Last night I was wrapping away, with Toffee near me on the table. I was having one of those moments where you realize you've cut the paper too small to reach around the present (it was a book) and mentally kick yourself for wasting paper again. But then I turned the book on the diagonal and realized it could be fully covered that way. Using less paper. Then I figured out how to fold the tricky corners with a few strategic creases, and wound up with a beautifully wrapped gift where all the edges were smoothly covered and all the tape (less tape, too!) was all concealed on the bottom.
I suspect that whole nations, somewhere (perhaps Japan), have been wrapping stuff this way forever. But for me, having had the chore of wrapping all her family's presents since about the age of 8, it was a game-changing breakthrough, a Eureka! moment. It's a great feeling to figure out how to do something more easily and elegantly after doing it the same old, annoying way for nearly half a century.*
Before I could report my discovery via texts and photos to interested relatives, all hell broke loose next to me at the table.
Thus began one of those domestic-crisis episodes in our lives that play out something like comedies on TV — you're the unwitting lead, struggling to cope as one bizarre, unexpected thing happens after another, each more ludicrous, confusing, embarrassing and scary than the last. If you were watching it instead of living it, it might be funny. However, the truth quickly hits you that art is truly better than life: comedies generally have a script, a laugh track, a set running time, commercial breaks, and a decent ending. A domestic crisis is more like an improv exercise, unfolding moment to moment, and it's impossible to predict if it will end well — or end at all. And what a difference that makes.
Toffee helped me wrap presents last year, too.
On the table, I had a small shopping bag holding toys and treats for my family's cats and dogs. Toffee stuck his head in it when I wasn't looking. His head went through the handle and he got himself caught, so the whole bag was attached to him. When this happens, the cat goes wild, dashing madly around the house in an often-futile attempt to free itself from its new appendage. Time stands still as you watch; it's a riveting, rare, and weird sight to see such tremendous energy and chaos in your previously tranquil home.
As video, it might look hilarious to some, since it's pure madness and rarely does any actual damage to the cat... unless it dies of heart failure from its exertions. If you've ever seen it happen to one of your cats, it's not remotely funny; it's heartbreaking and scary because your cat is terrified. I have seen it happen just a few times in my life despite taking pains to keep shopping bags away from my cats unless I've cut the handles first.
As Toffee tore around the living room, my husband tried to trap him in a corner to free him. He had his hand gouged and scratched for his trouble. This was not Toffee's fault; we knew, since he was beyond courtesy at the moment. We sometimes learn to leave a crazed cat alone the hard way. But we had to help him. So we coached him as he raced around, telling him he'd be all right. I doubt he heard, but it gave us something to do since we were helpless.
Parts of the bag ripped off him as he ran under furniture and behind the Christmas tree. He finally wedged himself behind the back of our bed, a tight spot where I could reach in and quickly remove the bag's handle and remnants from his neck. He settled down. I sat near him, talking quietly... and noticed he smelled bad. Had he been peeing in terror? I looked around and didn't see any wetness. It was a funky smell, and I remembered that cats sometimes release their anal glands under duress.
Oh, well. Nature's Miracle spray and his own bathing would take care of any mess, I thought. Toffee came out from the bed. Possum, who was sitting nearby, promptly jumped him.
All hell broke loose again. It was a vicious attack, or at least it sounded like one. Possum sometimes takes his responsibilities as Top Cat too seriously, we think. Cats recognize each other by smell, not looks, and Toffee smelled like a stranger, so Possum decided to subdue the intruder. Toffee doesn't like to fight so he screamed and protested, and we yelled and protested, and finally Possum let go.
Cat altercations are uncommon around here and they freak us out. There's plenty of noise and the fur flies, but no one has ever had any wounds upon inspection. We trim claws when we brush the boys' teeth a few times a week, and that helps. Possum still looked riled — his nose seems to grow longer into a more "possumy" snout (I swear!) when he's annoyed at someone, so whenever I see that, I urge him to settle down. He wouldn't. He kept strutting about in a Tony Soprano–esque way, rubbing his face along furniture, which means he's agitated and looking for trouble.
So I picked him up. He's heavy and awkward when he's wriggling. As he struggled, I tossed him, more emphatically than I would have wished, into the bathroom and shut the door. Time for a timeout. It was quiet. Toffee went to his favorite chair and settled down, and Harris came in cautiously to investigate. After several minutes, I was ready to let Possum out. But I couldn't open the bathroom door. He had barricaded himself in there. There is a heavy, solid-cherry bi-fold door at 90 degrees to the bathroom door. It swings open and closed lightly and easily, usually. But Possum must have opened it and wedged it firmly against the bathroom door. It would not budge. He was locked in and the six of us were locked out.
And, naturally, I'd been about to use the bathroom before any of this happened.
To be continued
*The wrapping discovery follows my recent realization that flossing before you brush is way more sensible than flossing after you brush. Since flossing is the last step in a professional dental cleaning, I'd been doing it at the end, too. But then I thought about it. And, duh: never again.