Christmas is a time for loved ones to gather together. It’s a season of treasured memories and joy, right?

As a child, my family would wrap the gifts ahead of time and place them under the Christmas tree a week prior to the holiday. My thoughts were filled with wonder and dreams as I gazed on the boxes labelled with my name. On Christmas Eve we’d open our gifts and on Christmas morning, we’d  find our stockings stuffed with treats and trinkets. When I married my husband, Pete, I quickly learned that my family was doing it all wrong. Our traditions were not traditional. And so, we tried to blend our customs.  
In the beginning, we placed our gifts under the tree for a week or two prior to the big day. But, after our second Christmas that all changed. We had been given an evergreen cut down from a friend’s front yard. It was large and getting over grown for their space and they wanted it gone. We tried to put it up in our living room, and did after much of the tree was chopped away, cut down to a size that would actually fit into our humble little home. The smell of pine and nature filled the house. Our cat took a liking to it, too. We had to retrieve him from it’s branches several times.  

That year I had found the perfect gift for Pete. His winter coat was warn and old. He needed a new one that would be appropriate for work and yet, not too formal. I found a black woven bomber style coat with leather elbow patches. It was just right! Two weeks before Christmas I wrapped it and set it under the tree.  

Christmas morning arrived and we handed each other our gifts. Pete’s gift did not look right. There was a large dried water spot on the top side of the wrapping paper. He began to open his gift. To our horror, we saw moldy fuzz growing on the fabric of his new coat. We figured our cat, in the excitement of the great outdoor smells, got territorial and Pete’s gift was the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I cried. Pete washed his coat.

There are always unexpected surprises at Christmas. Sometimes, (cat) pee – happens! We have to learn to roll with the punches. In the years that followed, we bought an artificial tree, the cat got a new home, and from that time on, we began to put our gifts under the tree the night before Christmas.