A short piece about two very memorable Christmases
The Christmas I was seven was one of the best, and definitely most the most memorable. My two sisters and I were at our grandparents’ house the day before Christmas Eve so my parents could get the house ready for Christmas. My mom called on Christmas Eve and asked my grandma to bring us home, she had a very special present that could not wait until Christmas.
“I know what it is,” my aunt gloated in the car on the twenty minute ride to our house.
“Stop teasing them,” my grandma ordered. “Let them be surprised."
My sisters and I tried to guess what it was, but naturally, neither my aunt or grandma would tell us.
When we got home, we looked around, eager to see if anything was different. To our confusion, nothing was.
“There is a clue for you in the living room,” Mom told us.
This clue sent us upstairs to the room my sisters shared; to their favorite book. My aunt came with us, anxious for us to find the mysterious present. The second clue directed us to “Clarabelle Cow”, which was our nickname for the dog.
We raced downstairs and found the clue in his collar. This clue sent us into the playroom where there was a box. Could this be it?
We opened the box, and inside was a tiny kitten curled up in a ball with a ribbon around her neck.
“A kitten!” all three of us exclaimed at once. We were delighted. I took the small kitten out of the box and cuddled her. The kitten had a white stomach, but her top was mostly black and gray, with some brown. She had a mask like a raccoon, with a white mouth, pink nose and a yellow chin.
My sisters pet her as she cuddled in my arms. “What should we name her?” one of them asked.
What a dilemma! “Bridget?” one of us suggested. That got vetoed. “Georgia?” suggested another one of us. No, we cried.
“How about Madeline?” my Mom suggested. This passed. The Madeline books were among our favorites. That is how Madeline the Christmas Cat came to be. Mom told me since that she wanted to name her Madeline all the time.
Later that night, when my mom was reading us The Night Before Christmas, our new little kitten came into the living room and made herself comfortable under the Christmas tree.
“Look,” I exclaimed, “Madeline is under the Christmas tree!”
“That’s because she knows she is a Christmas present,” Mom told us.
We had Madeline for fourteen years. She was part of our family, my childhood memories and of course, I thought she would always be there. But alas, that is impossible. She developed cancer of the mouth when I was 21. I was shattered, heartbroken and most of all, furious with God because my grandfather had died only six weeks before. I felt as if my heart had been ripped out. I kept praying for a Christmas miracle, but alas, that wasn’t to be. Madeline the Christmas Cat died on December 13, 2003. Her body was buried under a small pine tree in the back yard, much like the Christmas tree she had so loved as a tiny kitten.
“She was our little Carol Bird,” my Mom said, referring to the book The Birds Christmas Carol. In this story, Carol is a little girl born on Christmas day. At about age six, she becomes very weak and sickly-my mom used to say she thought she had leukemia. At age nine, she has a big Christmas party for the poor children who live in the house behind hers. That night, after the party, Carol dies. The oldest child of the neighbors, beside herself with guilt, asks the doctor if she and her brothers and sisters overwhelmed Carol and caused her death. The doctor tells her that if Carol had not had the party to look forward to, she would have had died weeks before. Carol’s mother also tells the children that Carol died on the happiest day of her life.
To this day, I can barely look at that book, formerly a favorite, without feeling a pang in my heart. A tale of two Christmases, one ecstatic, the other heartbreaking, but both revolving around the most wonderful cat in the world. Though I now have two cats that I love dearly, nobody will ever quite take Madeline’s place in my heart.
Dedicated to Madeline the Christmas Cat
Who died 9 years ago today 12/13/2003