How a Philly toddler’s note about a cat turned strangers into neighbors

Silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic: Everyone’s in it together.

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Courtesy Lauren Ingeno
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A note in a neighbor’s window turned Lauren Ingeno’s cat into a mini celebrity on her self-quarantined Philly block. Especially in the eyes of a toddler living across the street.

Ingeno, who works in communications for a local health care provider, was taking out the trash from her first floor Fitler Square apartment last week. The 29-year-old looked up, and noticed a handwritten sign across the way. She went over to take a closer look.

“What is your cat’s name?” the sign read. “Our kid says hi to it every morning from the window. Take care!”

She was surprised to see it was literally addressed to her.

“I looked closer and realized it had my address on it,” Ingeno told Billy Penn.

Naturally, she responded. She put up her own window note with the answer: Chloe. From there, the remote relationship blossomed.

Chloe’s new friend, Ingeno learned, was a 2½-year-old girl named Leah. Chloe’s only 3 years old herself, “so they have that in common,” Ingeno said, laughing. Now that they know each other, there’s plenty of opportunity for more waves and smiles.

“It just made me really happy because these are such weird times,” she added. Chloe the cat now hangs around the window, and passersby snap photos of the little local celeb.

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Courtesy Lauren Ingeno

The happy interaction is a snapshot of a coronavirus-induced phenomenon happening all around the city — and the world. Stuck at home with no option to go out, people are finding creative ways to bond with others and stay connected to the world around them.

In Philadelphia and other cities, neighborhoods are creating rainbow hunts, a homemade social-distance-friendly activity for cooped-up children. The national “chalk your walk” initiative has taken hold many places, including Ingeno’s tree-lined Center City community. “There’s chalk everywhere,” she said.

There was the #PhillyCityWide toast, and there’s a call for Philadelphians to open their windows each day at 7 p.m. and to cheer for the city’s frontline workers.

There’s even an app called QuarantineChat that connects strangers in isolation with each other at random.

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Courtesy Lauren Ingeno

In Fitler Square, the desire for connection is palpable, Ingeno said.

She’s been in that same apartment for about a year, and the signs and subsequent chats through the window were the first times she’d ever spoken to her neighbors across the street.

A native of Delco who moved to Philly 5 years ago, Ingeno has been able to continue doing her job from home, she said, unlike some of the doctors and other health care workers in her community.

She looks at the solidarity caused by the coronavirus pandemic in Philly as kind of like what happens when there’s an Eagles game — but this one extends to a global audience.

“It’s like we’re all watching the same game,” Ingeno said. “For the first time ever, I think, the whole world is kind of going through the same thing at once. Which is…kind of a silver lining in all of this. You can really empathize with people.”

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