My Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown (Photo credit: Elizabeth/Table4Five)

Last year I was about to buy a new Christmas tree when I had a conversation with my son who is away at college. That conversation resulted in this offering (slightly edited for you) which I wrote for my weekly newspaper column.  As I get ready to put up the tree this year, I am not even thinking about getting a new tree–the die is cast–and until it falls apart, it will be part and parcel of our Christmas traditions.

The decision has been made. No new Christmas tree this year. I bandied the idea about and even went so far as to look at some of those fancy pre-lit trees. But I talked to my youngest son, Tyler, who is coming home in a couple of weeks from college, and he said no to a new tree. He wanted our traditional, though far past its prime, spindly Christmas tree. I call it our Charlie Brown Christmas tree, as I have to finagle with the branches to get them not to droop, and wedge it back into a corner, forcing all of its branches forward, thus producing a thicker, more (seemingly) luxurious tree.

Now you may be thinking to yourself that if I want a new tree, I should get a new tree, and not necessarily listen to the nostalgic whims of my son. But, I too, had doubts about getting a new tree. And some of the new ones I looked at were really no better than the one I have, once I put my magic spell on it.

I decorate our Christmas tree as if there is no tomorrow. The branches are layered with ornaments we have received over the years. Homemade and store-bought share space on a tree that groans under their weight.  But the stars of the show are all the decorations that both my sons have made over the years, carefully wrapped in tissue until they are brought out  to be placed lovingly on the tree.

Macaroni sprayed gold and arranged in wreath shapes, reindeer made from those old large Christmas light bulbs with antlers shaped out of chenille pipe cleaners, sleighs cleverly fashioned from popsicle sticks, tissue paper stained glass bells and stars, and pinecones with glitter galore will adorn our tree again this year. Of course we have a million other ornaments, each imbued with memories, or just purchased because we liked them. But really, our tree, like yours, is just an excuse to walk down memory lane for a few weeks in the dark bleak midwinter.

In honour of our cat, we don’t put tinsel on our tree, as a choking cat is not a festive thing to see—and as the rest of the members of my family are quite taken with Kitty Bob, I make this exception without much regret. But if that cat does to the tree what he did to the tree last year, one of his lives is going to be threatened. Thankfully a teddy bear took the brunt of his indiscretion and could be thrown in the washing machine, but I was none too happy.

On a more festive note, once I wrestle the lights onto my “old” un-pre-lit tree, the rest is gravy.  At one time I made my husband do this job, as I found it frustrating. Now I just wind the lights around the tree in a “come what may” fashion, and they actually look better than if I do it carefully. I have learned over the years that by dressing the tree with about a thousand ornaments, those obnoxious wires will effectively be hidden from sight.

A Christmas tree, no matter how battered, is the repository of memories past, present, and future. Maybe next year I will get a fancy dancey pre-lit tree that has all its branches, but this year I will be happy with what I have.

(Note: 1. This is next year, and I will not be getting a fancy dancey pre-lit tree. 2. The cat did not do the unspeakable to the tree last year.)

What traditions do you have that cannot be broken?

English: Closeup of a string of decorative Chr...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or Not

Carl Sanburg's house where he lived while he w...

Carl Sandburg’s house. Now a Chicago landmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It is necessary ….for a man to go away by himself …to sit on a rock…and ask, ‘Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?’”* So said Carl Sandburg. My answer: “Or not.” Admittedly a succinct, even superficial response, nonetheless I sometimes wonder if we should really be so navel gazing. I have noticed in my numerous decades on this earth, that too much introspection can be harmful, and that those who do not put in the time to ask the questions that Sandburg put forth are perhaps happier than those of us who delve into these depths.

According to Wikipedia (that repository of somewhat questionable knowledge for the lazy), Carl Sandburg was born in 1878 and was the recipient of not one, not two, but three Pulitzer prizes. He was a much celebrated writer and editor–so, he can be forgiven for being a deep thinker—it obviously paid off for him. But I am still wondering about his choice of a rock to sit on to contemplate his wherewithal.  Why not a couch before a roaring fire, or a comfortable bench overlooking the park, or even a sandy beach? It seems we need to contemplate life from a hard place, or the proverbial spot between it and a rock.

Of course I am not a great philosopher (or even a poor one), but if I take my cues from my cat, strangely named Kitty Bob (try shouting that out your front door when you want your cat to come home), I note that he takes no comfort from hard places, nor do I think that he contemplates life much beyond eating, sleeping, partying hardy all night away from the house, and getting all the attention in the world from three of the four members of this household (yes, I am the holdout—but in my defence I feed him and clean out his litter box, and on occasion at the urging of those who love him, pet him).

Now, I am not saying we should all act like cats (or maybe I am), but a house cat with a good home and people who love him, has it made in the shade. (What would this post be without its clichés—I am single-handedly bringing them back into vogue).  My cat thinks he owns the place, and in essence he does. Pretty well anything Kitty Bob wants, KB gets. Here is an excerpt from some of the conversations that go on around this house all concerning the cat:

1. “Oh, let the Kitty Bob sit in your chair. You don’t need to work at your desk right now, do you?” (For some reason Kitty Bob has taken to sitting in my desk chair of late, and is quite put out when I have to move him.) He is very indignant when I unceremoniously dump him out of my chair and he must sit somewhere else, and it seems the members of this family think he should be able to sit where he pleases too. (For those of you taken aback at my dumping him out of my chair—really, I just gently lift him out and put him in another chair—I don’t want the Pet Police after me.)

2. “Kitty Bob likes sitting on my suitcase—I’ll get him another one to sit on, so he will be happy.” It seems that Kitty Bob’s happiness is a priority at my house. No rock for this guy. The back story: When my youngest son Tyler was home for Thanksgiving, he left his suitcase laying out flat in the hallway upstairs and Kitty Bob started to use it as his comfortable place to nest, so that when Ty needed to gather it up to go back to school, he went and found another suitcase (mine!) for the cat to lie on. And the cat is still using it as his upstairs “getaway” every day—taking his leisurely naps on it. He does leave it to eat and do his duty, but he spends hours on this suitcase. Who knew?

3. “Pet the Kitty Bob, mom, he wants you to pet him.” I do not think the cat cares if I pet him, but I give him attention to make the other humans at this house happy. And their response always is: “See, he is starting to purr, he doesn’t purr when I hold him.” The secret here is that I feed the cat; the cat knows that I am the purveyor of all things “meow mix” so of course he purrs–he wants to be fed, and he recognizes me as the giver of food.

Anyway, my whole point in this is–why go sit on a rock, question life, ruminate over your failures, and make plans to make your life more worthy if you are a cat? It is just us foolish humans who have not yet found the meaning of life: eating, sleeping, and getting a lot of love, who need to make ourselves uncomfortable in order to ask life’s questions.

*Thanks to for the quote.

Kitty Bob’s Excellent Adventure

tiger boy

tiger boy (Photo credit: torbakhopper)

Here is a Jeopardy answer for you:  A house cat. So what is the question?

What is one of the forms many people would like to live out their next life as? I read somewhere that if people were given a choice of how to come back in their next life they would come back as a house cat. I understand. This answer did not mystify me at all. As the owner of a house cat, I too would love to be fed on a regular basis without having to cook; given treats just because I am cute; curl up wherever I want and have a nap whenever I want; and have as many adventures as I desire, knowing I have a home to come back to where people love me and bask in my very presence.

Our family cat is named Kitty Bob, or as I like to call him the ‘luckiest cat on earth’.  The footprints of his muddy little paws are adored by at least three quarters of my family. He can do no wrong in their eyes.  Talk about unconditional love. Now, I have to admit, as the fourth quarter of this family, my  love for the cat is a bit conditional—he is not in my good books when, for whatever reason, he sometimes does the unmentionable on my mentionables.  Thankfully his indiscretions are fairly few and far between.

There is a bit of a controversy going on right now about whether cat owners should not allow their cats to roam at will outside. Some people want them to have a licence like a dog. I tried to keep Kitty Bob in the house, and not let him see the light of day from anywhere but a window, but he was not satisfied—he needed his adventures. I think it would be easier to keep a cat in the house or on a leash if that cat had never known free roaming freedom—but as a small kitten, Kitty Bob was somehow left to fend for himself and find his own home. He wandered the streets on Halloween night in 2006 following trick treaters, and the next day, found me on my early morning walk.

I don’t know why, but Kitty Bob adopted me. He had no way of knowing I am not innately an “animal person”.  I have never disliked animals, and I did have a pet cat about twenty some years ago (named Kitty—I am not really great in the business of cat naming).  They say things come into your life when you need them. I am not so sure I needed a cat, but the rest of my family certainly took to the idea. My husband is a bone fide “animal person”. In fact a friend of his asks him to come over and visit the family cat when they go on vacation. No kidding. He does not ask John to feed or take care of the cat as they have that covered by a neighbour. John did some work at this friend’s house and befriended their cat, who was not really friendly to strangers. Known in the small circle of our family as a “cat whisperer”—his reputation is now ever widening.

I am curious as to what our cat does and where he goes when he leaves the house. He is smart enough to come in out of the rain, and when he sticks his nose out the door, he kind of tests the waters—and if it is too cold, or the snow too high, he turns tail and decides that the warmth of the house is where he wants to be. But those other times–where does he go? We think that since night time is his favourite time to be outside, he parties hardy somewhere. Every once in a while, in his innocence, and true to his nature (as has been explained to me when I have reacted in disgust) he does bring us home an occasional “treasure”. Fortunately this does not happen too often, and many times when he sets his cargo free, it (in the form of a bunny) runs off (or in the form of a bird) flies away.  Mice have not been so fortunate though—although when we had a little problem with the critters in our basement a year ago, we think he made friends with them. I guess house mice are different than outside mice.

Kitty Bob does not talk much about his adventures. He lets us know when he is hungry or when he wants a snack.  He lets us know when he wants to go upstairs to the bathroom for a drink of running water from a tap (which John will readily run up and turn on for him), and he “tells” us when he wants to go outside. But he does not “kiss and tell” or ruminate about his adventures—he just goes out and does his rendition of “Indiana Jones”, then comes home to us, finds one of his favourite resting places and naps. Oh, the life!

Published in: on September 1, 2011 at 12:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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