A Marmalade Christmas Present

Posted on December 22, 2012


This is not a traditional story of Santa’s workshop with elves busily wrapping up toys while snow softly falls outside on a perfect winter’s night. No, I’m going to share with you an unusual true Christmas tale of a fierce lion on the Serengeti Plains who gets his Christmas wish. At least that’s how our (now departed) marmalade tabby Chester perceived the drama one afternoon shortly before Christmas many years ago. In his mind, there was, no doubt, tremendous theatrical suspense as he became the great hunter and our dinner became the hunted.

Firstly, a brief background about Chester: He was our cherished orange and white tabby who moved into our lives when he was about nine months old as a stray, and bonded with everyone he touched over the next 19 years. He was unique in many ways, and we always felt that he was a kindred soul in our family.

Chester's enjoying a lovely sun puddle on the sofa.

Chester’s enjoying a lovely sun puddle on the sofa.

His senior years as a placid, mellow ol’ boy were enhanced with lazy naps in sunshine puddles on the sofa, patrols of the garden and peeled shrimp for dinner. He appreciated everything that came his way. When he was a younger, friskier guy, however, he would constantly “push our buttons” with launching off the bannister railings like a hang-glider, pouncing from bookcases and closets, and stealthily hiding behind furniture for a game of hide-and-seek. (His ginger fur was a perfect match for the ginger hair that our young son – also a bit of a handful then – possessed. They were best budds for sure.) There was often a certain glint in Chester’s eyes that told you that trouble was brewing and it would unleash itself like the wild cat that was within – just wait for it.

And so it was, on one snowy afternoon that our family planned to do some Christmas gift shopping and then come home to a comforting dinner. After breakfast, I had placed a frozen roast beef (about the size of a real bowling ball) in a large bowl of water in the kitchen sink, for it to gradually thaw in preparation for dinner in a couple of hours. Chester was happily sleeping on our bed as we left for the mall. Thankfully, he wasn’t even concerned about any of the Christmas garlands or presents under the tree. “Not a creature was stirring”, so to speak.

Sometime between locking and unlocking the front door, our peaceful yuletide setting was visited by that stealthy Serengeti lion I told you about. I went to retrieve the roast beef from the kitchen basin, only to find the bowl filled with water, but no roast in sight! Perplexed, I queried Hubby whether he had started the dinner fixings and got to the roast before me. Nope. The kids couldn’t solve the mystery either. Next question: where’s Chester?!

Hands off my dinner!

Checking his typical hiding places, Chester was apparently making himself invisible. Then, with a gentle rustling of paper, we discovered Chester – and our  intact roast – nestled underneath the Christmas tree, amongst the wrapped gifts. No mess, no shredded anything. It was as if he was saying “All I want for Christmas is my own roast beast!” Somehow, (and oh how I wished we had the spectacle video-taped), Chester had not only managed  to jump up into the sink (and not get soaked himself), but snagged a large, frozen globe of meat without spilling any water onto the floor. Then, with determination and probably some adrenalin pumping as a result of the “kill”, Chester must have rolled that roast over a step into the living room area, around the sofa and coffee table, and hidden it neatly, camouflage-style, amongst the gifts. Unbelievably, the roast was still in its wrappings, unpunctured and viable for dinner. What an interesting journey that roast beast had taken, and what maneuvering and skill ol’ Chester (aka “Lord of the Serengeti”) had to complete the assault.

Watching and waiting in the garden

It was awfully hard to be upset with Chester, considering the negotiating he went through just to get his Christmas prize that year. He never tried anything quite like that again, although he did try to drag a fur remnant around the house for a time, as a reminder that deep inside there lurked the heart of something bolder. Mostly though, Chester was content with the simple things of Christmas, like a mound of crumpled tissue paper and a little bit of catnip. Remembering that, I hope that all my friends and readers find simple joys in the often hectic time leading up to Christmas. Appreciate the blessings that come your way. Just beware of missing roasts if you own an orange feline, OK? Merry Christmas!