Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Patron Saint of Uncondidtional Love, St. Anne. ....Part 2 "How to Faux Finish a Cat"

Note: This is Part 2.  Please read the previous post "The Patron Saint of Unconditional Love, St. Anne"

Part 2  "How to Faux Finish a Cat"

My mother was in her 80s, living by herself on our family farm, selling bales of hay out of her barn ten miles from town.  She loved the land more than anything and even though my father had been gone for more than 10 years she missed him every day.  The ranch remained a powerful connection to him and the life they had shared.

She was helping an elderly couple who lived in town, visiting with freshly cooked meals and groceries, paying and mailing their bills. One particularly rainy night, she was getting ready to drive the 10 miles home when she heard a pitiful meow.  A tiny starving, rain-soaked kitty pleaded with her.  Not one to disappoint, my mother couldn't say no to an animal in need. She named this beautiful dark tiger striped cat "Teeny".  Teeny had won the lottery for homeless cats as my mother nursed her back to health, their bond flourishing and deepening like nothing I had seen before. Teeny was with her every minute, walking miles on trails together as my mother hunted mushrooms, picked wildflowers or blackberries depending on the season.

On a chilly winter day in late November, a nice man left my mother's with his horse trailer full of hay and Teeny was nowhere to be found.  My mother called him to see if Teeny had gone home with him accidentally.  No, he hadn't seen her cat.  My mother continued to hunt and call for several days around her property until the nice man called telling her Teeny had been locked in the trailer and darted out when he opened it.  Relieved, my mother immediately went to their house to get her cat.  Teeny was too scared in an unfamiliar place to come to my mother.  For over two weeks, two or three times every day, my mother would drive to their house and call for her beloved kitty.  The kitty was simply not to be found.

St Anne statue fully restored by Chris Hart Studio
It was December 18th, my mother's 87th birthday and I was planning to take her out to dinner to celebrate. It was dark early as I worked faux finishing a custom ordered kitchen island in time for a Christmas gift.  I could hear the rain chattering on the metal roof of my studio when the phone rang.  It was the nice man, saying he had found my mother's cat. Happy to hear the good news, I said I would come to his house and pick her kitty up.  He hesitantly told me the cat was dead then slowly, he added that his dog had killed her cat.

I hoped to put an end to the unpleasantness of the situation and called my mother to let her know her kitty was found dead and that was that.  She was insistent that she get her cat back, dead or alive.  She wanted Teeny to be buried on her property, not somewhere strange.  I called the nice man back and told him I had to pick up the cat right now.  He hesitated and said "I already buried the cat".  I kindly told him I would bring a box and a plastic bag but to please dig up my mother's cat.  Then he told me "I had to shoot the cat to put it out of its misery".  Thoughts raced through my head as I remembered my mother's refusal to abandon her search for Teeny.  I marveled at the size of her heart and her ability to love all living things unconditionally, including me. I knew if I didn't pick up the cat, my mother would. 

It was wet and cold as I stood in the dark with Teeny in a cardboard box. I could not give this cat to my mother, bloodied and covered in mud.  I couldn't bare the pain my mother would feel every time she envisioned Teeny's last moments. I am my mother's daughter. I'm an artist who specializes in faux finishes and restoration. I am, if nothing else, extremely creative.   

I took Teeny back to my studio, shampooed her beautiful dark tiger coat then blew it dry so it was silky and fluffy like it always was.  I wiped the dirt from her eyes, ears and nose with a Q-tip.  I touched up the bite mark on her neck, minimizing the visual disruption. Then I dealt with the bullet hole in the back of her skull.  I filled and cleaned and repainted the flesh tone, fluffing the fur over the top of it. I couldn't bring her back to life but I could make her just as beautiful as she had been in real life, the precious companion my mother had loved and would always remember.

My mother happily holding her baby, Chris
When I carried Teeny into her kitchen, my mother had prepared a box with her favorite jingling ball toy.We had spent hours laughing as Teeny never lost interest in chasing it.  My mother painstakingly inspected every inch of Teeny before wrapping her in a sweater that smelled of her lavender soap.  She hesitated at the neck and then again at Teeny's skull.  She turned slowly and looked at me. Our eyes exchanged one flicker of understanding.  We both needed to protect each other.  We knew the meaning of unconditional love and it had come full circle. Very quietly my mother closed the box and we went into the dark to bury Teeny together.

I will never forget my mother's 87th birthday and the gift I was able to give back to her.  Thank you, St. Anne.              



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