My sister and I used to be very cunning children and we would make it our goal each year to figure out what our parents had bought us for Christmas. The moment they left the house we’d be scrambling upstairs and rooting through cupboards and drawers trying to find presents or receipts.
My parents cottoned onto this very quickly and they resorted to hiding all the presents in the loft – a place where we wouldn’t venture because my dad warned us that there were “HUGE CHILD-EATING SPIDERS” lurking up there. But sometimes they’d slip up and forget to put the presents in the loft and instead they’d leave them carelessly strewn around their bedroom for anyone to find. And it was during one of these times, as I was rummaging headfirst through the cupboard with my sister holding my legs, that I stumbled across an unusual object: a tin of cat food.
Now we don’t own a cat; we’ve never owned a cat despite years of constant pleading. My dad is very allergic to them (along with all other fluffy, adorable creatures) and we’d given up on the idea of ever owning our own cat years ago. But then why did they have a tin of cat food? What did it mean?
Well we came to the only conclusion that we could: Our parents had finally, finally caved after years of begging and bought us our very own cat. There was a moment of silence and then we lost our shit.
We frantically hunted through the rest of the bedroom and managed to find another tin of cat food AND a cat toy and that sealed it, we were definitely getting a cat for Christmas.
The days passed e n d l e s s l y. December always feels like it lasts a lifetime when you’re a kid but this year it went even slower because we were finally getting the present that we’d always dreamed about.
By the time Christmas Eve arrived we were bouncing off the walls with excitement and anticipation. By this point we’d already named him, decided who would clean out the litter tray and planned out his entire life from kittenhood to death including who would have him when we moved out.
Christmas day finally dawned and my parents were horrified when we came crashing into their room at 4am already fully dressed and ripping open our stocking fillers in a flurry of wrapping paper and sellotape.
It was the same downstairs; we were like miniature Christmas tornadoes thundering through the living room. There was wrapping paper flying through the air as we unwrapped three presents at a time trying to figure out which gift held the new family cat. Toys were thrown aside unopened as we continued our frantic search and my parents could only watch in bemusement as my sister and I got more and more frenzied as the number of presents dwindled without finding the cat.
Five presents… two presents… finally the last one… it was a book.
We stared at each other in exhaustion as my mum tiptoed around us picking wrapping paper out of our hair and pulling a newly boxed Barbie out of the Christmas tree where it been flung by one of us during the festive carnage.
We finally turned to stare at our parents in wordless confusion as they looked back at us and then at each other and then they finally uttered the words we’d been waiting to hear: “Well we do have one final present for you. It’s a joint present”.
Our faces lit up and gripping each other’s hands, we were led into the dining room with our eyes shut so we wouldn’t spoil the surprise. Our parents instructed us to be very, very quiet because “we don’t want you to frighten him”. You could smell the anticipation in the air as we sat there vibrating with excitement as images of our new kitten danced through ours heads.
We heard shuffling, a muffled giggle and then finally, finally: “Okay, you can open your eyes”.