Merry Christmas to my cats, who don’t know anything.

Yesterday we gave the cats a new, expensive scratching post. They weren’t as grateful as you might imagine. But that’s how cats are – it takes a while for them to appreciate new things.

Last night I was petting Toby on my bed and I realized that, not only was his fur kind of oily, but he also stank. He stank like greasy fur and the cat litter lodged between his toes.

“Let’s just give him a bath right now, I guess,” I said to my boyfriend/fiance. My boyfriend was happy because he always wants to give the cats baths, but I’ve been telling him no for the past month because it’s been too cold.

We took Toby into the bathroom and closed the door. My boyfriend turned on the water and began to fill the Cat Bathing Bucket. Suddenly, Toby realized what was happening and began to cry.

“OW,” he said. “OWR!” Really loud and vibrate-y, like a siren. I hate it when he makes that noise. It breaks my heart. But he needed a bath.

He ran and hid behind the toilet while we prepared the water. When I went to retrieve him, he clawed at the tile floor, trying to hold on. “OWR!”

I felt so terrible. We washed him fast, and he cried and tried to scramble out of the tub. Usually he doesn’t hate baths that much, but for some reason, he was scared as hell this time. Clumps of dirty hair rolled off his body. We shampooed twice with Jonathan Frieda’s shampoo for blonde women and rinsed him as quickly and thoroughly as we could. I squeezed him dry. He cried. We rubbed him with two towels and swaddled him with a third. He stopped crying. He didn’t want to admit that he enjoyed the swaddling, but he always does. We let him go and he shook like a dog, then ran to hide in the laundry hamper.

(I’m lying to you. What I’m calling a “laundry hamper” is actually a laundry basket filled with and surrounded by dirty clothes, all mounded under my antique walnut vanity.)

It was Starbuck’s turn, and she knew it, and she wasn’t happy. My boyfriend had to push her from under the bed with our broom. She didn’t make any noise – just stood there looking like the saddest person on Earth while we washed her with the same blonde shampoo. (It was the only shampoo I had without excess fragrance or body-building properties.) She also liked the swaddling but pretended not to. (They make sad faces, but their ears are no longer pressed back.)

No matter how hard they licked themselves, they couldn’t get dry. So my boyfriend and I hauled them back into the bathroom prison and turned on the blow dryer. Last summer, the blow dryer scared the crap out of them. But now, in winter, they liked it. They didn’t want to like it, but they did.

They didn’t speak to us for the rest of the night.

This morning, though, they meowed at me when I woke up. Later, I sat down to put on my tights and they swarmed to get petted.

I swear to you, they had these attitudes like, “Pet us! Feel how soft and not-greasy we are! Feel the difference! We’re clean!”

I want to believe that they understand, in the end, that taking a bath makes them feel better. But I’m a realist, so I know they’re probably too dumb. They probably just think they got clean by licking themselves a lot after all that torture.

Some people celebrate Spring, instead.

A fellow carpooler asked us, “Do y’all celebrate Christmas? Have you got all your shopping done?”

And I thought it was nice of her not to assume that we all did celebrate Christmas – a carful of Caucasians in Texas. It was considerate of her, or at least polite. It probably looks rude or nosy in print, here, but I promise you the way she said it sounded perfectly friendly and polite.

So the other day, I asked a rider the same thing. “Are you celebrating Christmas this year?”

“Yes,” he said pleasantly.

“Have you got all your shopping done, then?” I asked. Just making conversation.

He exhaled audibly. “Actually, I don’t really celebrate Christmas.” He told me his ethnicity and the country where he was born. It was one where they don’t do Christmas. He explained that, as his wife and kids were American, he was obliged to do the secular stuff that everyone else in our neighborhood does. But really, Christmas wasn’t a real holiday for him.

“Oh,” I said. “So… Do you do Ramadan, instead?” I pronounced Ramadan two or three times, all wrong. I’ve seen it written but don’t often hear it aloud.

“No,” he said. “That’s the Saudis. We celebrate….”

He didn’t say the name of what they celebrated, but he explained it. Spring solstice (equinox?), for two weeks. With fire and symbolic colors and baskets of things that start with the letter C. And visiting friends and family. And that was their major holiday for the whole year. It sounded nice, but he sounded sad. Of course, because he can’t really celebrate that holiday here. He can’t take two weeks off work, even though his boss would probably be empathetic. There are always meetings and things that he can’t miss. And even if he could take two weeks off, no one around him could. He said their celebration was supposed to start on a Wednesday and progress with different activities each day. He said, “I try to do most of it, in small ways, on the Saturday nearest the Solstice.”

I said, “That sucks.” I tried to imagine living some place where no one celebrated Christmas. I’m sure I could swing it, if I felt like I was making a better life for my spouse and kids that way. But of course, I’d still be a little sad each December.

Because I’m self-centered, I made him change the subject and tell me about the food of his people. I like food a lot, and I’m always on the look-out for new food to try. He described his cuisine in detail and told me which restaurant in town was his favorite. As he was an educated and well-traveled person, he was able to describe things pretty well and find comparisons within our overlapping experiences. He was polite and candid, and I asked him if it’d be okay for me to show up at his people’s restaurant dressed as I was. He said yes, that all flavors of people went there and no one cared. In exchange, I gave him directions to my favorite Turkish restaurant in town. He’d been to Turkey and loved the food.

You think I’m going to end this section with some smarmy conclusion about people bonding across ethnicities. But I’m not. I just wanted to share with you that I learned about a new kind of food, and that I’m always down with other people who like to eat.

Some people celebrate Santa Claus.

Last night we went to my sister-in-law-to-be’s house for her yearly Thai food dinner and gift opening. (She’s not Thai, but her mother-in-law is, luckily for all of us who love curry.) So we were there, me and my fiance and all of his family and a few family friends, and I was sitting next to someone who happened to be a Catholic, and she turned to me and said, “So what are your boyfriend’s parents doing on Christmas?”

I said, “Nothing. They don’t celebrate Christmas.”

She gasped. “Why not?”

Me: “Because they’re not Christian.”

Her: “Yeah, but they still celebrate Christmas. Right??”

Me: “No.”

Her: “Why not?”

Me: “Because they’re not Christian.”

Her: [blank look]

Me: “You know – they don’t believe in Christ. So they don’t celebrate Christ’s birthday….”

Her: “Yeah, but still… Santa Claus. Hello – SANTA CLAUS.”

Me, quickly, mercifully deciding not to explain that Santa Claus doesn’t exist where they were born: “Okay. This is their Christmas, today. They’re celebrating Santa Claus right now.”

Her, with audible relief: “Oh!”

Really, they’re going to celebrate Santa Claus Day by crossing the state line and gambling. But I didn’t want to confuse the issue any more. She changed the subject, then, to my uterus and how soon she could expect to see a baby pop out of it. That conversation was just like the one portrayed above, but longer and with more in-depth explanations.

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Posted in cats, Christmas, domestic on 12/22/2008 12:14 pm

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