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A Christmas Story

“Mom, Mom, the cats are climbing the Christmas tree,” yelled brother Mike.  Our two Siamese cats, Meeko and Chakree were chasing each other up the tree and when Meeko reached the top, the tree fell over with a crash.  Smoke was coming from the broken lights and broken ornaments were all over the floor.  “Pull the plug on the lights,” Mom yelled from the kitchen.  What a mess.  The paper on one of the gifts ignited and Brother Mike threw his “wuzzy” blanket over the fire to put it out.  Mike’s “wuzzy” was worn out and dirty and full of holes as he had been dragging it around the floors ever since he was a baby, always sucking one corner of it.  He was four years old and the “wuzzy” now had a big burn hole in the middle where Mike had put the fire out.

Centuries ago, Meeko and Chakree were Siamese kings who were known to have given Siamese  cats to visitors to the court and these two cats bore all the charms and foibles of royalty.  Every year  Mom would buy them catnip mice which they would tear up by tooth and claw until the green catnip  was all over the floor and Meeko and Chakree ate it for the way it stirred them up.  Round and round  the kitchen they went, slipping on the corners because the linoleum was so slick.  They had more  traction in the living room, sinking their claws into the straw matting.  Over the packages and up the  tree the cats went.

To make the poor tree look better, Mom made popcorn and showed us how to string it with a needle and thread.  The only problem with stringing popcorn was that Mom wouldn’t salt or butter it and it tasted awful, stopping us from eating it, but it didn’t stop us from throwing popcorn at each other.  Around and around the tree we hung the threaded popcorn until the tree started looking good again.

Dad was very particular about the size and shape of the tree.  If the tree wasn’t full on all sides, he would turn the less attractive side to the wall.  The trees were almost always Douglas Fir which we got from our Grandfather’s property down at Dilworth.  He had forty acres and called it “Mountain View” from which he tried to sell lots from a little pole and cedar shake hut he built up near the road.  He gave lots to all his five children, none of which has ever built a house there.

We had three French sailors with us for Christmas one year.  Mom had seen something in the paper and called the consulate to invite the sailors who couldn’t speak English and Mom’s high school French was tested to its limits.  She was always inviting foreign visitors to our house for dinner to introduce her children to the world outside Vashon.  There were Greek sailors who taught us Greek dancing, Chinese, Koreans and Sikhs who wore turbans and never cut their hair.   Our house was Christmas International.