Crazed In the Kitchen: How My Dead Cat And My 4-Year-Old Saved Christmas   

Saturday, January 5, 2013

How My Dead Cat And My 4-Year-Old Saved Christmas

I have to admit, Christmas is sort of a bummer for me. Thirteen years ago, one of my grandfathers died on Christmas Day, and then four years ago my mom died just a few weeks before Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year? Eh.

But this year, I had to rally my Christmas spirit. See, I now have not one but TWO young sons who believe in Santa Claus and who have fully embraced the spirit of the season. (That is, if by “spirit of the season” you mean “getting presents, eating junk food, and losing your shit at increasing volumes every day for the three weeks preceding Christmas.”) So I couldn’t really half-ass it like I have in the past.

But I knew I couldn’t make Christmas really wonderful for my kids if I was mostly faking my own joy of the season. So I thought a bit about what I could do to make me feel jollier over the holidays. And I came up with a great idea:

This year, for the first time, we would get a CHRISTMAS TREE!

Now, please understand, I am not such a Grinch that I have denied my children the delight of having a full-sized, decorated Christmas tree simply because I didn’t want one. The problem always lay with one of my cats. He was a voracious plant-eater—anything plant or even vaguely plant-like was delicious to him. And since plants violently disagreed with his digestive system, we had banned them from our house, including Christmas trees.

Tiny tree, post-Santa garbage collection
To compensate, we bought a 2-foot fake tree that we decorated then placed on a table and surrounded with whatever we could find that would block the cat’s access to it. Toys, books, empty cereal boxes, water bottles—it was like a yearly game of Tetris as we tried to cover every square inch of space around our midget tree with clutter and garbage so that the cat couldn’t get at it.

Ahhhh, clutter and garbage...the true spirit of Christmas.

Each year, I looked at our sad little garbage tree and wished we could have a big happy tree. I didn’t want my kids to grow up thinking it was normal for Santa to haul out the trash under the tree and leave presents in its place. I wanted a proper Christmas tree, and this year I was going to have one.

(As for the tree-eating cat? Well, it turns out that was a good news, bad news situation. The good news was the cat wasn’t eating plants any more. The bad news was that was because he died back in August.)

So, in an unusual fit of holiday cheer, I packed both kids up in the car and headed to Target to buy a big, beautiful, gloriously pre-lit fake tree.

At the store, we snagged one of the snazzy carts that have the little trailer behind it with two kid seats. This meant both of my kids were strapped in and contained—a definite plus in a crowded pre-holiday Target. But it also almost doubled the length of my cart—a definite minus in a crowded pre-holiday Target. But then, in a true Christmas miracle, we easily found the tree section, picked the kind of tree we wanted (7 ½ feet tall!!), and found a Target employee to load the enormous tree box into our cart.

But as we headed for the checkout lanes to pay, I realized we had two problems.

Add 70 lbs of kids and a huge Xmas tree...
One, my extra-long cart was now about two feet longer—thanks to the huge box sticking out of the end of it. Doing a simple left turn required about 72 adjustments and took at least 2 minutes. It was going to take FOREVER to get to the checkout lanes.
But it turns out that was a good thing, because it gave me some extra time to figure out how I was going to solve problem number two: fitting two kids in car seats, one driver, and one enormous Christmas tree box into my Honda Civic.

I called my husband, thinking he could bring the second car around to take the tree home. No answer. After a few more fruitless calls I realized I was on my own. I paid for the tree and slowly, slowly wheeled us all out to the car.

With the kids safely strapped in their seats, I got started. Despite a valiant effort, the trunk was a no go. The box was going to somehow have to fit in the car with us. I got to work adjusting the front seats—pushing them back and reclining them as far as I could without crushing my kids. I took off both the headrests, and I pushed and pulled that tree box until it was almost, ALMOST all the way in the car.

But not quite.

The box and I had reached a d├ętente. It needed one little push from the passenger side, but if I let go of it and left my spot on the driver’s side it would slide out of the car. And I wasn’t sure I could recreate the exact sequence of maneuvers that had gotten us so close to victory. I felt my newfound Christmas spirit slipping away as I imagined wheeling the kids and the tree back into Target to return it. I sighed and muttered to myself, “If I just had someone to give it a tiny push….”

From the back seat, my 4-year-old piped up, “I can help, Mommy! I’ll use all my strongth power!”

I smiled at “strongth power” and realized he was right. He could help me. My baby wasn’t such a baby anymore—he was pretty strong and, just as important, he could unbuckle his own car seat. He popped out of the car, got behind the box, and gave it his biggest push. Lo and behold, it slid just far enough in that we could close the passenger door. We jumped up and down in the parking lot, high-fiving and screaming “STRONGTH POWER!” while my 2-year-old applauded in the car.

We survived the trip home, and I used some of my own strongth power to put the tree together. And then, for the first time, we got out the BIG box of ornaments, and decorated our full-size Christmas tree.
And it may just stay up until Valentines Day


  1. Oh my goodness, I LOVE the trolley with the trailer - why don't they have these here?!

    Oh, and the tree is nice too ;)

  2. Maybe keep it up until your Mom's birthday in March! It is beautiful and am sure your boys will always love it!

  3. Thanks, everyone! The tree was fun to decorate, especially since I got to pull some of my mom's old ornaments out of storage and use them for the first time.

  4. gorgeous!! so glad you got it, and it made it home. thank goodness for your little super hero. and that tree on the table cracked me up. :)

  5. You should just leave it up all year long to make up for missed time....

  6. Hmmm...that is a FABULOUS idea! Not so sure my husband will go for it, but maybe if I just keep "forgetting" to take down the ornaments...

  7. a great post--as a family who doesn't put up a tree for personal beliefs---I do love to hear about the joy of a child who is willing to put all he's "strongth power!” into helping Mommy! =)


  8. Great story! I loved your tree story. I still have mine up right now and I really need to pull it down but it's so pretty. I keep saying to myself ... "Just one more week..." I write kids books. Sounds like great material for my next book! Thanks for sharing!

  9. well, good for you! Never give up, never say die! You beat that tree, your holiday blues AND made your kids happy! :)

  10. I had to chuckle through most of your story, could just picture it! Though you certainly had some "moments" sounds like you've handled it with grace and humor. Lovely tree!

  11. Our tree will be up until the weekend prior to Valentine's Day. We always put it up so close to Christmas (because I'm late to everything)that I can't stand the idea of all that work for only a week of enjoyment. I sell this idea to my hubz by pointing out that in days of old, the trees were lit through the long months of winter to hold back the darkness of night. He buys my pagan crap-story every time! :)

  12. more death than you usually find in a christmas post--maybe that's why i like it so much?
    i hope that tree of yours does stay up until valentine's day, too, molly. we just pulled the plug on our outdoor lights and it made me so sad. it's been so dark--the news, especially--that any light at all seems like just the right thing now. those christmas lights of yours included. happy new year, my friend.

  13. I wanted to let you know that I nominated you for a Liebster Award!
    Check out my post here:
    XO Brooke


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