A kitten for Christmas
A Christmas story
Our home in Pennsylvania was a wonderful place to grow up. We lived about a mile outside of a small town, along the banks of a lively creek right where it emptied into the Susquehanna River. We had the joy of watching trains roar by on the tracks that bordered the river, and on sunny Sundays we could walk a few miles down the river to play in the remains of a long deserted mining town, now the home to various ghosts and other critters. It was a wonderful playground for a couple of kids with energy and imagination to grow up in. The only thing that was missing was playmates. It wasn’t very often that other kids would come to live in our little corner of the world, so my brother and sister and I were usually left to entertain ourselves.
One year my sister and I decided that we needed a kitten for company. We would often try to tame the stray cats that came our way, but they weren’t allowed inside and they were never really ours. We begged and pleaded for one of our own to no avail. We knew better than to ask our dad. He loved to tell us stories of how he tortured the farm cats when he was a boy. His tale of spraying them with water, hanging them in bags from the wash line and tying their tails together to watch them fight, horrified us. We knew there was no way he would agree to having a cat in the house! We thought mom might give in, but she stuck to her “no” like glue. She said there was no way our dad would allow it and she wouldn’t change his mind. Finally, in exasperation, she said if we wanted a kitten, we would have to pray for one because it would take a miracle to have a cat in the house. We found hope in this declaration and immediately began to beseech our higher power. For months we prayed earnestly for a new kitten for Christmas. Our parents began to worry about what it would do to our childlike faith in God when we didn’t get one. Still, our prayers did nothing to move them. They were not going to get us a kitten. After all, sometimes God says “no” too and we may as well learn that early.
Christmas approached and we were still praying faithfully. This year promised to be snowy and white. The week of Christmas was bitter cold. The wind howled around the house and it snowed for days. The snow got higher than our waists and it was too cold to play outside. We had a fire in the furnace and our house was toasty and warm. As a special treat every year on Christmas Eve, my parents would bring our great-grandmother home to spend the night with us. We were each allowed to pick out one present from under the tree to open before we went to bed. Once in bed, we would lay quietly, straining to hear the jingle of bells or the soft thud of footsteps on the roof.
Just as we were about to open our Christmas Eve present, a loud noise erupted on the porch. It sounded like the screech and wail of a large tom cat. We looked at each other nervously. Bobcats were occasionally seen in the area, but this one must be in bad shape to get so close to the house. My dad had heard what sounded like the same cat few days earlier out by our old mill, but had been unable to locate it. Careful to avoid a rabid attack, he slowly opened the door. Suddenly he flung it all the way open with a laugh. There sitting on our front step was a tiny little kitten, howling with all its might. The poor thing was half dead with starvation. Dad scooped it up and brought it inside. It was so small it fit in the palm of his hand, but it cried with the voice of a mighty tom. We were convinced our prayers had been answered. What could our parents say? To leave the little critter out in the cold would be the death of it. Mom said it could spend the night and we would decide what to do with it in the morning. She warned us not to be disappointed if it couldn’t stay. To our surprise, it was Dad who let us keep the kitten. It turned out he had a soft spot for cats. All his horror stories had been made up just to hear us yell. That night we didn’t need to stay up listening for footsteps on the roof. We knew they had come early that night, and we had missed them during our play.