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Our Christmas miracle. December 26, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Every Christmas is special to me and our friend Ben. But this year, you might have thought we were really slacking off. I’d stocked up on balsam fir incense from Paine’s, a family tradition dating back to OFB’s childhood, and had ordered him his very own fruitcake from the monks of Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky in honor of his Kentucky-born Mama’s annual fruitcake-making ritual. (I’m happy to do it as long as OFB doesn’t try to make me eat any leaden, disgusting fruitcake, I HATE fruitcake, yuck.)

We’d bought a lovely fresh wreath from our local farmers’ market to hang on the outside of our cottage home, and I’d got a nostalgic bottlebrush-and-silver-ball wreath from the Vermont Country Store for the front door. But the rest of our decorating left a lot, for us, anyway, to be desired.

We put up the tree, with its endless tiny white lights. But for some reason, OFB simply wouldn’t bring down the 50 boxes of ornaments from the attic. I’m deathly afraid of heights, so climbing the attic stairs wasn’t an option. I did manage to eventually browbeat OFB into bringing down the wreath we hang over the mantel every Christmas. I put our red candles in all our candlesticks, on the mantel and on our kitchen table, and put out our red Christmas placemats and green cloth napkins. We bought red and white poinsettias and put them on our mantel and kitchen table, making a beautiful display with their gold, red, and green foil pot wrappers.

All this minimalist decorating, coupled with endless badgering by me, made OFB really look at our decorating, perhaps for the first time. He felt that he really loved this simple style, instead of the ornate, overladen tree, mantel, table and etc. that normally marks our Christmas season. I managed to persuade him to go to our local Big Lots for some simple red balls to add to the tree—no need for a trip to the attic!—and a red brocaded tablecloth to serve as a tree skirt, something we’d never had and that added the perfect finishing touch to our tree.

Our Christmas dinner was scaled way back as well. I made my famous endive boats as appetizers, so easy, so good, and so light on the stomach: Belgian endive leaves filled with crumbled blue or gorgonzola cheese, pecan pieces, a few dried cranberries, and fresh-cracked black pepper. Then I made my wonderful Christmas dressing, traditional corn pudding, roasted sweet potatoes, and green beans, and heated up some luscious, buttery dinner rolls. OFB had homemade cookies from our neighbors, famous handmade candies from me, and the Trappist fruitcake to choose from for dessert, but he was so full, he passed on all of them.

I won’t even go into all the dishes I didn’t make this Christmas, including the fabulous homemade eggnog (a family recipe for over 200 years) and the chocolate yummy-rummies that people have been known to fight over. Even without the additional decorations and dishes, you may be asking yourself what this could possibly have to do with a Christmas miracle.

Well, maybe we didn’t get to see all our beloved ornaments displayed this year, or eat all our favorite Christmas foods. Maybe we didn’t get every present we’d been hoping for. But what we did get was more than anything we could ever have hoped for in our wildest dreams.

You see, in August, OFB inadvertently held our back deck door open a little too wide, a little too long, while taking our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, outside for a bathroom break. And while the door was open, my favorite cat, Linus, shot out the door and escaped into the great outdoors.

This might not seem so awful to you, but you have to understand that we live in a part of the world where the gun-toting types that identify with “Duck Dynasty” are all around us. People shoot cats for fun or target practice. Cars race around the corner, hitting anything in their way. There are plenty of other types of viscious competing wildlife, from raccoons to coyotes and foxes. Every day, I looked for Linus and wept.

Four months later, Linus had miraculously survived and was making his presence felt. He was living under our studio and under our deck. He was eating the food we put out for him every day. He was following us around the yard when we took Shiloh out, coming to the deck door and even setting a paw or half of himself inside in the warmth and dryness, yelling his head off outside my office window if he wanted to see me, then rushing to the deck to continue the conversation in person. The one thing he wasn’t doing was coming back inside.

Then, this Christmas Eve, a miracle happened. Shiloh and our other cat, Linus’s half-sister Layla, were nowhere in sight. I heard Linus calling, so I went to the back deck door, cracked it open, turned on the deck light, and started talking to him. And there he was. He came part-way in, dashed back out, came back in, dashed back out, came back in—this time, far enough in for me to grab him and shut the door. Just in time for Christmas, Linus was back home!

He immediately jumped up on the counter where we have the cat-food and water bowls (out of Shiloh’s reach), then headed under our bed for a long winter’s rest. For the first night in four months, I actually slept through the night, with no nightmares of my beloved cat killed in the road or shot by some monster. At one point during the night, I woke to find the familiar furry body pressed tight against mine, purring his heart out.

I tell you, there has never been a better Christmas.

‘Til next time,