In my Christmas cozy mystery — “Whiskers, Wreaths & Murder”— my main character is spending her first holiday in the Cotswolds where she moved after her husband died. She’s been tree shopping and has come home with a 6-foot tree, a smaller 4r-foot one and more. May this glimpse of her Christmas memories make you smile.
I busied myself hanging the wreaths and moving the 4-foot tree to different spots in my office. I finally settled on a place in front of the floor-to-ceiling bookcase on the left side. As I looked out the picture window to the garden, I thought of getting several boxes of net lights for the bushes and the potted spruce I’d put by the front door. “I’ve caught the Christmas spirit,” I thought. The Christmas after Henry died, I’d barely managed to put out a few snow globes and candles, much less get a tree. I knew I’d still have some tearful moments, but I hoped today’s spurt of enthusiasm was a sign I was healing.
I’d been hesitating to pull out my boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations, worried I’d have a meltdown, but since I’d made it through tree shopping without tears, I decided to chance it. “After all,” I thought, “even if I have a good cry, tonight’s party will cheer me up.”
By the time I carried all the boxes from the garage to the sitting room, I was thinking I should have asked Peter or Gavin for help. At least the containers were clearly labeled. In the summer, when I’d moved into my fairytale cottage and begun sorting boxes, it was apparent I’d swung back and forth from haphazard to highly organized when I was packing in Atlanta. Thank goodness the Christmas decorations were in the organized category.
Dickens and Christie watched as I opened the box of teddy bears and other animals, many of which I’d acquired pre-Henry. There was my treasured Richie Bear from the now-defunct Rich’s department store in Atlanta. He was a white bear with a red sweater and red knit cap. Two brown Lord & Taylor bears from different years were wearing knit scarves and hats. The Lord & Taylor locations in Atlanta had long since closed, and I still couldn’t believe the flagship store on Fifth Avenue had closed after over 100 years in business.
Christie wandered over to climb into the box. “What’s with all the bears? I thought we had cats too . . . Wait, here’s one.” She’d found a black and white cat with a Santa hat. She sniffed everything as I pulled out several more cats, a moose and a mouse. Each one made me smile and Christie purr.
Dickens was more interested in lounging in front of the fire and content to watch from afar. Next was the box holding the small red, white and green quilted tree skirt my mother-in-law had handed down to Henry, perfect for the smaller tree. Tucked in with it were the larger green velvet tree skirt trimmed in rich burgundy and the delicate crocheted angel tree topper. I considered these items heirlooms, as Henry’s mom had made them all.
“You know, Christie, I have a picture of you as a kitten, curled up with the packages beneath the tree — after you’d chewed ribbons and clawed wrapping paper. You played so hard, you conked out.”
“I’ve learned better now. I prefer to play with the paper after you’ve unwrapped the packages. I still think the ornaments are fair game, though.”
“Yes, dear. That’s why I never place fragile ornaments on the lower branches where you can reach them.”
Thank goodness, she confined her antics to the bottom of the tree. I’d had a kitten named Moocher, another black cat, who’d climbed up the trunk of the Christmas tree one year. I was lucky I’d been there and been able to reach in and grab him without breaking a single ornament or worse, toppling the tree.
I was saving the several boxes of ornaments until last, so I turned to the box labeled “China.” I knew it wasn’t china, but I hadn’t known what else to call the plethora of candle holders, decorative plates and Christmas knickknacks I’d collected. I had a handblown glass tree with tiny glass balls hanging on the branches, a wooden sleigh and several snow globes.
Christie meowed, “I remember the big snow globe, the one on the gold base that played music. That thing scared me to death.”
That got Dickens’s attention. “It only scared you after you knocked it to the floor and it burst into pieces! We didn’t see you for hours after the crash.”
Christie turned her nose up before she replied, “Excuse me, I believe it jumped off the shelf. I had nothing to do with it.”
Jumped off the shelf? That’s a creative explanation. I looked around the sitting room and considered my collection. “Garland, I need garland.” I’d go out Sunday afternoon to get some, and then I could arrange candles and snowglobes in the greenery and hang the three Christmas stockings with the names Christie, Dickens, and Leta.
“There,” I thought. “I’ve made it through without tears. I’ll tackle the ornaments another day. Maybe I’ll just open the boxes and set them by the tree and leave it to my friends to pull them out one by one — all except the box of cat ornaments.” I moved it to the office with the idea of decorating the cat tree on my own before the tree trimming party next week.