A Christmas Cat Memory

If I wasn't a crazy cat lady before, I think that I must have just crossed over that threshold. Yesterday I was reading to my cats. They were sitting around me, I was reading them a Christmas story and they were purring. Some of them were.

This was not the original intent. I went to a used book store the other day and found a nice copy of a book that contains A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. On Sunday, as the Thanksgiving holiday came to a close, I was in my apartment alone with my cats. One thing about cats is they are generally in the same room as you are. My cats behave this way, anyway. I don't call them, they just end up in the same room. So, I'm sitting on the sofa and see the book on the coffee table and decide to read it. But, my only experience with this story is oral. My sister Lottie (such a lovely name: Lottie) had a school assignment when we were children to memorize this story, pare it down to 5 minutes – or some other pre-designated amount of time – and recite it. Needless to say, we heard a lot of "Oh my! It's Fruitcake weather!"

I couldn't just read the story; I had to read it aloud. It wouldn't be the same otherwise. I put on my actor voice and began reading. The cats, as if summoned by the sound of my voice, came closer. One in particular lay down in a cat bed near the sofa and began to purr. When reading the parts in which the woman spoke I read in a light, wispy voice; the boy's parts I did with a less wispy, but still high voice.

It has been a while since I've heard it and being that it had been shortened to meet the time requirement, there were parts I hadn't heard at all. So, to a great extent it was like listening to the story for the first time. For instance, I remembered their buying whiskey (in my memory it was brandy), but I didn't remember that it was from a bar, or that the man they bought it from was an Indian, or that it was the first time they actually saw him because they had always dealt with his wife in the past. I don't remember it being that comical. Of course, my sense of humor hadn't been that developed when I heard it before.

I do remember the ending being rather sad because the boy had been shipped off to a military school. I was not surprised at the actual ending; I saw it coming in the final paragraphs. But, I am I and lately I'm never more than a blink away from tears, so the last paragraph I read with a cracking voice and with actual tears in my eyes. The cats were unfazed. 

This Christmas memory is a nice tradition. It is a classic that has been “broadcast, recorded, filmed, and staged multiple times, in award-winning productions.”1 But, it’s kind of sad. Why would something sad be popular at Christmas? It’s charming and easy to read, but even before the end there’s an air of melancholy mixed with the comic. Do all of us have sad memories mixed with happy that work together to create the atmosphere of the season? Perhaps people who don’t have these sad memories can be detached enough to appreciate the story for what it is, while the rest of us relate on a different level. 

All in all I think that I’ll read it again next year. I may even pick up other stories to read to my cats. I could take this whole cat lady thing to a new level.