This holiday season, it’s the cats, our home and children who matter to me. An untimely series of recent family mishaps have left the Garey Gang in diminished spirits, limited energy and severe economic distress. None of the usual ornamentation adorns the outside of our house; not a single of the many pink plastic flamingos in the yard is sporting its Santa beard, cap or scarf. But the holly bushes bravely sport their carmine berries. Flitting cardinals – the birds, not the religious personnel -stop by long enough to dazzle my eyes with their brilliant crimson feathers. The wintery skies are usually very, very blue and at night the stars are simply dazzling. There’s even been just enough short-lived snow to call to mind a Currier and Ives painting.
Indoors, a miniature Charlie Brown tree bravely illuminates a corner of the living room where I now spend my days and nights recovering from a pre-Thanksgiving accident that has left me facing months of home bound nursing care, rehab and physical therapy to regain my strength, vigor and vitality. Once raucous with home-school, play-time, kitty-cavorting, dawn-to-dusk activity, the house is very, very quiet. Horrible Childe Alexandra is in daycare and her mommy, Amanda, works the hellish hours seasonal retail demands. Most days, it’s just the cats, dreadful daytime television for white noise, and me; I miss my girls very much.
My precious, young Amanda, thoroughly harried and stressed from having to suddenly shoulder all the household burdens, surprised me with the tiny tree a few weeks ago, making it – and me – glow much more brightly as she cheerfully sang “…haul out the holly, light up the tree before my spirit falls again; fill up the stockings, I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now; for we need a little Christmas, right this very minute, candles in the window, carols at the spinet…” At three years old, Lexie is still not quite sure what all the brouhaha on TV is all about, but since she is still ecstatic by being the recipient of mail addressed to “Occupant,” I doubt she is concerned about the trappings of the season, although she has enjoyed the peaceful, artsy craftsy projects we’ve devised and obviously inherited the genetic Garey tendency to stick bows on kitten heads.
We decided not to go gift-goofy this year, a decision reached long before being bombarded with commercial demands to demonstrate affection by going further into debt. Stacks of gaily decorated treats, homemade and collected throughout the year, await distribution by the Toys For Tots, Angel Tree and Middle Tennessee Free 4 All campaigns and a few little goodies for the Garey girls are enroute from the North Pole via eBay. Batches of homemade Schnicker Doodles await transfer from freezer to stove to share with our neighbors – and the cats. Miles of mishapen paper chains and strung popcorn have been haphazardly draped over curtain rods (and the cats) and Lexie has created some remarkable eclectic art with which to surprise her mommy and playmates (and the cats.) I did the unthinkable and bought myself the new Susan Boyle cd, leaving me in want of nothing but a new coffee pot (NEITHER object for the cats.) The kitties will receive their new schmousies, along with new collars and enough food to last them several months; a similar donation has been made on their behalf to a local cat shelter. Basically, there’s just enough temporary bling to keep the cats entertained, intrigued, amused and amusing, but not so much as to drive us all bonkers. And snuggling together on the couch the other night – kids, kitties, cocoa and cookies - giving ourselves over to Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye and their celluloid promise of a “White Christmas,” somehow made us feel that we had all the gifts anyone could ever dream of or want.