01
Aug
09

the gift of the magae

In my last post I told you all about Bennie and Bella and the joy they are to me and my family. As a child I loved cats, but my mother was frightened of all four-legged creatures. Despite that, my father brought one home once, when I was about 7 or 8. I had her for about a month, all the while knowing how much my mother actively hated her. One day, when I came home from school for lunch I couldn’t find her. My mother had given the kitty away, but claimed that she had run away. I was heart-sick about it—heart broken. I think it might have been my first such experience of loss. I knew my mother was not being truthful and the relationship between us suffered ever after because I could not trust her. I don’t think I could have responded any differently than I did as a child. The kitten had been my solace in a lonely world of blond, blue-eyed Americans. Once grown up, I filled my life with cats, to be sure, and even had a talk with my mother about the incident. She was sorry, I forgave her but we could not go backward in time. We both missed out on a trusting relationship between us.

When I learned that my friend’s family was going to welcome a cat into their home…an orange tabby no less…I was overjoyed for the children, especially the middle daughter who seems to yearn for her own place in the sun. (It’s hard to be a middle child.) I asked and received permission to post a drawing she had done of Jack the cat and he is below, at the very end of this post, watching over us all with grace and peace.

Also posted here is a little story called The Gift of the Magae, that my daughter wrote for me about 10 years ago.  She changed my childhood story to one with a happy ending. Although it is not quite biographical, it is a sweet little story and a sweet thing to do.

The Gift of the Magae, by Darling Daughter

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Merry, who grew up in Chicago during World War II. She lived in an old house with her parents, her two older sisters and a brother. During the summer, Merry and her family went to Lake Michigan to swim.  They took vacations in St. Joe Michigan and went to Armenian picnics in the park. Merry and her friends had lemonade stands and held scrap metal drives to raise money for the war effort. (Merry’s family were not Mennonites!) In the winter, she and her sisters listened to radio shows after school and went to the Saturday cinemas. But Christmas was the most magical time of all; Merry and her family would take the trolley downtown to see the decorations in the big department store windows, shop and have lunch in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field’s. She always looked forward to getting a new doll for Christmas. Sometimes, Merry and her sisters got to decorate the Armenian Christmas tree at the Museum of Science and Industry, or even see the toy train set in the there.

Merry was happy except for one thing: she dearly wanted a pet, a warm, furry creature all her own to love and hug. Many times Merry had asked her mother for a cat, but she had said no each time. “Oh, Merry, what do you want that for? It’s dirty, it will scratch the furniture and scratch you too.”

“Please Ma I really want a kitty,” she said.

But the answer was always no. Merry tried her father, who looked at her as if she had lost her mind: “A WHAT! A cat, are you crazy? An animal in the house, no! Go do your homework,” he said.

“But Maureen Finley has a cat,” Merry begged her father. He gave her an annoyed look and sent her off to do her homework.

One day in the late fall, Merry’s sister came home with a small bundle for Merry. “Look what I found, Merry. It begged me to bring it home to you.”

“What is it…a kitten? Oh, thank you, thank you Faith,” Merry cried. “Ma, please can I keep it, please?” begged Merry, as the small bundle of brown tabby stripes nestled into her arms.

Merry’s parents grudgingly allowed her to keep the kitten. Merry was overjoyed with her kitty, which she named Mittens. She fed it every morning before school and in the afternoons when she came home. She brushed Mittens and played with her, and at night, the cat slept on her bed in a tight curl of fur. Merry and her kitty were very happy.

A few weeks later, Merry came home from school to find her tabby cat was gone. She called and called for it, she  looked in every nook and cranny but still could not find the cat. “Ma.,” she asked, “where’s my kitty? Have you seen her?”

“Oh, she ran away,” replied her mother casually.

“What, that’s not possible! You took her, you got rid of her, you know where  she is, you never wanted me to have it,” Merry wailed in helpless fury at her mother. She was inconsolable over the loss of  her furry friend and cried for days, but there was nothing she could do.

Christmas Eve came and the family prepared to decorate the tree and bake the paklava and lamb for the night’s dinner. Merry was helping her sister cut out paper chains for the tree garland when she heard a faint scratching noise at the  back door. She ignored it and bent her head back over the red paper, but…”scritch, scratch” there it was again. “I wonder what that is,” she thought and got up to look outside. At first, she saw nothing in the fading afternoon light and was  about to close the door again when she heard a tiny mew from behind the door. Merry stooped down and saw a cat. “No it couldn’t be,” she though… her kitty cat? She held out her hand and the kitten came close and rubbed against her hand. It was…it was her tabby cat! She had miraculously found her old home and came back from where ever she had been.

Merry picked up Mittens and brought her inside. She showed the cat to Faith who promised she would talk to their mom. Merry gave Mittens some food and she was soon purring happily in Merry’s arms again.

Faith was true to her word and convinced her parents to let Merry keep the cat. Her mother kept her promise and made Merry’s favorite desert to make up for the loss of her cat. Mittens lived with Merry and her family for many years, bringing warmth and fun into the old house. Merry grew up and had more cats in her life but she nevver forgot the wonderful Christmas and the cat who came to stay. The End.

This is Jack the cat, a lovely drawing by my dear friend’s middle daughter.  I think he is quite grand and will soon come out to play.

Jack by JillHe hopes middle daughter will understand his shyness and wait for him to get used to his new house and his new people.

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2 Responses to “the gift of the magae”


  1. 1 Laurie
    August 4, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    When our oldest daughter finished reading this story she turned to me solemnly and said “The mommy didn’t *really* send it away, did she.” I am humbled by her beautiful trust in the goodness of all people.


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