Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
Mother raised me to hate cats. She thought cats were hideous creatures. I don't know the origin of her hatred. Maybe it came from her mother.
When we lived in Laurel, Maryland, however, we had mice. Everyone in our development did. The townhouses were backed by woods, but then the woods became only a strip of land when the property was developed. The changes sent little animals out of their usual habitat and into our houses..
The X Man didn't have too much difficulty talking me into looking at cats available for adoption. We came home with a gray tabby who had taken a shine to our four-year-old daughter. He approached her repeatedly, asking her to pet him.
He was named Devil, which we didn't care for. We named him Milhous, after Richard Nixon, because we expected him to be tricky at finding and killing mice.
Milhous changed my mind about cats. He was sweet and soft and loved to be loved. He stayed with us through a move to Western Maryland and finally, a move to Illinois, where he died after about 16 years with us.
I always said he was our daughter's guardian angel because he spent his nights on her pillow, watching over her as she slept. She reported that he sometimes woke her up at night by chewing on her long hair.
The first Christmas we had Milhous, he climbed the Christmas tree and stole the angel from the top. He thought the angel needed cosmetic surgery so he bit off her face. He also knocked over a Christmas tree or two during other holiday seasons.
He was such a success that we added two female cats to the family. The females were not as nice as Milhous, but I was glad we could give them a home.
The three of them liked to rest under the Christmas tree on the tree skirt. They knew they were better than any other gifts under the tree.
The first story I had published and was paid for was about Milhous. Receiving a check from a magazine made me feel that I was a real writer. I'm eternally grateful to Milhous for making me someone who could get paid for writing.
Infinities of love,
Christmas Cat curls into a ball beneath the tree, as compactly perfect as any ornament.
Watches lights flicker, enjoys a brief nibble on a bit of red and green ribbon.