In the still of the early morning, I received a wonderful, unexpected gift. As the clock approached 5 a.m., I felt the presence of a small body moving up the bed and settling next to me. At first I thought it was my little pug, Ernie who often does such a thing, but when I touched the back of this warm little body, something was different. The fur was silky, and I knew in an instant, it wasn’t Ernie, but it was my stand-offish cat, Vinnie.
This occasion was as rare as an eclipse of the sun. Usually Vinnie is so independent, he gives off the vibe that he only tolerates me because I feed and brush him. Over the past ten years, he has trained me to respond to the different “meow” intonations which signal me to perform a task. I have learned when he’s out of food or water, demands his tuna, and wants to play. But here he was, this demanding feline cuddling and purring, wanting me to pet him and hold him. As I stroked him with one hand, he licked the fingers of my other hand. For those few quiet minutes, Vinnie dropped his feline guard and wanted to be close to me. For ten precious minutes, he needed me.
If you know anything about most cats, this beautiful moment was over when he said it was over. He abruptly stood, stretched and slunk down to the end of the bed to return to his chosen spot. I should feel honored that my aloof Vinnie reached out for me in the darkness, but his short encounter left me wanting more. So much so, here I am, at five in the morning, chronicling the rare, but so pleasant experience.
As I recount these few minutes of tenderness between a loving human and a feline who would rather stay under the bed most of the day than sit beside me, I realize that Vinnie has helped me understand a crucial element of solid character development. Little did he know it, but Vinnie helped me see another facet in a major character of my book. He helped me understand that even the most aloof, independent and sometimes mean character still has a need for affection. It was if he turned on a creative beacon. He helped me see that a fiercely independent person would steal such a moment in the darkness because reaching out for affection is so difficult. Vinnie’s need for human affection was a precious gift, even though it was selfish on his part. On the other hand, he left me wanting more, even though I know not to expect another interlude like this any time soon.
It’s the quiet moments that offer clarity. Learn from them. Watch for them because if you don’t they will elude you. Learning life’s secrets are silent moments and if you don’t listen, you will miss them. It is in the stillness we come to understand the insights and facets of our characters. Even the most aloof character has a deep-seated need to be embraced. And even the saintliest character has an element of darkness.
So, thank you, Vinnie. Your quiet, sweet way has turned a creative light on for me.