Editor's note: This is an excerpt from "Christmas Spirit: A Collection of Inspiring, True Christmas Stories."
I was 6 that year, and all I wanted for Christmas was a kitty cat.
Not a pony. Not a Barbie. Not a bike.
A kitty cat.
Sometimes, even at the age of 6, there are things you want so much, so deeply, that you ache with longing for it. Well, for me, that Christmas, it was a kitty cat.
It wasn’t just cats I loved, though. Dogs fascinated me as well. I would have been happy with a puppy, too. I suppose I was an equal-opportunity pet coveter, when I stop to think about it. I was also pretty persistent. I asked, I pleaded, I cried. I threw temper tantrums. But Momma and Dad said no. They didn’t want a pet.
Momma and Dad kept an immaculate yard and house, and as Dad explained it, there was no way on God’s green earth he was going to have a pet — and definitely not a dog. In the first place, we didn’t have a fenced-in backyard, so where would we keep it? And who, he asked in an uncompromising tone, was going to clean up after this hypothetical dog? Not him.
Wait — was he talking about cleaning up after a puppy?
“I will!” I exclaimed passionately — until he explained exactly what it was I would be cleaning up.
Yecch. There and then I decided my best bet would be a kitten. At the very least, they were smaller than dogs and buried their own bathroom business. That was a big plus for me, and I figured it would be for Dad, too.
But the begging and pleading and tantrums were not the way to get what I wanted from Momma and Dad. I gave up.
For a while.
That year, I attended summer kindergarten and started first grade in September. Eventually, after Momma was sure I knew the way, I walked to school because it was only a handful of blocks from our home.
In no time, I was on a first-name basis with every dog and cat between our house and Bountiful Elementary. I experienced the uncontrollable urge of a young animal lover to follow every bark, yelp or meow to its point of origin. It was a miracle that I retained all 10 of my fingers. Considering how many times I poked them through chain-link fences and between wooden knotholes to be sniffed by a wet nose or to attempt to scratch the furry head of an unfamiliar dog with sharp teeth, I was pretty darn lucky.
Fall turned into winter, and the cold it brought meant that fewer of my animal buddies were waiting to greet me outside after school, and I was more interested in hurrying home to get warm.
But my passionate wish for a kitten didn’t grow cold. Rather than gamble and chance hearing an absolute-final-I-don’t-want-to-hear-about-it-again NO, I decided there was a better strategy conveniently looming on the horizon.
I would ask Santa Claus. Yep. The big man himself.
I also decided to play it smart. I would not ask Santa for a puppy (especially now that I had a clear idea of what that would involve). I would ask for a kitty cat.
I got busy and wrote my letter. I poured my heart into it. Made my case. Drew pictures. Since it would require a stamp and a trip to the post office, I then gave it to Momma.
“What did you tell Santa Claus you wanted for Christmas?” she asked me, smiling.
“A kitten!” I replied with an intensity that sprang from the very fiber of my being.
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