Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Comes and The Cats Carry On

The joy of floodlights. No climbing on ladders to hang lights from the gutters.
As Christmas approaches this year, I’m rather happy that I have managed to keep ahead of the holiday decorating. When the children were small, I usually started breaking out Christmas trees, lights, nutcrackers and all the other holiday gimcracks on the day after Thanksgiving, in the hope that I could get the balance of it done by the end of that weekend. As they have grown up (and one has left home) my efforts have gradually slipped into early-December; while there are some traditional decorations that must go up every year, there are always a few that have been forgotten or fallen out of favor.

The Nutcracker Army stands at attention. I think the cats find them intimidating.
One year, we had four full-size Christmas trees in the house—the primary tree in the bay window in the front room, the traditional “children's tree” (covered with Disney, Muppet, Looney Tunes etc.) in the family room, a basic "lights-and-balls” tree in the sun porch, and a large old tree passed down from my in-laws, which was erected in the basement one year and covered with tinsel, white lights and a host of those old-fashioned, blown-glass German-style bulbs. That was not long after we moved into the house; we had the basement partially fixed-up for kids to play in, and we invited all my aunts, uncles and cousins over. Note: My mother was from a family of twelve, and I have at least 64 first-cousins, so you may understand when I tell you we only did this once.

The foyer, with it's nutcrackers and much-abused floor.
Currently we had been hosting my three older brothers and their families for Christmas on a rotating basis every three years—now my nephews and nieces are beginning to join the entertaining queue, since it has become more of a challenge for my aging siblings and the younger generations are eager to pick up the slack. This is an “off” year for us, but we do plan on doing some entertaining over the holidays, and our daughter will also be coming home from Manhattan Christmas week.

The Captain of the Guard needs a candy dish.
As I write this, I have the main tree in the front room finished and most all the interior decorations are out, including the small army of nutcrackers that inhabit the foyer every December. Last on the list is the “children's tree” which we will finish up by this weekend. The exterior of the house is ready too; since we have lived in two-story homes, I always avoided string-lights and gone with colored outdoor flood lights, which my father always seemed to prefer, too. My wife always chides me that I am taking the easy way out, but I find the end result rather pleasing. We also add some red candle-lights in the upstairs windows along with wreaths and faux pine garland on the front door, coach lights and fences on either side of the house, to finish things off. Some past years I had tossed in some string lights in the shrubs out front, or on the small dogwood outside our front door, but I lacked the motivation to undertake this chore in 2017.

Thankfully, our cats have not seriously disrupted our holiday decorating schemes. Our black cat has occasionally managed to insert herself into the family room tree and stretch out across some of the lower interior branches, where her yellow eyes can sometimes be seen glaring at us from deep within. The tree is, however, quite sturdy, and up till now this has not been an issue; but as she continues to grow older and fatter, I resolve to take more notice.

The tree in the front window. Safe for now.
The very young cat that I rescued from the arborvitae in the backyard around Labor Day has been thoroughly assimilated into our household, and while she initially took great interest in knocking off some small bells and a couple of ornaments from the tree in the front room (and thoroughly disheveling the tree skirt) her interest has lagged somewhat over the last week, and I have been happy to find no new shiny things on the carpet or under the coffee table.

One issue that I did note was the condition of the oak floor in the foyer, which usually gets some tending to prior to the deployment of the Nutcracker Army. Last year, the floor got a solid going-over, as our old tomcat, Percy, had inflicted numerous small scratches at the foot of the stairs, where he scrambles to make the turn and head up to the second floor. Some cleaning, touch-up with a color-matched marker and a coat of sealant had it looking almost as good as new.

You may ask why we do not just have him de-clawed; he went to the veterinarian about a year ago since it was clear he was not feeling well. We asked to have him de-clawed, whereupon they told my wife that would be too stressful for him. As an alternative, they removed all of his teeth, which I imagined would be a great deal more stressful, but they insisted his dental work was in poor shape and causing him significant discomfort. Who was I to question?

Percy and his adopted little sister, Itty Bitty, behaving themselves.
Which brings me back to the floor—sorry for the digression—which has come under further attack now that the young cat and Percy regularly chase each other up and down the stairs. I was aghast as I held my face above the floor with marker in hand, trying to hide the scratches and gouges they had inflicted upon it. About a half-hour later, I was satisfied, and the wood looked much better. For now, there is little trace of the cats’ mischief, other than when I walk into the foyer and see the carpet runners skewed at various angles or pushed up against the wall.
What the foyer looks like when the cats are not behaving themselves.

Over the coming days, perhaps I will post a few of those beauty vignettes that I see on so many home and design blogs. Then again, I may doze off in a fat chair, with a book on my lap and a glass of ale by my side, and forget to do so. We shall see.

No comments: