Her smile immediately fell, and her eyebrows drew together. Unfortunately, I knew that look. It didn’t bode well.
Crouching down, she gently informed me that, while Santa may want to give me a kitten, there were certain times of the year when momma cats had baby cats, and Santa might not be able to find enough of them for every child asking for one on Christmas.
My heart sank — but, she continued, Santa might be able to bring me a kitty cat of the plush toy variety. How would I feel about that?
Like a beggar grateful for crumbs.
We sent the letter, and I waited impatiently for Christmas to arrive. I hadn’t given up entirely on Santa coming through for me, but I was resigned to the idea that I may be receiving a toy kitty cat instead. I guessed I was OK with that. I knew a live kitty cat was a long shot at best, and I didn’t actually have any stuffed animals of my own.
Christmas Eve finally arrived. Momma made a fruit salad and got the turkey ready for roasting. We all made puffed rice balls, a tradition passed down by my dad’s pioneer ancestors, and played games. The magical anticipation of Christmas was thick in the air, along with the scent of pine and the aromas from the kitchen.
Finally, Dad said, “It’s bedtime.”
Most nights, I hated going to bed. Loathed it. Even at an early age, I was a night owl, wide awake when most children were fast asleep. It only made lying in bed in the dark, trying not to see the monsters lurking in the folds of my bedroom curtains, that much worse.
But on Christmas Eve, I was motivated to tough it out and eventually slept.
For a while.
The magical anticipation from earlier in the evening danced through my dreams, and I woke up long before dawn, like any typical kid at Christmastime.
I battled within myself for a few moments: I could either face the dreaded darkness and make my way to the living room to see what Santa had brought, or I could hide under the bedcovers so I couldn’t see the curtain monsters.
I took a deep breath, threw off the blankets and fled through the door.
Moonlight streamed through the windows, making the hallway less threatening. I tiptoed to the living room, pushed the door open just far enough to slip inside and flipped the switch that turned on the Christmas tree lights.
Oh! Santa Claus had been there, all right.
I quickly found the spot where old Saint Nick had left my filled Christmas stocking and presents. And lo and behold — there was a kitty cat!
A little plush kitty cat with orange-stripey fur, brownish eyes and a little brown bow. Heart racing, I picked it up — and then something else caught my eye.
There, sitting among my sister Debra’s presents from Santa, was another kitty cat, the same size as mine but with long, silky white fur, big sparkly blue eyes, and a blue bow to match. She was the glorious pampered princess of all kitty cats. Elegant and regal, with eyes like sapphires. I’d never imagined anything like her.
My kitty cat, in comparison, had short fur that now seemed fake and ratty and small, dull brownish eyes; it looked like some poor stray who’d been subjected to scavenging from trash cans.
In the space of a minute, its status dropped from treasured gift to raging disappointment.
It was so horribly unfair, I told myself, fighting kidlike despair. Debra didn’t even want a cat, hadn’t even mentioned the word "cat" to Santa, but she was the one getting this beautiful, dazzling tribute to feline perfection. I should have gotten the white kitty cat! Santa had made a mistake!
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