This was the most feline Christmas of my life. From start to finish, house cats stole the show.
Our living room had some of the usual Christmas decorations, but mostly it was decked out to be a playpen for Julia’s cat, Jack. Jack’s owner was off to New York City negotiating book deals and hanging out with other cartoonists.
Cheryl loves babysitting her daughter’s cat. Because Cheryl questions if she’ll ever have grandchildren, she has begun calling Jack her “grandcat.” It was funny the first time.
In preparation for having Jack under roof, Cheryl tried to cat-proof our house. She draped all the furniture and covered the rug with a Christmas-themed blanket, achieving a ghostly holiday effect.
She also scattered around scratch pads, which double as surprisingly effect trip hazards, as well as stuffed objects scented with catnip and balls that jingled when batted about.
When she was done, our holiday gathering center had been transformed into both a cat heaven and a human minefield.
My children and Cheryl’s children, minus Julia the cartoonist, all visited during the Christmas period. This is when the holidays’ supreme catness went off the charts.
Now in the second year of their marriage, my son Dennis and his wife Margaret arrived without their new bundle of joy: Olivia, a rescue cat. While Olivia didn’t make the trip from Long Beach to Napa, she was very much a part of the gathering.
Her parents were able to monitor her comings and goings back home using a nanny camera that beamed live video to their smartphones.
There were long stretches of little action. Pointing to a grainy blip at the far end of their living room, Dennis said that was Olivia, sleeping.
Occasionally Dennis’ phone would explode with action. I watched Olivia stretch upon waking. I also watched Olivia trotting out of camera range to eat kibble.
Olivia was more than 400 miles away, yet she was often more present at our Christmas eve gathering than Jack, who had escaped upstairs for some serious sleeping of her own.
That isn’t to say that Jack didn’t have her own cellphone moments. Whenever Jack struck a particularly fetching pose on the Christmas blanket, Cheryl would whip out her phone and send a shot Julia’s way.
Let’s here it for America’s cell network, a virtual highway for cat images.
When my daughter Jenny arrived for dinner, she introduced yet another cat to the party: a kitten she had recently bestowed on her mom.
Jenny told kitten stories and shared Facebook photos of Casey poking out adorably from the branches of her mother’s Christmas tree.
These photos were not shared with Jack. Why risk giving her climbing ideas.
When Cheryl’s boys, Josh and Jonathan, arrived, they were not carrying with them cats or Internet links to far-off cats. They seemed ready to celebrate Christmas without cats of any sort.
I celebrated too soon. Josh unveiled a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of ... cats!
These were yoga cats doing warrior, plank, downward-facing dog and a dozen more positions.
He was serious.
No one can do a 1,000-piece puzzle in less than 24 hours, not unless you work almost nonstop in a coordinated effort with Josh cracking the whip. And crack he did.
Work on the puzzle began at night on Christmas eve and continued nonstop Christmas day, leaving a non-puzzle person such as myself at loose ends. I swept the pool, trimmed up the yard, ate a succession of mid-day desserts ... and still found myself with hours to kill.
The sun was setting Monday when Josh, Jonathan and Cheryl declared puzzle victory. The 1,000 pieces formed a beautiful cat mosaic on top of the Christmas-themed blanket.
Jack, a real cat, sniffed at it cardboard yoga cats. I’m not sure he understood why all the fuss.
For Cheryl, puzzle completion was a muted victory. Having sat for so many hours on the floor in a twisted position, she could hardly stand up. Her haunches had locked up.
When our holiday wound down, the puzzle was back in its box, Dennis and Margaret were reunited with Olivia in Long Beach and Jenny was back playing with the kitten at her mom’s.
At our place, Jack reigned supreme.