Cara grinned her delight as she decorated the Christmas tree: silver, sparkling and a winter wish come true. Her eight year old heart swelled with happiness, feline kisses within her like stars exploding. Ginny, their 18 year old tabby cat, watched her efforts with fire in her eyes. She was not too old to enjoy Christmas.
Cara’s auburn hair burned in unison with the glittering baubles. Tenderly, her twitching hands opened the box of kitten decorations. Her grin increased, threatening to fly off her face.
The different coloured kittens hugged her heart tighter, feline whiskers brushing against her soul. She laughed, her feline Christmas dream come true.
She carefully placed each kitten on the tree. Their eyes sparkled in the dim sitting room light. The kittens looked alive, the reflection in their eyes like a real soul looking out.
Cara slipped in to bed that night with a smile in her eyes, and a festive yawn in her mouth. Sleep claimed her over-excited mind. She dreamt of the kitten ornaments. She gently held one in her hands, stroking it like a real cat. Then it happened. The ornament grew warm, and the tiny kitten began to purr. It was alive!
The next morning, she rushed through to the tree. The kitten ornaments were just as she had left them the night before. She fingered the small white one, the kitten of her dream. It was cold and inanimate, if pretty. The dream had been just that, a dream.
That night, she drifted to sleep with the white kitten ornament in her hand, like a secret talisman that would take her far and away. In her dreams, she flew with the kitten, which had turned in to a large cat with wings. Below them, fields spread out like a tapestry of the gods. Cara laughed. This was so much fun.
In the morning she awoke with the embers of joy in her heart. The dream massaged her mind, a beautiful memory like a pink sunrise, a prelude to what could only be a fantastic day.
She looked for the kitten ornament but could not find it. To Cara’s surprise, when she entered the sitting room later it was there, on the tree, just where it had been the day before. Had she sleepwalked and put it back? In exactly the same place? Cara rubbed her head, puzzled. However she soon forgot the incident, as she helped Mum wrap Christmas presents. Her favourite time of the year, fun frolicked in her fiery hair.
That night, she did not take the white kitten ornament to bed. She was too grown up surely for such behaviour. However, in the morning, there it was, in her hands. Curious but not perturbed, she placed the little ornament back on the tree. Had she been sleep walking again?
She sat next to Simon at school that day. “A cat visited my house last night,” he confided. “It was a huge tubby cat with orange eyes. I let him in and he slept with me all night. In the morning he was gone.”
Adele turned round. “A Siamese cat appeared on my windowsill last night. I let her in. She was beautiful. In the morning she was gone.”
The stories began to travel around the class. At least ten children had experienced a feline visitor the night before. Cara frowned. Where was her secret cat sleepmate?
When she arrived home from school, she rushed to the Christmas tree. It brought her such joy. She fingered each of the cat ornaments carefully. One was missing, the Siamese cat. Hastily Cara looked under the tree, but it was not there.
That night, she took a black cat ornament to bed with her. In her dreams, a black cat joined her. “Come with me.” The little cat spoke the words in her head. Together, they entered a globe of white light at the foot of the garden, and ran down a sticky, strangely lighted tunnel. They emerged within a flower bud, where large cats with spots surveyed them coolly. “Welcome to Christmas in the kingdom of cats.”
Cara woke up. It was still night. A purring sound played with her ears. She looked down. There was a shape on her bed. Gently, she touched it. The purring increased in volume.
Cara smiled as sleep claimed her tired brain. There was a cat on her bed! In the morning, the cat was gone. Had it all been a dream?
Then she saw it. A whisker on her bedspread. She laughed. The dream was true.
That day at school, there were more cat tales. Many of her class had enjoyed vivid dreams; a few also recalled running down a strange tunnel with a cat, and the flower bud at the end of the tunnel.
Cara ran home that day after school, excited at the thought that she may be visited by a cat again that night. Her real cat, Ginny, greeted her at the door. “Don’t forget about me,” her eyes seemed to say.
Cara stroked Ginny quickly, then rushed to the Christmas Tree. She knew there was something magical about the kitten ornaments, they were weaving a web of feline silk over the village, purrs their Christmas present. But when she got there, the tree was hissing rather than purring. Hissing in rage. The kitten ornaments were gone.
“Have you hidden them?” accused her mother. “Me? No!” Cara looked around, confused. Where had they gone?
That night, there were no cats in her dreams. When she awoke, however, there was something in her hand. The black kitten ornament. The one she had forgotten to replace.
Holding it tightly, she rushed to the sitting room. The tree was still devoid of kittens. There was only the black one left. That night, she locked it in her jewellery box. She wouldn’t let this one escape.
Many many miles away, a little girl would wake up in the night from a bad dream, and find a cat on the bed beside her. It was gone in the morning, but on her Christmas tree were kitten baubles, having mysteriously arrived overnight. Her mum laughed, “Your Dad is playing games.” But the child, Sarah, knew better.
And many many years later, two old women, Sarah and Cara, became best friends, their bedrooms next door to each other in their nursing home. One Christmas, Cara brought her old child’s jewellery box to the common room. It had been in her bedside unit, untouched for years. Tears slid down her face as she fingered the little girl’s bracelets and necklaces. Then she found the black kitten Christmas tree ornament. Her tears turned to laughter.
The next morning, kitten ornaments had appeared on the nursing home Christmas Tree. They shone in the soft lighting, secrets locked deep inside their twinkling eyes. For we never grow too old for magic. Have a Christmas filled with feline fun, a festive season to remember forever, a special day to cry over in years to come, a sweet memory like a cat’s purr beating softly in your heart.