Say goodbye to favorite things

by Susan Van Cleaf



Even small changes in a family can make a big difference in the way holidays are celebrated. In my case, the holiday is Christmas and the change is a new cat.

I am approaching holiday preparations with some trepidation. Ginger, our new 9-month-old kitty, is an adolescent who, in many ways, acts like a kitten. Her enthusiastic, inquisitive behavior reminds me of my son Billy, who began his terrible 2s at the ripe old age of 1.

As Billy neared 1 year old, I decided that we needed to protect our Christmas tree. He had been walking for two months and was into everything. So we put a playpen on the kitchen table and set up a small fresh cut tree in the playpen. The tree was safe from being pulled down.

The problem now is that we have remodeled our kitchen and rec room. We no longer have a kitchen table. Even if we had one, Ginger would be up on the table and into the playpen in the time that it takes me to blink. She is a superb jumper and can leap long distances in a single bound.

I came across a possible, but expensive, solution in a newspaper article. A man in Wisconsin has invented a Christmas tree stand with jaws designed to make a 10 foot tree stand firmly in place. I asked myself, “Do I really want to spend $150 for a Christmas tree stand?”

One of our reporters offered me what seems to be a workable, but cheap solution, like $1.50 cheap. Simply fill up a squirt bottle with water and fire away when Ginger lands on forbidden territory, such as the kitchen counter.  We’ve been training her in the kitchen. After the first squirt, she learned to jump down to the floor from the counter when I picked up the water bottle. One squirt was enough. Now she jumps onto the counter when we are not looking.

Will the squirt bottle work with the Christmas tree? Given Ginger’s habit of jumping in secret, I might find two gold eyes staring at me from inside the tree.

This situation calls for a battle plan that starts with putting up the Christmas tree early — Dec. 21. Let it stand for two days without ornaments, perhaps with lights. Watch to see what the cat does and have the squirt bottle handy. Ginger might attempt to climb the tree at first, and, hopefully, she will get bored. This will enable us to decorate the tree on schedule on Dec. 23. If Ginger continues to climb the tree, do not put on any ornaments.

Ginger’s athleticism also will affect the huge Dickens Village that we have displayed each year in our living room, until now. The village would be within easy leaping distance, so we are putting out only a few large pieces, including London Bridge, the lighthouse and the clipper ship. The rest of the other delicate pieces would invite the cat to come play and experiment with dropping them on the floor.

Our Christmas decoration scenario is not likely to improve for a couple of years. Our son Bill and his wife Gail are expecting a baby on Jan. 10. Next Christmas, Tiny Tyke will be a toddler. Crawling or walking, he and Ginger might be a demolition duo for a Christmas tree.

Bill came home today with a Hallmark Christmas card for our daughter Kristin, who also has a feisty cat. The card sums up everything. It depicts a gray tabby singing, among other things, “Low-hanging ornaments, popcorn on strings … Say your goodbyes to your favorite things.”


Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]