Angelo Takes the Christmas Tree Challenge

By KIM MARY TROTTO | Dec 19, 2018
Courtesy of: Kim Mary Trotto Angelo, now in cat heaven, appears in a 1995 photo showing his restrained side.

There’s nothing more appealing to a housebound cat than the Mount Everest challenge of a Christmas tree. I know this for certain because of a longstanding family story about a Christmas tree and a cat. As the story went, my mother, then only 7, heard a crash late on Christmas Eve and ran to the living room. Grandma, Grandpa and Mother’s little brother were there already, staring at the toppled Christmas tree. As they watched, its upper branches parted and Casper the cat slid out. He didn’t stop to gloat about his accomplishment, Mom said. He just ran past his surprised family and out the cat door.

“Probably went to boast about it on the back fence” was Mom’s opinion.

I have no cat door in my apartment. Angelo, my handsome black and white tom, isn’t the type to run away, even for bragging rights. When he does something wrong, like knocking a delicate china lamp from my dresser, he sits in front of the crash site, flicks his tail and gives himself a nonchalant wash. I can do nothing but pick up the pieces and shrug.

With this in mind, I hung the glass balls out of easy reach and tied the tree with red yarn to the leg of the coffee table before leaving for work. Maybe putting shiny, round objects on the tree was a mistake, but what’s a holiday tree without those distorting little mirrors capturing our happy, Christmas faces?

After work, I opened the apartment door and stepped through. My eyes went straight to the tree. How satisfying! It was standing, every ornament in its proper place. If only Grandma had thought of tying down her tree.

I set a bowl of tuna – Angelo’s idea of heaven – on the kitchen floor. “OK, sweet angel boy,” I told him. “You get a treat for this.” No cat appeared. “Hey, Ange. You’ve been good, dude. Come on.” It was odd. Angelo’s nose would tell him there was tuna in the kitchen, even when he was asleep on the floor of the bedroom closet.

Then came a loud rustle and a clinking from the living room. I dashed out of the kitchen and got to the tree in time to see Angelo’s head poke out between my two favorite ornaments, near its top. He leapt, twisting his body as he came down and landed with a soft plop. That sound was followed by a stomach-churning crash that ended with the tinkle of breaking glass. My carefully tied knot had given way, and my tree was now prone on the living room carpet, a curl of red yarn still tangled in its branches.

An hour later, I sat with Angelo purring on my lap. The broken ornaments had been swept up and the tree was standing tall once more, sans anything breakable. I stroked Angelo’s back with my left hand. With my right, I signed my name to a Christmas card for my mom. Above my name, I’d written, “Mom, remember your story about Casper the cat and the Christmas tree? Well, I’ve got a story for you.”

Kim Mary Trotto lives in Little Egg Harbor.

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