Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Kitten

It was a chilly, blustery day three years ago when I left the house to run some Christmas Eve errands. I had to buy some windshield wipers and some candy for stockings hung by the chimney with care, and then pick up lunch on the way home for my husband and I to enjoy together in front of the warm hearth fire.

As I passed through the center of our little town, I noticed that an antique store that was rarely open had its doors flung wide. I had never been in there as it was always closed whenever I had a shopping opportunity, and so I decided to make a quick stop just to see what was in the place.

Like all good antique stores, it was dimly lit and a little musty, with bobs and nicknacks and indescribable things arranged on shelves, the walls and on the floor. I knew I only had a few minutes to take everything in; stores were going to close early and I had errands to finish and lunch to retrieve.

The proprietress, an elderly and somewhat scrawny woman with blue eyes as bright as sapphires introduced herself to me and we chatted for just a moment as my eyes tried to take in everything in the room. Then she said the magic words, "Did you know that I have kittens that need homes?" I told her that was delightful, but I didn't need any kittens, and I had to be going soon, anyway.

Being the good saleswoman that she is, she insisted that I see a couple of them. I continued to look around as she opened the door where the kittens were kept. The smell that reached my nose nearly made me vomit. It reeked of neglect, and disease, and squalor. I thought, "I'll be damned if I take anything home that came out of that room."

No sooner did that though leave my mind, I found myself with a tiny grey and white tabby in my arms. I cradled her like a baby and stroked her in the way baby kitties like to be stroked. She was scrawny and her fur was very rough, which are not good signs of health. But after a moment of petting, the kitten looked deeply into my eyes and started to purr. Then, her oversized paws began flapping rhythmically in the air in a kneading motion. She obviously liked me (or, she was the most manipulative thing on the planet!).

I couldn't do it. I had things to do that day before the stores closed, and I had one cat at home already who was enjoying life very much as "the only cat." Besides, I didn't know how healthy this kitten was. The shop owner hadn't had her vaccinated or even examined by a veterinarian, claiming that she was rescued as a baby when her mom was eaten by a coyote, and the shop owner hadn't had the opportunity to get the kitten checked out. My instincts told me this tale wasn't quite truthful, but I didn't have the inclination to analyze which parts were true or false. I looked into those baby-grey eyes again. My sense of morality started to prevail over the logic my brain was producing.

I could not let this sweet, helpless kitten go back into that squalid room. Especially not on Christmas Eve. With barely a thought as to what my husband would say, I paid way too much for that baby and left as quickly as I could. By sheer good luck, there was a pet store right next door where I bought a cardboard pet carrier. She didn't like to be stuffed in there, but it was necessary for her protect in the car.

I headed straight home, which, thankfully, was not far. I got out of the car and tucked the little princess into my jacket to protect her from the wind and cold. I stuck my head in the front door to see where the husband was. He was laying on the floor, enjoying the fireplace in the family room. The man is no dummy; he immediately saw the guilty look on my face.

"You're back early," he remarked. Then that fluffily little grey and white head poked out of my jacket and he smiled.  I put that little kitten down next to him.  She gave him a brief sniff and then started walking around the room like she already owned the place. My husband never batted and eye. From that moment, she was already part of the family.

Isabeau is now a little over three years old. She is a beautiful and regal looking cat who maintains a kitten-like playfulness, fierce independence, and sweet disposition. I am thankful that my heart won that day.