I lost my Christmas tree. I have no idea how it happened. All I know for sure is that when I took it down last year, I stuffed its bristly fake branches back into its box and stowed it in the garage.
And when I looked for it this year, then searched for it, then frantically took my garage apart, it was not there.
A friend of mine came up with the only explanation I can offer:
It was a Donna thing.
I tried to blame my daughter. "You always hated that tree," I said, but she swore she didn't throw it out. She didn't hate it, she explained. It was just that she had a hard time wrapping her mind around what was actually half a Christmas tree hanging on the wall.
It made perfect sense to me. Whoever sees the back side of a tree, jammed into a corner or up against the wall like they are? What good is it being round? This one was flat on the back and not only took up less space, it had the added advantage of being out of paw reach for the cats.
The year before I ordered it from one of my favorite catalogs I found two broken fake tree branches and 13 ornaments under the couch. The cats celebrated the season with races up the tree and several undecorating sessions while I wasn't home.
Ranger was 8 months old that Christmas, and his tree hormones were in full jingle.
One evening I was trying to address cards, but a paws-on-glass sound coming from the living room was driving me crazy. I peeked in. Ranger was chasing a Christmas tree ornament around the living room, batting it back and forth and watching it careen off the furniture like a pinball in a machine gone mad.
I know. Kittens just want to have fun.
Jingle-jingle-jingle, thud. Then silence. That scared me. When they're doing something really naughty, they're quiet about it.
I crept into the living room to see what the fuzzy little wretch was up to. About three-quarters of the way up the tree was what he was up to. Ever since he got the big snip and lost his claws, he's been devastated that he can't climb the patio door curtains any more. But claws were not required for climbing the tree. He heard me coming and poked his head out from between a ceramic angel and a big frosted glass ball.
He leaped down and ran, dragging a crystal bird and a teddy bear garland along with him. Tinsel rained down and the angel on top teetered dangerously. Torn between my desire to swat the cat and my need to save the angel, I grabbed the tree and hung on till everything stopped swinging.
He hid under the guest bed until I settled down.
Cats and Christmas trees have a long history in the Fielder family. When the kids were little we were poor, and we lived in a drafty old house out in the country. Every year Richard and the boys would go into the woods with an ax, searching for the perfect tree. And every year they brought back a tree that looked small outside but overwhelmed our living room. Richard never was much of a hand with a hammer and nails, and the tree stands he made listed to one side or the other or simply fell apart.
We always had a litter of kittens or two, and they chased each other through the branches, sending ornaments flying in all directions, until the tree toppled and sent kittens flying in all directions.
One year my late husband, being the kind of man he was, came up with a solution. He stuck the tree in a bucket of dirt. When that failed to keep the Yuletide branches upright, Richard, being Richard, got creative.
He tied a string to the top of the tree, drove a nail into the ceiling and hung the tree. He was proud.
When the kittens scrambled up the branches, the tree twirled merrily but it didn't fall. They'd stumble dizzily off to find their mother, who should have been supervising them better, I think.
Richard talked about patenting the idea, but I discouraged it.
After losing the half-tree this year I purchased a live Douglas fir. No problem with a stand. The tree is only a foot tall and planted in a pot. I decorated it with tiny baubles and looked for a place to display it. Now it's hanging from the ceiling fan in my living room, gently rotating with the fan on low.
It brings back memories of Christmases past, Ranger can't reach it and it won't get lost up there.
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.