Okay, so what do you do with a cat that climbs your Christmas tree?
Patches, the Calico we obtained from a well-known local feline rescuer some months back, is experiencing her first Christmas season in a house where the holiday and all of its trappings are, for my wife Beth, literally the most wonderful time of the year. She puts her heart into the season’s sights and sounds, but did wait until the first week of December to put up the tree and all of its decorations. Looking at the tree and its lights at night and on some gloomy afternoons goes a long way to placing us in the spirit of the thing.
It carries some significance with myself because my family’s tradition was to trim the tree on Christmas Eve and take it down on Twelfth Night. But now I like it being in place early and being there for a little while, so much so that one year I don’t believe we took it apart until, well, maybe March. What can I say? It looked good in the corner that it occupied.
So with the effort put into the tree, it was a tad disconcerting the other night to hear the branches shaking and the ornaments jangling. I came back into the living room to find the multi-colored furball now a part of our household picking her way cautiously among the branches, having crawled up from the base to the center. With visions dancing in my head of the whole magilla going down in front of me, I tried to catch on to Patches and lift her out of her lofty perch.
That mission, of course, was aborted when I decided the disaster I sought to avoid could happen with my help by clutching at an uncooperative cat. After a few minutes, Patches became bored with the whole scene, removed herself gingerly from her situation and resumed roaming the house in search of, with apologies to Charlie Chan, whatever amusements permitted themselves the luxury of occurring. Uttering a sigh of relief, I concluded we were either lucky or the tree is a lot sturdier than we thought. (Our other cat, a Bengal named Kitty, is content to traipse across the keyboard when I’m trying to write, like right at this moment).
Actually, it was kind of cute to observe Patches slide past the fronds and plastic icicles, a scene worthy of Rockwell and his depictions of an old-fashioned Christmas. That is, until the tree and all of its adornments start rattling like the exhaust on the ‘73 Oldsmobile I once owned. But so far, so good.
It is interesting to reflect on when and how the pull of yuletide cheer takes hold of different people. For some, it begins just as the last of the Thanksgiving feast is put away and Black Friday has dawned. Others see it in the Christmas tree they stand up and make pretty, although those who do so prior to Turkey Day are taking their enthusiasm mighty far. If you’re into pop culture, it comes as soon as the holiday tunes hit the airwaves or CD players. In that particular subgroup, you know it’s time when television schedules any movie adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” (the 1951 British version starring Alistair Sim is my favorite) or “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”
I think the greatest wonder of the season is that experienced by children, especially those of school age who look forward to the break from classes to enjoy the holiday. Mixed with the anticipation that greets every Dec. 25, either spiritually or by the joy of giving and receiving, kids come out the winners. That’s why we need to support and congratulate the organizations and individuals who ensure the younger ones among us whose families are in difficult financial straits will find something under the tree. Because the older we get, the more pleasure we derive from giving to others.
At least it is for me, ever since the Christmas in junior high when I replaced the large glass jar my father used for his spare change. That jar, whose clear walls were copper-like from all of the pennies it contained, took on a special meaning when he brought it out of his and Mom’s room and placed it on the table to provide the stakes for playing pinochle with my grandparents when they visited in the summer. The jar had since been damaged and I found one like it at the local pharmacy while doing my Christmas shopping with the few bucks I’d somehow saved.
When Dad unwrapped it and gave it the once-over with a smile, his next statement stayed with me ever since: “I can clean off my dresser twice with this!” With that stamp of approval, I started to appreciate that giving a gift and the joy it creates in the recipient is more important and fulfilling than getting.
For adults, that’s one of the gifts Christmas provides, by offering the best kind of time possible for immediate family, relatives, friends and even co-workers. I have always thought that Christmas parties and gatherings should be scheduled closer to the actual date, rather than two or sometimes three weeks prior because the mood can soon dissipate with the passage of time. But the workaday world and other demands dictate that we spend as many moments as possible with loved ones in those last days leading up to the holiday, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
So enjoy the glad tidings that the season creates. Let them overcome the disappointments the last 12 months have produced and allow the good feelings to take you into the new year with a more optimistic viewpoint. Enjoy this time of the year and all the best it offers.
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.