The fifth graders at Finley’s school are trying to fuck up Christmas for my kid. They’ve been whispering in her ear about Santa and now she’s having doubts. She spent the last month fishing for answers from us, saying things like, “If you and Mama were putting things under the tree and telling me they were from Santa, you could tell me, and that would be OK.” It makes me feel like a serial killer. I can’t wait for THAT conversation when it finally comes. Plus, once we’ve admitted it to her, she is the kind of kid who will find it impossible not to share The Truth with the rest of her classmates. So, Jen and I schemed for weeks and hatched a plan to make this a memorable Christmas.
We decided that because Santa got all the glory last year with the bike, we were going to take back 2016 with big guns. Finley draws pictures of cats constantly. She plays cat games with her friend from school. She was asking for a cat five minutes after we put Pique to sleep. We’ve been waving her off since that time, enjoying the absence of vet bills, cat hair, and litter underfoot in the basement. This past month, she saw a commercial for a robotic cat on Cartoon Network, and asked Santa to bring her one.
Jen scouted out the local shelters and pet stores, and found a fresh batch of kittens at the local Pet Smart. She picked one out and took me to take a look, and she was right: the kitten was a beautiful little tabby with white socks, and she purred the moment I picked her up. While we discussed the paperwork, her littermate looked up at me and pawed at the door of the cage: a jet black boy with gold eyes and a small blaze on his chest. I picked him up and he immediately started his motor, reached up and batted at my face, and then crawled up my shoulders. I was smitten; he reminded me of Teller. So we walked out with two instead of one.
What followed was three weeks of subterfuge and skullduggery; the kittens were boarded at the piano teacher’s house while we prepared the surprise. We borrowed the neighbors’ dog kennel, set it up as a kitten hotel, and after the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve Jen went out and brought them back to the house. Meanwhile I’d built a box with a removable lid that Jen wrapped with a bow, and I preset some cameras on either side of the tree. Christmas morning, we had Finley open Santa’s gifts first and then she opened several clues: two sets of cat bowls, a scratching pad, and some toys. While she got through the last of those I wrangled the kittens into the box and placed it down in front of her, quiet mewling coming from inside. As it opened her eyes got big, and as she reached in the black kitten shot out of the box over her shoulder. She pulled out the girl and held her in her lap, and that made the whole thing worthwhile.
Santa brought her some cool stuff too, but 2016 will be known as the Year Of The Kitten.