Small Stories for a Big World

Garnet finds joy in all aspects of Christmas, decorating the trees, putting out the Nativities, listening to Christmas music, baking cookies, going to Christmas services.

When I met Garnet, she started playing Christmas music in mid-November. But, as much as she might be tempted to put up just a teeny-tiny tree on the counter in the kitchen after hearing “What Child is This?” she had a rule: No Christmas tree until the day after Thanksgiving.

And, then on that Friday, Garnet, Sparkle Girl, Doobins and anyone else who wanted to participate would assemble and decorate the white artificial tree in the living room. In the days that followed would come the small trees for Sparkle Girl and Doobins’s rooms, the small tree for the kitchen and a live tree at the back of the house.

That first year was the only year I ever saw the rule enforced. I no longer remember the excuse for starting earlier the next year. Perhaps the Friday after Thanksgiving was booked. You certainly couldn’t wait until that Saturday. So up went the white tree the weekend before.

Once we started being the hosts for my family at Thanksgiving, the tree in the living room had to go up before Thanksgiving. Last year, Garnet held an art show at the house in early November. That was great because it pushed the decorating date back even earlier.

This year, I came home from work on Oct. 31 to the announcement that the new official date for starting to play Christmas music was Oct. 31. When I reminded her of the rule about the tree, Garnet said that it was foolish and that she had since seen the light.

Unfortunately, this year, a shadow looms. It’s orange and his name is Sherbert. He’s the cat we heard wailing outside our bathroom window earlier this year and who is now an integral part of our household. He has grown from a starving kitten into a gifted wreaker of havoc. Few are the places that he cannot find a way to reach by climbing or leaping. Highlights from his ever-growing List of Destruction include shredded kitchen curtains, a broken stained-glass picture of an angel that I have treasured for y years and uprooted succulents that are among Garnet’s favorite plants. Since that happened, the Christmas cactus has lived behind a closed door.

He’s is so much fun in other ways, the anger soon dissipates.

Everyone knows that, once a decorated Christmas tree appears in the house, it is going shoot to No. 1 on his to-do list. The first year I had His Dogness, he inadvertently smashed some low-hanging ornaments by wagging his tail. The problem was easily solved by moving all breakable ornaments above the level of his tail. No such simple solution is possible with Sherbert. It’s not a matter of simply keeping delicate ornaments out of his reach from the floor. If he spots a shiny angel 6 feet in the air, he will not rest until he has found a way to reach it. Some of these ornaments have been in Garnet’s family for years.

Putting the tree inside a stainless-steel mesh doesn’t really seem to be in keeping with the Christmas spirit, though. So what do to? Garnet has been pondering that ever since we came to understand Sherbert’s potential for destruction. So far, every solution we have considered is unsatisfactory.

Although reducing the number of trees this year to minimize the list of targets is a start, the white tree in the living room is essential and it’s too tall to go on a table. By the time you read this, we will have chosen a path. At the moment, though, we have no idea what that might be. Perhaps you will see a car driving around town with a 6-foot white tree on its roof. Certainly, if you see a beautiful woman chasing an orange cat down the street with a broom, it’s a safe bet that it’s Sherbert.