When Keith Wilde left the Rescue Shelter with what he believed to be the perfect pet for his young daughter, the last thing he expected from it was it’s immediate disappearance upon entering the family home. After enduring a round of joyous hugs and rough kisses, the petite tabby slipped the grips of the loving bunch and hid beneath the bed for three days straight. Even back then, 7-yr old Diana wasn’t small enough to wriggle her way beneath the low bed frame in order to retrieve him — though she certainly did try.
“He’s stuck all the way in the back,” Diana shouted, as she tried to prod him out with a slim plastic stick. The cat only readjusted his position a bit further back against the wall.
“Mom, is he ever going to come out?”
Jacie got down on her hands and knees and spotted him. There he was, calmly nested in the darkest corner, as far from human contact as he could place himself; just a tiny kitten with big flashlight-green eyes, all aglow in the dark. He didn’t look like he was going anywhere too soon, and no amount of kissy noises was about to make him budge.
“Honey, all I can tell you is that this is what cats do. He’ll come out when he’s ready. I promise you, at some point, he’s going to want food. He’s not going to let himself starve to death.”
Diana was concerned. “Is this because he doesn’t like us?”
“No, not at all. This is all so new to him. It’s going to take some time to get used to his new surroundings.”
“But, he’s been under the bed for three days, Mom.”
“That’s how cats do things, babe. They hide. They take their time because that’s what their nature tells them to do. Don’t worry.” Jacie, who was a notorious cat lover for the vast majority of her life, could hardly recall an instance when a cat didn’t hide during its first couple of days in a new abode.
“But, I tried tuna and chicken and everything, Mom. I keep on showing him mice toys and string thingies. And this cat fishing-rod…” She held up the blue plastic stick that she tried to pry him out with.
“Honey, I promise you, he will come out when the time is right. You have to trust me on this one.” Jacie reassured her daughter, as she brushed a strand of shiny brown hair out of the little girl’s worried eyes.
“Come on, let’s go take a look at that new set of paints. You said you wanted to try watercolors, plus I got you some of that fabulous Arches paper to work with. Does that sound good?”
“Arches paper? You bought me Arches?” With her curiosity piqued by the thought that her mom just purchased some of the finest watercolor paper available on the market, Diana trailed behind her as they walked into the living room and over to the area that had been established for the purpose of experimenting with paints.
“Mom, look! Mom! Mom! Mom! Look!” Diana jumped up and down by her small easel and then quickly cupped her hands over her mouth, hoping that her explosion of sound wouldn’t intimidate the unexpected new guest.
Seemingly smaller than possible, and ever so skittish, the teeny eight-week old silver and white kitten prudently took its first bold steps out into the world.
Diana looked at her mother and whispered, “He’s ready, Mom. His nature must have told him it was OK to come out now, just like you said. He’s probably looking for food. I’m going to get him some.”
Jacie laughed. “Here he comes.”
Two years later, after Jacie was diagnosed with breast cancer, Diana compared her mom’s behavior to that of the little cat who chose to hide. After the operation, the treatment prescribed was so harsh on Jacie’s system that it seemed to take everything last bit of energy out of her. For all the vibrancy that she once displayed on a daily basis, during this bleak season of illness and recovery, Diana thought of her mom as a vulnerable little animal – stuck in a dark corner, waiting for the right moment to resurface.
During this period of time, 9-yr old Diana learned how to boil water, set up a teabag, steep a strong cup, and add to it a most excellent amount of sugar and milk. She was very good at balancing the cup on the saucer, but almost always ended up bringing her mom her tea in a mug, just to be safe.
“I’m so sorry you have cancer, Mommy, and that it makes you feel so sick.” She set the mug on the night table, right besides the laptop computer.
“I don’t have cancer anymore, baby. They took the cancer out.” Jacie reached over and took a sip of the hot, sweet tea. “What I have now is chemo. That’s what’s making me sick.”
Jacie swallowed. “Wow. Mm, yum. Earl Gray. Good tea, thanks, kid.”
“Is chemo what made you bald?”
Jacie feigned a shocked face and touched her smooth, bare scalp. “What? I’m bald, too? Oh the humanity!”
Diana crawled up into the bed with her, smiling.
“You want a head massage, Mom?”
Jacie held her daughter close and said, “Has anyone in the history of the world ever turned down a head massage?”
She lay back against her stack of down-filled pillows and let her daughter trace imaginary patterns on to her soft, hairless head.
“When’s Daddy coming home?”
Jacie didn’t have an answer.
Diana looked at her mother, noticing that her eyebrows and eyelashes were gone now, as well.
“You’ve lost a lot of stuff, didn’t you, Mom?”
“Ah,” she shrugged. “Nothing I couldn’t do without.”
“I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you too, knuckle brain. C’mere. Don’t go all “Sad Sack McGee” on me, OK?”
“You’re not going to go and die on me or anything like that, right?”
Jacie sat straight up in the bed. It took everything she had, but she whipped herself into military form and spoke firmly to her daughter.
“You see this?” She pointed to her baldness, her body and her generally weak appearance. “This is temporary, love. That means it’s not going to last. Give me a couple more months, and I’ll have my hair and my health back. You just gotta be patient with the patient.” She smiled, hoping that her play on words would at least inspire a giggle.
Diana pulled away, and all the sadness that existed in that moment suddenly evaporated and turned into a productive idea.
“I know exactly what you need!”
By the look and sound of Diana’s enthusiasm, Jacie knew she wasn’t going to be resting any time too soon.
“You do? You’ve got that crazed maniac look in your eyes, little girl. What do you have in mind for me?”
Diana ran out of the room and returned within minutes, fully equipped with an entire tray of cosmetics, eyeliners, shadows and brushes. Before Jacie became a professional illustrator, she was a make-up artist, and she collected what seemed like hundreds of different types of make-up from every company out there – both quality and garbage. She kept them all in a deep drawer in the bathroom, and after gutting the drawer of every last piece, Diana dumped the contents on to a mirrored tray and brought them in to her mother’s room — all ready to begin a brand new session.
“Oh God. What are you going to do to me?” Jacie only pretended to be put off by her daughter’s intentions. She knew how much all kids loved to taunt adults with their big bad threats and sneaky little facial expressions.
I’m torturing an adult! Hee, hee, hee! This is fun!
“I’m going to do your make-up, Mom. Diana-style. Be afraid, be very afraid.”
Without pausing, the young girl began to open containers of metallic pigments and liquid liners. She held her mom’s face in her hands and fussed over the hairless canvas, creating eyebrows, highly detailed eyelashes and well-glossed, defined lips.
But when Jacie felt the cool tip of the wet brush slide from the top of her forehead on over past the tips of her ears — she backed up and looked at her child.
“Uhhhh, what’s up with the painting of the cranium? I know I don’t have eyes up there. Not unless, this is a side effect that I hadn’t bargained on having. Please tell me I didn’t grow an extra set of eyes. That will so suck if I did.”
Diana chuckled at the thought. “No, Mom, I’m painting on a wreath.”
Jacie’s mouth dropped open.
“A wreath? Aretha Franklin?”
Diana was clearly confused. “What? What’s Franklin?”
“Forget it. Its just ancient geezer stuff. Way before your time.”
Handing her mother a powder compact, she commanded her to look in its mirror.
Jacie caught a glimpse of her newly transformed self and burst out laughing. As fantastic as the makeover was, she couldn’t help but think she looked like some kind of Roman Senator from Mars.
Pleased as punch, Diana asked her, “What do you think? Do you love it?” There was no other option offered.
Still laughing, Jacie went with the flow and gave Diana exactly what she wanted.
“I love it. I mean, how could I not? Look at that wreath. How many people get to wear a wreath these days? Not many — but here I am, a wreath-wearer. Totally snazzy. And check out my face…those brows. Hell yeah. This is a look I seriously need. I’m thinkin’ – can you do this everyday?”
Jacie continued to admire her fantasy-forward visage in the little mirror, punctuating the experience with cute remarks, tailor-made to make Diana laugh – and she did laugh, every time.
“By the way,” Jacie began to ask. “How are we going to take this off?”
“Baby oil.” Diana laughed loudly.
“Ohh, baby oil. That’s going to look great. I’m going to end up looking like Blue Man Group by the time this over!”
Mr. Weenis hopped up on to the bed to join in on the action.
“I’m afraid to kiss him.”
“Why?” Diana was almost afraid to know the answer.
“Because his fur is going to stick to all of my glamorous make-up. And then I’ll be sneezing and itchy and freaking out.”
Diana picked Mr. Weenis up and held him in front of her mother’s face.
“Go on, give him a widdle kiss. You know that’s why he’s here.”
Jacie bent over and planted a gooey, glitter-drenched, gloss-covered kiss right between the cat’s eyes. When she sat back, she had little bits of fur stuck to her lips. She shook her head back and forth, and as disgusting as she truly did feel, the glee that registered on her daughter’s face was enough to make everything she just went through worth it.
What started out as a typically vile day in the life of a cancer survivor going through medical treatment, turned out to be one of the best and most memorable days ever, for both the survivor and her beloved daughter.
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