Lucifer Saves ChristmasI don't have any pictures of Christmas Past to show you- I can't even find the one of the dog stealing popcorn from the Christmas tree.
The best I can do is this year's Christmas tree, complete with my thirty-year collection of Mt. St. Helens glass and other fancy ornaments. And two two of Jinx at the window, one from New Years Day, 2002, and the other from last Sunday, staring at the horrible white world below. And that was before it got deep.
But this story is about a different black cat from my childhood, Lucifer, a kitten my younger brother, John, brought home. And it's about John, and about unusual sources of inspiration. Lucifer was a cat with an attitude. John was a kid with an attitude.
John was an unusual kid. He was exceptionally brilliant and had a way of delving deeply into subjects that interested him. He had built an elaborate HO gauge train village in the basement. He also had a color film developing lab, in the days when it couldn't be done at home. He was meticulous about everything. He is to this day still heavily involved in photography. He builds and flies magnificent kites and takes in-depth courses in Photoshop that leave my head spinning. But he didn't like school and didn't do well. The teachers thought he was dumb, and he had no intention of pleasing them.
This was the year pink suddenly came in as The Color for Christmas. For the first time, pink lights were available, and suddenly pink everything else was there too. John decided he wanted a pink Christmas tree. No, it couldn't be green with pink ornaments. It had to be done right. So it was all pink lights, new pink ornaments of those fragile glass type- no popcorn strings or handmade ornaments on John's tree, thank you. This was going to be a classy tree. He wanted pink tinsel, but we couldn't find any, but we did find flocking in cans in pink. So the tree had pink snow on it. This didn't bode well for the angel hair I wanted, but this year, it was John's tree.
I'd had my doubts, and at the wise old age of 16, I obviously knew what really should be on a tree, but Mom told me if I wanted to do the tree next year I could. And I had to admit, when it was finished, it really was magnificent, where it rested in the curve of the baby grand piano. John even arranged one of those revolving spot lights, and the brand new ornaments sparkled alternately pink and white.
The tree was lit and sparkling in a slightly darkened room when I sat down to play the piano. I think probably rehearsing for a solo at church, or something like that. I didn't need to read the music, so it must have been something I knew, and I liked the darkened, quiet mood. I remember I was also thinking about what in the world I was going to write for my English assignment, which had to be a short story. And I'd never written one before in my life.
I was concentrating hard enough that I paid little attention when Lucifer, who was still in his kitten stage, jumped onto the bench, and from there to the top of the piano beside me. In typical kitten crouch, he crept across the closed piano lid, but I didn't think anything about it. Not until I saw the streak of black cat did it dawn on me. Lucifer leapt right into the middle of the tree, and the tree went down with a crash. A normal cat would have been freaked at the fall, but Lucifer strutted like he was proud of his kill.
Only Mom and I were home. The tree was wrecked. The pretty pink ornaments were mostly smashed, flocking knocked off branches, bulbs burned out. So we did a quick shopping trip. But as I said, pink was in that year, and there wasn't very much left to buy. We did our best, but it was pretty pathetic. When John got home, he simply looked at it and announced we'd have a blue tree. And we did. We started from scratch because the old tree was just plain ruined, and the pink flocking wouldn't all come off it anyway. John did a completely different tree. And clearly, Lucifer didn't see any threat in it at all because he couldn't be bothered to launch an attack against it.
But I had my story. Lucifer was the lead character, and I used his viewpoint. I decided I had to think like a cat. Why would a cat attack something so much larger than himself? We know a predator always looks for smaller weaker prey, so Lucifer was not intending to kill and eat. That had to mean he had loftier motives. Save his family. Save his family from the Pink Tree Monster. Save Christmas!
The story, short and naive though it was, got me an A+, and the teacher raved about it and read it to the entire class, and all her other English classes. That got me a few glares and sneers, some puzzled stares, and lots of compliments, depending on the depth of imagination of my classmates.
I wasn't horribly concerned about that then, but I did catch on to the notion that I had the Power of Creativity. It's addicting. I haven't shaken it yet.
I do wish we'd taken pictures of the trees, but the pink tree is embedded in my mind to this day, so I suppose that's good enough. And I still love to have a beautiful Christmas tree.