• Jillian Lentini

"There's No Such Thing as Pink Cat"

I'm writing a book. I've had this gnawing ache to tell the story of my own health journey and the fabric I'm made of. My hope is that my own journey and struggles with my own health journey will help others.

To get a full grasp on my current self and future, I had to go back to near the beginning. And I laughed when I thought of something one of my favorite teachers of all time said to me that has always stuck.

"There's No Such Thing As a Pink Cat". Sr. Mary Bernice.

Chapter 1

I was always a bubbly happy but equally socially awkward little bugger. From the earliest I remember I had issues with other grownups telling me what to do. I was happy and chill as long as I had my mom nearby. My mom was a stay at home mom so the thought of her leaving me with someone else was nothing short of traumatic for me at the time in my little toddler brain.

She was on a bowling league bowling league and I still remember being in that day care room with the other kids freaking the fuck out because my mom left me in there. I didn’t care about the other kids, the toys, the slide or anyone trying to distract me including my own best friend from the fact my mom wasn’t there. I instead went to the door screaming for her to come back and get me. I would sit quietly on a bench next to her and not make a peep the entire game, but man if she tried to put me in that room, I lost my shit. Every single time, and she tried repeatedly. She even tried the stay and make sure I was occupied with a toy or something and try and sneak out. Nice try mom, I caught that shit every single time.

Kindergarten was an interesting experience. On the first day of drop off I cried a little realizing; I couldn’t just go scream to the door this time and yell for my mom to come back. I handled dance classes just fine, so this should be fine. It’s only half a day, and I very quickly found a little friend by the name Brianna. My mom hung in the back for a few minutes and slowly slipped away when she saw I was distracted with my new friend. I had to survive this without her. Even though I was a hot mess at the bowling day care, this was different, I couldn’t be a coward in my big girl school.

Sr. Mary Bernice was by far one of the best teachers I have ever had, and I had so many amazing teachers over the years. What an amazing woman! She was just barely taller than all her classroom children standing a little taller than 4 feet high. She wore a thin sheer habit on the back of her head, a button-down shirt usually in white buttoned up to the very top button, a dark colored long skirt in the standard black, gray, or navy blue, pantyhose, all paired with black sensible shoes, a cross necklace, and in the cooler months a sensible cardigan.

There were mixed reviews on her teaching and disciplinary tactics, but I thrived on discipline and structure and her class was not in short supply of either. I do not recall this, but apparently, she used to lock misbehaved boys in the small supply closet in the back of our classroom. I guess it was her version of a time out. Some people were not a fan of these tactics and laugh that this would never ever fly in a classroom today private or not. However, those kids more than likely deserved it. Some of the boys in my class were little shits and needed a firm hand.

Beyond her discipline and structure, she made learning fun and I still remember her bubble letters she used to teach the alphabet. She had blown up letter balloon toys that were different characters to match the letter we were learning that week. At the time, these were the best thing ever and so much fun at 5 years old.

I loved her so much that one day I announced to my mother that I wanted Sr. Mary Bernice to be my mom. I didn’t know until years and years later, but that crushed my mom. I remember thinking in addition to not instead of my own mom. I just loved her so much.

There is one lesson she taught me that I haven’t forgotten and is still burned into my brain like it was yesterday. We were all given sheets of a coloring book page with a cat on it. We all had the same blank stenciled out cat but could color them how we wanted. I started with a normal color like gray but looked over at my neighbor Melissa’s paper and she was coloring hers pink. At first, I thought that’s crazy there’s no such thing as a pink cat, but then was like wait I can color mine pink too, I am going to make mine pink. I copied her straying from the gray color I started in the corner and switched to coloring my cat pink. Sr. Mary Bernice was not a fan when she realized what I was doing. She came over snatched my paper right off of my desk mid coloring and ripped it up in front of me and said, “there’s no such thing as a pink cat.” I was crushed, but knew she was right. I was so mad at myself for not just coloring the damn thing gray like I started.

Spare me the oh what a terrible teacher stifling creativity, because she was brilliant. That exact moment, she taught me not to copy someone else. I had a thought and started it but because my neighbor’s cat looked so cool, I copied it. It reinforced the importance of staying in my own lane and doing what I wanted, and not copy what someone else is doing.

This lesson has become relevant in my lifetime and has come up time and time again. It has come up in ways that I didn’t expect or realize. Every time I find myself glancing at someone else’s paper against what I started to do, I remind myself “There’s no such thing as a pink cat”.

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