About a year ago, I was thinking about this beautiful Paul Gallico story. For some reason, probably because I admire her greatly, I felt I should send a letter to Nicole Kidman prompting her to produce the movie “Jennie”. I didn’t send the letter, but here it is:
August 19, 2012
August 19, 2012
My favorite book of all time is called Jennie (by Paul Gallico). I love to read, but there are only a few books that remain in my heart like this one. The story starts about a little boy who is hit by a car and becomes very ill. In his coma, a wonderful adventure comes to light. Paul Gallico wrote many stories that involved cats and I must admit, I haven’t read them all; and I’m not some crazy cat woman either. However, in the dreams within his coma, the boy, Peter, meets a worldly feline character (Jennie) who leads him on an incredible and sometimes frightening journey for a boy of his age.
I have a cat, and have owned a cat from a very young age. The understanding that Mr Gallico has of the feline disposition is obviously very well studied. This book opened my mind to the fact that animals, despite their lack of “English”, or any other language, for that matter, have an enormous vocabulary and insurmountable bank of body language that is instantly recognisable once you are able to tap into it. At the time I read “Jennie”, I was sick myself, with my cat almost constantly curled up in the crook of my legs.
I remember, it was year 10 and I had had repeated episodes of tonsillitis. I think it must have become quite ordinary for me, because I honestly didn’t realise I was unwell. However, I did know I was struggling at school which was unusual. I cannot remember why, but obviously Mum had seen some reason to take me to the Doctor. Perhaps, being a nurse, she was worried about the amount of antibiotics I had to take as well as the constant recurrence of the same old thing. I’m sure my Mother, , would remember these facts better than me.
It was a surprise to me, that after a blood test, we were told that I had Glandular Fever. I was enjoying studying Macbeth at school at the time but was whipped out of class and sent to bed. I really hadn’t even realised I was sick. I think I must have been well aquainted to feeling tired and faint, and had grown to believe this was my own normality.
Perhaps this was just the start of the illness, because once I was at home and in bed, I was ill, very ill. I remember, not having an appetite, complete lethargy, and where once before I would love to help my Mother to cook dinner, the smell of food turned my stomach. I was lovingly excused from the table and positioned in a room downstairs so that I still had a semblance of a connection with my family.
My Mum was wonderful. She always tried to tempt me with different foods. I remember avocado, yoghurt and fruit being some of the morsels she would bring for me in order to encourage me to eat. I ate them to please her. It made me feel bad to think her efforts were wasted. All the time, I felt I could have done without, I never felt hungry.
One thing I couldn’t bear then, and never will again, is the smell of lamb chops under the griller. If, in that time, I ever ventured into the kitchen to share some family magic, whilst “that” dinner was under way, I would always have to retreat back to my room to avoid the charcoal/mutton smell which truly made me feel physically ill.
I lost a lot of weight in that time and was in bed for nearly 6 months. Sometimes, Mum would take me to the shops for an outing, to get the family food, and most likely also to see if there was any kind of fare that caught my eye. I always felt like a rag doll within 5 minutes of the trip and could see that she felt guilty for even taking me. I remember feeling so terrible that I couldn’t hide my fatigue and at least try to be enthusiastic about my Mother’s nurturing nature.
The adventures of the little white kitten, rapidly growing up to be a Tom, in the presence of that worldly and skilful friend of his, was far more inviting; as well as my serene black cat in the crook of my legs in my warm and cosy bed.