuff links.”
Sarah’s mom shrugged and headed for the door. “Come on boys. Let’s get the father of the bride looking as spiffy as you two.” She glanced at Sarah. “I’ll be back soon honey.”
Sarah hugged herself as she thought about marrying Davante here at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in her beloved Old Town.
She couldn’t believe how perfectly everything had worked out over the last two years and it really was all because of one walk around the neighborhood with Moffat back in the fall of 2014.
Moffat had been her trusted companion and roommate since her parents insisted on giving her a dog for her college graduation present when she told them she accepted a job in Chicago and was leaving her small, rural hometown in southeast Wisconsin for the excitement of the Windy City.
Her mother’s best friend Kathy bred Barbet dogs and Sarah had the first pick of the latest litter of puppies. She would never forget how Moffat bounded straight toward her on his little puppy legs, knocking his brothers and sisters out of the way. He’d fallen over just before he reached her, growling, and barking as his legs flailed in the air before he managed to get up, wag his tail and plop down on his butt at her feet while looking up at her expectantly. His curly black fur and the look on his face had reminded her of “Dr. Who’s” Steven Moffat and the name stuck.
She and Moffat had settled into a cheap, pet friendly studio apartment on Dearborn Street, just outside the Old Town neighborhood. She couldn’t explain it, but she’d always felt as if Old Town was where she truly belonged. She was enchanted by its architecture, the quaint streets lined with tightly packed houses and especially the sprinkling of hidden gardens she delighted in discovering. She never tired of walking Moffat down her favorite brick lined alley, past St. Michael’s, and the Second City comedy club. She reveled in exploring the eclectic mix of old and new shops, businesses, and restaurants that all combined to make Old Town so special.
Sarah’s eyes grew misty as the memory of the day everything changed swept her away.
Moffat never acted like this during their daily walk. She stopped and knelt beside her beloved dog and tried to calm him. He continued to tug at the leash as she stood, and she realized it was because he was heading toward something in the grass at the edge of the sidewalk. She walked over and picked up a small, bright pink mouse toy. Moffat sniffed it, then tugged at his leash again and whimpered. She gave in and let him lead her down the street. At the corner, he smelled the ground, walking back and forth a few times before turning left down a small alleyway.
As she looked at the homes lining the alley, Moffat continued to pull her along. At the next corner he turned right, and she followed him past some of her favorite houses, waving to an elderly lady sitting on the front porch of her home, admiring the tiny garden inside the wrought iron fence surrounding her small front yard.
She noticed an envelope hidden among the hydrangeas against the fence and had to tell Moffat to stop and sit twice. She called out to the lady that she’d found some of her mail. The woman stepped off the porch, walked down the short sidewalk, thanked her, took the envelope, and expressed her excitement when she realized it was a letter from her sister. She introduced herself as Mrs. Evelyn Chanticleer and the two of them chatted for a few minutes.
Sarah’s thoughts turned from the one walk that changed her life forever to memories of all the time she'd spent with Evelyn, who had become her self-appointed Chicago Grandma, since that day. They’d spent nearly every Sunday together. She’d taught Sarah to bake and play pinochle and she’d become her closest friend and confidant.
A few months ago, Evelyn moved to Florida to live with her sister, but she’d come back for the wedding.
Sarah and Davante jumped at the chance to buy her house and Evelyn was as overjoyed as they were about the two of them starting their new life together in the home she shared with her husband for more than 40 years.
Sarah smiled as the memory of that fateful walk with Moffat through Old Town ensnared her again.
After meeting Evelyn, she and Moffat continued down the street. On the next block, she picked up a balled-up piece of paper Moffat was smelling. Curiosity got the better of her and she opened it. Childlike letters spelled out ‘Mom said’. Moffat looked at her and barked once as he pulled at the leash again. She put the paper in her pocket and let Moffat lead on.
At the next corner, Moffat turned left toward St. Michael’s. He started trying to run while she tried to slow him down.
As they approached the church, she saw a boy sitting on the steps crying. He was holding a box on his lap. Moffat was heading straight for the child who looked up, wrapped his arms around the box, and froze as the big black dog rushed toward him.
“Don’t worry! He’s friendly,” she called out as she told Moffat to stop and sit several times, but Moffat ignored her. He went right up to the boy, sat down at his feet, and put one paw on the child’s knee. He sniffed at the box the boy was holding and started wagging his tail.
“His name is Moffat and I’m Sarah. Are you okay?”
The boy rubbed the back of his hand across his runny nose and looked up at her. “I’m Trey. I guess I’m okay.” He tried to hide his tears.
“Can we help you?” she asked as she sat down next to him.
“My mom said I can’t keep them.” Trey opened the box and she heard soft mewing before she peeked inside and saw two kittens. “I’m supposed to take them to the animal shelter, but I want to make sure they get a good home.”
She asked if she could pick them up and Trey nodded.
The first kitten was brown with tan and white stripes and a pink nose. As she lifted it out of the box, she saw it had tan feet. She laughed and hugged the kitten as she mumbled ‘sandshoes’ to herself.
She put the first kitten back in the box and picked up the other one. It was black with white markings on its neck. She giggled and held the kitten out in front of her as Moffat sniffed it and thumped his tail on the ground.
Trey told her he’d found the box with the kittens next to some garbage cans after school. When he took them home, his mother said he couldn’t keep them.
She held up the wrinkled piece of paper and asked Trey if it was his. He nodded.
“I thought if I came here to the church and put a note on the box, someone nice might take care of them. I’m afraid if I take them to the shelter, they’ll kill them if no one wants them.” Fresh tears rolled down Trey’s face. He held out a new note that said ‘Mom said no. Help them.’
She pulled the pink mouse toy out of her pocket and showed it to him. “Moffat found this on our walk and immediately started making a beeline toward St. Michael’s. I think he brought me here because he knew you and kittens were waiting for us. I want the kittens to come live with me and Moffat, but only if it’s okay with you.”
Moffat nudged Trey’s knee with his nose, barked once and looked up at him. “I think Moffat’s asking you if it’s okay too.” She laughed and rubbed Moffat’s head.
Trey pointed at the mouse toy. “One of my neighbors gave me that when she saw me on my way home with the kittens. It must have fallen out of my pocket.” He paused to pet the kitten in the box. “Do you really like cats?”
Trey narrowed his eyes as he watched her. She knew he wanted to be sure she was being honest with him.
“I love them. Growing up, I always had cats and dogs. My parents gave me Moffat as a present when I moved to Chicago. They wanted to make sure someone was looking out for me and keeping me company. My building allows pets and I’d love to make the kittens part of my family.” She looked at Trey earnestly. “But I’ll need help with them and with Moffat too. Would you be willing to help me with all three of them?”
“You mean it?” Trey tried to hide his excitement.
“I think we need to talk to your mom first to make sure it’s okay. Is she home now?” she asked as she put the second kitten back in the box.
Trey nodded. “I only live a couple blocks away. Are you sure you want to come to my house and talk to my mom?”
“Yes. Three pets take a lot of work so I really will need help. You already love the kittens and Moffat picked you today, just like he picked me the day I went to choose a dog. That’s good enough for me.” She smiled at Trey. “There’s something we need to do first. The kittens need names.”
She explained how Moffat got his name and told Trey she’d like to name the brown cat Tennant and the black cat Smith to keep the “Dr. Who” theme going. Trey knew the show and laughed when Sarah explained Tennant’s tan feet reminded her of the 50th anniversary special when the other two doctors made fun of David Tennant’s doctor for the “sandshoes” he was wearing. She pointed at the white markings on Smith’s neck and said they reminded her of the bow ties worn by Matt Smith’s “Dr. Who” character.
Trey loved the names Sarah picked for the kittens. “Come on. Let’s go talk to my mom. Oh, she just has to let me help you with Tennant and Smith and with Moffat too!”
She’d handed Trey Moffat’s leash and took the box with the kittens. They talked and laughed all the way to his house.
Wary at first, Trey’s mom Nevaeh quickly warmed up and even invited her to stay for dinner. It was the first time she’d felt truly at home in Chicago; she hadn’t realized how much she missed having dinner with her parents and Nevaeh and Trey were so welcoming.
Nevaeh agreed to bring Trey to her apartment to play with the kittens and Moffat the next day and invited Sarah to a family picnic the following Saturday.
At that picnic, she felt as if she’d been struck by lightning – in an incredibly good way – the minute she laid eyes on Nevaeh’s younger brother Davante.
A knock on the door pulled Sarah back to the present.
“Sarah? It’s me honey.” Her mother opened the door and gasped at the tears running down Sarah’s face. She rushed to her side. “What it is? Is everything okay?”
“Oh mom! Everything’s perfect. It’s just … I was remembering … you asked me to tell you the story. I knew instantly he was the one. These are tears of joy!"
As she hugged her mother, Sarah recalled the feeling of wonderment she’d experienced walking home from Trey and Nevaeh’s that night.
It felt like Old Town itself was embracing her and assuring her she belonged. She’d been so thankful for her growing Chicago family which she knew without a doubt included not only the kittens, but Evelyn, Trey and Nevaeh too. And just a few days later, she’d met the love of her life.
It was all thanks to Moffat who had claimed her, the kittens and Trey as his own.