Chapter 11

I looked forward to Monday at 4:00 with great expectation. I had no idea what was in store for Caitlin, but I sensed that it would be good. Caitlin seemed fine after a weekend of warm baths, medicine, and lots of sleep. Although she still had chicken pox, there was no way that I would cancel this meeting.

Traveling up Bradley’s long driveway was like entering a different world. Leaves danced in the breeze. Bossy chickadees flitted from branch to branch. The battle cry of a blue jay scattered a flock of chatty sparrows and the squirrels played tag throughout the treetops. A small orchard of stately dwarf apple trees created a shelter from the busyness of the city. A whimsical violet board-and-batten garage accented the charming A-frame home.

I parked the Jeep and held Caitlin’s hand as we approached the front door. An old dog lazed on the walkway, thumping his tail on the hand-laid stone. Caitlin bent down to pet the dog as he offered his belly for a rub. Taking hold of the heavy doorknocker, I lifted it from its hinge and knocked against the rustic red wooden door. The door opened and Bradley greeted us with a friendly bellow. “Hello!”

Bradley towered over us. His graying light brown hair tumbled in unruly locks over his forehead. His shorts showed hairy calves and he sported a white golf shirt. This man is a doctor? I thought, calmed by his unclinical-like appearance.

“Good afternoon. Come in, come in. You must be Heather and Caitlin. I’m Bradley.” He waved us past him.

Once inside, my eyes adjusted to the light. Posters of different colors and sizes, obviously painted by children, decorated the walls in front of me. A shelf held an antique dollhouse and a variety of porcelain dolls. An arched doorway led to a smaller room. Bradley invited us in.

“Caitlin, you can play in here while I talk with your mom. After we’ve talked, you and I can play. You can decide whether you want your mom to stay or not. Okay?” He smiled wide enough to see the gap between his two front teeth.

Caitlin’s eyes widened as she took in the scene in front of her. Floor to ceiling shelves held a variety of small toys and objects – plastic animals, yellow trucks, leafy plants, porcelain angels, stuffed dolls. Plastic, glass, rubber and papier-mâché. Almost every imaginable toy. A bulky sandbox took up the centre of the room. Caitlin went straight for the plastic animals. She pulled a large elephant and one baby elephant off the shelf and plunked them in the sandbox.

“That’s it, Caitlin. You can play with anything in this room.”

Caitlin looked to me as if to ask, “Can this be true?” Pleased for her, I confirmed with a smile and nod.

Bradley stepped back into the hallway and I followed. He stopped and turned to face me.

“I will be working with Caitlin mainly in this room, although we may go upstairs to the studio to do painting or play with the puppets. The premise behind play and art therapy is that a child can better express how they are feeling by acting it out with their toys. Play helps them to make sense of their world. Many children don’t have a strong enough grasp of language to express themselves the way they need, and many times they aren’t even aware of how they truly feel. Play helps them to express complex emotions. Is there anything you’d like to tell me?”

Yes, yes. I’d like to tell you that I’m living in hell these days; my personal hell. I’d like to tell you that I’m lost in all this – confused and upset. I’d like to stay here myself and play all day and never go home.

Instead, I turned my back to Caitlin as I told him about what had happened in the last two weeks.

Bradley’s jovial smile faded. He nodded as if he’d heard the story too many times before. “Children are resilient. She’ll get through this. You’ll both get through this.”

“Well, Caitlin,” he re-entered the room, “would you like your mom to stay or to leave and come back later?”

“I want mommy to stay.” Caitlin didn’t even look up from her world of animals.

“Okay, Heather, you're welcome to stay in this room or spend time in the library."

"I'll be right next door in the library Caity-Cat."

I sat on a low stool and tried to listen in on Caitlin and Bradley's "play" in the next room. I realized the hour had flown by when another car pulled up and Bradley announced that his next appointment had arrived. He pulled out his pocket daytimer and asked if we could come back again at the same time in two weeks.

Caitlin looked up with pleading eyes. “Of course, that would be fine,” I said.

Caitlin smiled and said to Bradley, “See you again soon!”

Bradley answered, “I’m looking forward to it.”