Monday, December 19, 2011
A Christmas Cat-astrophe!
However, I was also reminded of the last time we held Christmas at our house, about four years ago, and the memory was—shall we say—mixed. My eldest daughter, Julie, had just acquired two cats. Their names were Cinders and Ashes, drawn from swear words in a Harry Potter tome. That December, it was about time for the cats to be neutered and Julie looked into the cost of this operation. It was astronomical! She strongly suspected that the vets in suburban Northern Virginia had a higher overhead than those in urban Philadelphia. Their waiting rooms attested to this, providing piped-in music, wall-to-wall carpeting, and soft furnishings for both the animals and their owners. She decided a trip to her old family vet in Philadelphia would save a few bucks. His office was more down to earth, with no music, wooden chairs, and a cement floor that was hosed down every night after the last patient left. So Cinders and Ashes were packed into the van along with the presents.
The cats arrived in fine fettle. When released from their carry-alls, they prowled the house, examining every nook and cranny, as cats do, and then settled down for a nap. It was the day before Christmas and the rest of the family rushed around, attending to all the last minute chores – tree-trimming, cooking, present wrapping, etc. The number of bedrooms was limited and every one was occupied. I ended up on the living-room couch. Miraculously, we managed to finish everything by eleven pm and by midnight I was fast asleep. But not for long.
I woke with a start to the sound of running feet and strangled cries. What the h---? I sat up, and, by a shaft of moonlight, caught sight of two black bodies hurling up the front stairs. Seconds later, I heard feet pounding down the backstairs. I went to the bottom of the front stairs and looking up. Various sleepy-eyed family members stared down at me.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
With one accord, they shook their heads, their eyes wide with wonder. They couldn’t have been more astonished if St. Nick himself had showed up. Then my husband’s reasonable voice spoke in the darkness. “I think they’re in heat,” he said.
Sure enough, although brother and sister, and from the same litter, such distinctions mean little to cats. It seems, overnight, Cinders had developed a grand passion for Ashes. What to do? Christmas would be ruined if my family got no sleep. Something had to be done. And being the current hostess, the solution naturally fell to me. While everyone else went back to bed, I, flashlight in hand, girded myself for the hunt. I corralled Ashes first and deposited her in the only empty room left – the kitchen. Several long minutes later, I caught Cinders, and put him in the kitchen, too, and slammed the door. Peace at last. Hazily, I realized that it would have been better to place them in separate rooms, but such accommodations were not available. Besides, I was too sleepy. I found my way back to the couch. All was quiet upstairs. Surrounded by the smell of pine needles and the sound of church bells tolling a distant carol, I drifted back to sleep.
My alarm went off at six o’clock. I had set it early so I could make coffee and heat up some coffee cake for the early risers. No one sleeps late on Christmas morning if there are children in the house. Having forgotten the cats completely, I wondered briefly why the kitchen door was closed. I opened it.
Oh, my god!
If a dozen of Hell’s Angels had trashed the kitchen in an act of vengeance, it couldn’t have looked worse. Everything that could fall, had fallen; everything that could break, had broken. Canisters, boxes, bottles and jars were tumbled in a great gluey mess of cheerios, flour, honey, jam and coffee beans. The two miscreants made a bee-line for the open door, and disappeared in the upper reaches of the house.
I would have cried, if another impulse hadn’t been stronger. And that’s how my family found me that Christmas morning, collapsed on a kitchen chair laughing hysterically.