Thursday, December 15, 2011

First Christmas with Sam

About a year after we got married, my wife and I adopted a little fuzzball of a kitten from the barn next door to my parents’ farm. We named him Sam, and he came to live with us in Auburn. By December of that year, Sam was a few months old and well on his way to being pure pandemonium.

It was my second year of vet school and we were getting ready to wind things down for the Christmas break.  I remember walking through the pine straw in the yard and up the steps to my front door.  I had just finished a 2 hour Parasitology lab and I was ready to come home and relax for the evening.

When I opened the front door, my wife was standing there with tears streaming down her face.

Initially, I thought something terrible had happened: a death in the family, trouble with her coursework (she is an engineer by training, and her classes at the time were intense to say the least), obviously it had to be something terrible and unforeseen…

She looked up at me and said “I’m going to kill that cat. Don’t let me see him.” And then she walked away. Over her shoulder, I saw the trouble at last: the Christmas tree, ornaments and all, had gone down in flames like the Hindenburg. I could only assume that the cat was to blame. Oh, the humanity.

I picked my way across the living room through the ornaments, fragments of ornaments, and shattered Christmas Cheer to get closer to the scene. The tree was lying full length on the floor in a significantly less idyllic state than it was the night before.

What was left of it looked a lot like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree- a sad arrangement of stem and twigs held together by nothing more than hope. There were ornaments and pieces of ornaments strewn from the bathroom door, through the den, and into the kitchen. The whole scene was so ridiculous that I laughed out loud. Then I realized that I hadn’t seen the cat since I walked in. He had vanished.

I pieced this part of it together later, after an interview with the only witness to the crime:
When my wife came in from class, she saw the tree immediately when she opened the door. She stood looking at it for a second, dumbstruck, when Sam blazed by her. He was tearing through the living room, rolling an ornament ahead of him with his paws like a soccer player on his way to an uncontested goal. She immediately put together what had happened, and the chase was on.

Being the stealthy creature he was, Sam quickly decided that the best tactic was to get under a piece of furniture and hide until he was found, then sprint beneath another one when his pursuer got within arms’ reach. This apparently went on for a while. My wife eventually lost track of him. Sam escaped capture, which is a good thing for him. If she had caught him at that moment, no power in the universe could have saved him.

I started my search for the half-grown cat in all his usual hangouts, and found no sign of him. About half an hour later, I found him backed into a corner behind a toilet, shaking, with his eyes as big as saucers. Sam and I had a talk, and we decided that it would be best if he steered clear of Mommy for a few days.

Sam is 15 now.  He no longer plays the way he used to and his eyesight is patchy at best.  Thankfully with age comes wisdom and Sam has learned to leave the Christmas tree alone. We won’t have many more Christmases with him, but he made his first one very, very memorable.