Christmas Past


Yesterday, our recently-adopted kitten officially became an outdoor cat.  There were a number of factors leading us to this decision: The stash of pooh I found two nights ago beneath the basement stairs two feet from the litter box; the copious amounts of cat urine on V’s mattress; Squint’s allergy flare up; the stealth attacks on the other unsuspecting cat; the jumping on the counters; the stealing of food from dinner plates.  Sometimes I get the feeling that this cat is Destructo back from the dead. 

Squints took him outside and re-introduced him to the great outdoors: He was a wild cat, born in the wild likely to a feral mother.  He took to being outside immediately.  He ran here then there.  He sniffed. 

He chased. 

He meowed. 

He ran away.

“Mom!”  Squints said.

“He’ll be back.”


Every couple of hours, Squints opened the back door and called out.  But the cat didn’t return.  “Mom, he’s never coming home again.”

“Let’s go for a walk,” my husband suggested, hoping to take Squints’ mind off the cat for a few moments.

It was a perfect day for a walk: warm and sunny, not a cloud in the sky.  V decided to come too, to try out her new camera—an early Christmas present. 

We parked and crossed the bridge spanning the creek; creek’s really a misnomer for a body of water easily thirty feet across.  “Go ahead,” she told us, as we walked along the path next to the creek.  “I’ll catch up.” 

We headed up the hill, my husband, Squints and I.  “Think the cat came back?” Squints asked.

“He’ll be back, Squints.”

“But how do you know?” he persisted.

“I just do.”

* * * 

“Get anything good?”  My husband asked when V caught up with us about a half hour later.

 “My battery died after one picture.”  She gave us a sheepish grin.

We continued our walk, winding through the ginkgo trees, past an old barn and a root cellar.  We walked past an empty corn field and a few walkers and headed back toward the creek.  “To your left,” a biker called out sternly, passing us in a blur of blue and white. 

We crossed the dam and headed for home, admiring the setting sun and the flock of geese resting on the gentle surface of the creek.  And then, all at once, the geese took flight, arranging themselves to cut across the sky. 

“What a great picture that would make,” V said, watching them fly past.  “Can we come back tomorrow?”

And Squints said.  “Do you think the cat’s back?”

* * *

We finally got around to decorating the tree last night.  “There’s no snow, Mom.  It can’t be Christmas,” Filibuster said, hanging a skinny Santa from a branch.

V laughed as my husband put her angel at the top of the tree.  It was a homemade angel; an angel with a stern look and glaring eyes.  “I’m not in the Christmas spirit,” she said.

Confronted with twelve days off from school, my daughters don’t know what to do with themselves.  They lie on the couch; complain of their boredom; watch movies until all hours of the night.

Squints opened the back door.  Called for the cat.

“I wish we could go to Ohio for Christmas,” Filibuster said.  See all the cousins and Grandma and Grandpa. It would be more fun.”

 “We can’t go to Ohio this year,” I tell them, slamming another ornament on the tree.  “We have too much going on.”

 “I’m tired of hearing about all this Christmas spirit and going to Ohio,” I groused at my husband, as we ran some empty ornament boxes to the basement.  “I feel like we’re not good enough anymore.”

He smiled.  “They just want Christmas the way it used to be.  They want the magic back.”

“Things change,” I said.  “People grow up.”

He smiled again.  “I know.”

We finished decorating the tree.  And almost immediately the ornaments began falling off.  Nobody, I noticed, bothered to pick them up.  Yes, Christmas has lost its sheen. 

And Squints opened up the back door.  Called for the cat.

* * *
After we finished decorating the tree, we put a Christmas movie on.  I used the opportunity to fire up the computer and look for house plans; to consider again what I want to have when we move.  I want land for sure; I want farm animals; I wouldn’t mind having a little fishing hole.  And it struck me then, as I studied my list: I want all that I had when I was growing up.

Perhaps I’m looking for the magic to return, too.

Perhaps we all are.

I rose from the couch, picked up the fallen ornaments and returned them to the tree.

* * *

A storm blew in; the rain began to fall heavily.  Squints glanced at me, pushed his glasses up his nose.  “Think the cat’s ok, Mom?”

The movie ended.  Squints checked for the cat.  We went to bed.

I listened to the rain thrumming on the roof.  I wondered where the cat had found shelter.

* * *

But this morning, at around seven o’clock, there was a demanding meow at the door. 

“He’s back!” Squints ran to the front door and the cat strutted in, weaving his way between our legs and looking at us expectantly.

“Feed him in the garage,” I told Squints.

“But…”

“He’s seen what it’s like to be outside, Squints,” I said.  “He’ll never be happy inside now.”

Yes, he has returned to us, but he’ll never be the same.  The cat has tasted his freedom and his independence.  He will leave again; coming and going on his own terms; returning when he’s tired or hungry or thirsty or perhaps when he just needs a little bit of shelter from the outside world.

* * *

“Can I spend New Year’s Eve at E’s house?” Filibuster asked at breakfast.

“That’s our family night,” my husband protested. 

“But…”

Our old traditions probably seem quaint to her: our midnight toast with carbonated juice; my husband rising from the couch to give everybody a kiss.  Our reading of last year’s resolutions; laughing at the impossible goals and the predictable failures; making new resolutions and recording them for the following year.

“This will be our last New Year’s together,” my husband said, “because when you’re in college you’re going to do what you want to do.”

“That stinks,” Filibuster said.

* * *

Another beautiful day.  Another walk, this time with the battery charged.  We pulled up to the creek.  It had flooded beyond its banks and the bridge was impassible.  We drove to a different entrance.  V and Filibuster lagged behind as V snapped pictures.

We walked to the other side of the bridge.  The water rushed past, muddy and angry.  Branches and plastic bags rode the current.  There were no geese on the creek today.  And I realized how quickly and suddenly things can change.

We found a bench.  We sat in silence waiting for the girls.  A gentle wind blew from the west.  From the top of a tree, a squirrel lectured.  Two hawks sailed overhead.  And just there—coming down the path—my daughters.

They have seen the outside world.  They have changed.  Soon they will leave us and come and go on their own terms.  But, like the cat, they will come home now and again to take shelter from life’s gentle storms.

How do I know it?

I just do.

Labels: , , , ,

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Christmas Past

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Past


Yesterday, our recently-adopted kitten officially became an outdoor cat.  There were a number of factors leading us to this decision: The stash of pooh I found two nights ago beneath the basement stairs two feet from the litter box; the copious amounts of cat urine on V’s mattress; Squint’s allergy flare up; the stealth attacks on the other unsuspecting cat; the jumping on the counters; the stealing of food from dinner plates.  Sometimes I get the feeling that this cat is Destructo back from the dead. 

Squints took him outside and re-introduced him to the great outdoors: He was a wild cat, born in the wild likely to a feral mother.  He took to being outside immediately.  He ran here then there.  He sniffed. 

He chased. 

He meowed. 

He ran away.

“Mom!”  Squints said.

“He’ll be back.”


Every couple of hours, Squints opened the back door and called out.  But the cat didn’t return.  “Mom, he’s never coming home again.”

“Let’s go for a walk,” my husband suggested, hoping to take Squints’ mind off the cat for a few moments.

It was a perfect day for a walk: warm and sunny, not a cloud in the sky.  V decided to come too, to try out her new camera—an early Christmas present. 

We parked and crossed the bridge spanning the creek; creek’s really a misnomer for a body of water easily thirty feet across.  “Go ahead,” she told us, as we walked along the path next to the creek.  “I’ll catch up.” 

We headed up the hill, my husband, Squints and I.  “Think the cat came back?” Squints asked.

“He’ll be back, Squints.”

“But how do you know?” he persisted.

“I just do.”

* * * 

“Get anything good?”  My husband asked when V caught up with us about a half hour later.

 “My battery died after one picture.”  She gave us a sheepish grin.

We continued our walk, winding through the ginkgo trees, past an old barn and a root cellar.  We walked past an empty corn field and a few walkers and headed back toward the creek.  “To your left,” a biker called out sternly, passing us in a blur of blue and white. 

We crossed the dam and headed for home, admiring the setting sun and the flock of geese resting on the gentle surface of the creek.  And then, all at once, the geese took flight, arranging themselves to cut across the sky. 

“What a great picture that would make,” V said, watching them fly past.  “Can we come back tomorrow?”

And Squints said.  “Do you think the cat’s back?”

* * *

We finally got around to decorating the tree last night.  “There’s no snow, Mom.  It can’t be Christmas,” Filibuster said, hanging a skinny Santa from a branch.

V laughed as my husband put her angel at the top of the tree.  It was a homemade angel; an angel with a stern look and glaring eyes.  “I’m not in the Christmas spirit,” she said.

Confronted with twelve days off from school, my daughters don’t know what to do with themselves.  They lie on the couch; complain of their boredom; watch movies until all hours of the night.

Squints opened the back door.  Called for the cat.

“I wish we could go to Ohio for Christmas,” Filibuster said.  See all the cousins and Grandma and Grandpa. It would be more fun.”

 “We can’t go to Ohio this year,” I tell them, slamming another ornament on the tree.  “We have too much going on.”

 “I’m tired of hearing about all this Christmas spirit and going to Ohio,” I groused at my husband, as we ran some empty ornament boxes to the basement.  “I feel like we’re not good enough anymore.”

He smiled.  “They just want Christmas the way it used to be.  They want the magic back.”

“Things change,” I said.  “People grow up.”

He smiled again.  “I know.”

We finished decorating the tree.  And almost immediately the ornaments began falling off.  Nobody, I noticed, bothered to pick them up.  Yes, Christmas has lost its sheen. 

And Squints opened up the back door.  Called for the cat.

* * *
After we finished decorating the tree, we put a Christmas movie on.  I used the opportunity to fire up the computer and look for house plans; to consider again what I want to have when we move.  I want land for sure; I want farm animals; I wouldn’t mind having a little fishing hole.  And it struck me then, as I studied my list: I want all that I had when I was growing up.

Perhaps I’m looking for the magic to return, too.

Perhaps we all are.

I rose from the couch, picked up the fallen ornaments and returned them to the tree.

* * *

A storm blew in; the rain began to fall heavily.  Squints glanced at me, pushed his glasses up his nose.  “Think the cat’s ok, Mom?”

The movie ended.  Squints checked for the cat.  We went to bed.

I listened to the rain thrumming on the roof.  I wondered where the cat had found shelter.

* * *

But this morning, at around seven o’clock, there was a demanding meow at the door. 

“He’s back!” Squints ran to the front door and the cat strutted in, weaving his way between our legs and looking at us expectantly.

“Feed him in the garage,” I told Squints.

“But…”

“He’s seen what it’s like to be outside, Squints,” I said.  “He’ll never be happy inside now.”

Yes, he has returned to us, but he’ll never be the same.  The cat has tasted his freedom and his independence.  He will leave again; coming and going on his own terms; returning when he’s tired or hungry or thirsty or perhaps when he just needs a little bit of shelter from the outside world.

* * *

“Can I spend New Year’s Eve at E’s house?” Filibuster asked at breakfast.

“That’s our family night,” my husband protested. 

“But…”

Our old traditions probably seem quaint to her: our midnight toast with carbonated juice; my husband rising from the couch to give everybody a kiss.  Our reading of last year’s resolutions; laughing at the impossible goals and the predictable failures; making new resolutions and recording them for the following year.

“This will be our last New Year’s together,” my husband said, “because when you’re in college you’re going to do what you want to do.”

“That stinks,” Filibuster said.

* * *

Another beautiful day.  Another walk, this time with the battery charged.  We pulled up to the creek.  It had flooded beyond its banks and the bridge was impassible.  We drove to a different entrance.  V and Filibuster lagged behind as V snapped pictures.

We walked to the other side of the bridge.  The water rushed past, muddy and angry.  Branches and plastic bags rode the current.  There were no geese on the creek today.  And I realized how quickly and suddenly things can change.

We found a bench.  We sat in silence waiting for the girls.  A gentle wind blew from the west.  From the top of a tree, a squirrel lectured.  Two hawks sailed overhead.  And just there—coming down the path—my daughters.

They have seen the outside world.  They have changed.  Soon they will leave us and come and go on their own terms.  But, like the cat, they will come home now and again to take shelter from life’s gentle storms.

How do I know it?

I just do.

Labels: , , , ,

15 Comments:

At December 23, 2011 at 6:00 PM , Anonymous Kelly Hashway said...

I love how you tied in the story with the cat and the story of your kids growing up. Just perfect. Happy holidays to you and your family. :)

 
At December 23, 2011 at 6:11 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Kelly. Happy holidays to you as well!

 
At December 23, 2011 at 6:39 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth Young said...

The ebbing and flowing of life; of creatures and of children. I'm just getting ready for my youngest to appear with her latest young man, and after that my son will appear with his wife. Unfinished business also will come and go - it's the nature of life. Every year I say: "I'm never doing this ever again," and yet every year I do. Some things never change!

 
At December 23, 2011 at 7:01 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Elizabeth. I always appreciate your comments.

 
At December 23, 2011 at 7:16 PM , Anonymous Bella said...

Kelly, how true it is, friend. My nana used to say that cats never had masters. They were in charge of their own destiny and would come and go as they pleased because it wasn't in their nature to be bound to rules. I too like how you tied in the cat story and your children. The older they get, the more restless. And like the cat, we can't tie them down, no matter how much we want to.

 
At December 24, 2011 at 5:03 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

A gentle message wrapped up in a melancholic flair, and you never see it coming till the last couple of lines. Wonderful narrative skill. All tied together in a neat package. Ought to be published. It was so beautifully done I read it three times.

 
At December 24, 2011 at 5:24 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Bella! You're right: the older they get, the more restless they are.

 
At December 24, 2011 at 5:24 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Needed to vent last night, apparently...

 
At December 24, 2011 at 5:34 AM , Anonymous Ms. G said...

I liked this. I also have the growing up daughters and the ornaments falling off the tree. But at least we found those cats ; )

 
At December 24, 2011 at 7:37 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Independent cusses. The cats, I mean...Glad you found yours, too.

 
At December 24, 2011 at 7:41 AM , Anonymous Meum said...

A beautiful canvas on which you painted life's inevitabilities and how we must adapt to them...memorable...

 
At December 24, 2011 at 7:50 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Hey! Thanks for reading!

 
At December 24, 2011 at 12:06 PM , Anonymous DeborahBatterman said...

This one tugged at my heart.

 
At December 24, 2011 at 1:31 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Deb!

 
At December 24, 2011 at 3:40 PM , Anonymous Monica Medina said...

What a great story, wonderfully told, too! I once had a cat and they are so independent. As I read, I, too, worried whether the cat would return. But I love, love, love how you wrap it up by comparing the cat's independence to your children's. So, so true. Thank you for this holiday gift! :)

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home