It was nearly Christmas and Leo’s family was expecting a lot of guests. This meant there was extra hustle and bustle in the house while the family prepared for the holidays.
Leo was not feeling well at all. He had a cold and was especially in need of cuddles but no one had the time. Of course he was still fed, but the constant sneezing and malaise spoiled even his appetite.
So he retreated to his quiet spot and tried to get better. He remembered Grandpa Benjamin always saying that sleep makes you healthy and the tomcat wanted to stick to that.
Leo liked it very much when the extended family got together. It was always so cheerful and there were special treats and lots of attention. Although, the small children sometimes bothered Leo quite a bit, it was quite pleasant when their little hands would brush through his fur. He just didn’t like when they sometimes hit him in the eye or pulled his whiskers.
The worst was the persistent pulling on his tail when they wanted to ride Leo like a little horse. Fortunately, Leo was an expert at saving himself by leaping onto his windowsill.
Lost in memories, Leo dozed off and listened the hustle and bustle.
The decorated fir tree glittered in the center of the room. The family set the table with many place settings and decorated it with candles. It all looked beautiful.
“If only these sniffles would go away… Meow!” thought Leo.
Before he knew it, his mother gently woke him from his dreams and scratched his neck.
“What’s the matter, Leo? Are you not feeling well? You haven’t even touched your bowl of food yet. Tomorrow is Christmas and everyone is looking forward to seeing you!” she said. Then she grabbed the vacuum cleaner and was gone.
“Wow! Everyone is looking forward to seeing me? Well, I am a very important member of the family!” Leo thought. His appetite came back a bit and he walked over to his food bowl.
When the doorbell rang the next day, Leo was the first to greet the guests and rub against everyone’s legs for attention.
The children even brought him gifts! He got a plastic mouse to chase.
“Thank goodness it isn’t real!” he thought. He also got a green bouncy ball that the adults had more fun with than he did.
“What I wouldn’t do for my family,” he thought to himself and rolled his eyes.
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After everyone had been greeted and shared all their news, peace slowly returned to the house. Everyone took a seat at the big table to eat a wonderful smelling meal. The beautiful Christmas tree and all the candles created a truly festive ambiance.
There was one thing Leo had been looking forward to all year: a piece of Christmas goose.
“Mmmmh, simply delicious!” the cat thought as he nibbled the cooked goose. Even though he kept sneezing, he felt much better with his family. “Meow, I am so lucky!”
Just then, Grandpa Benjamin said, “We’re all very lucky!”
Leo looked at him and squinted. “Can Grandpa Benjamin read my mind?” he wondered.
Grandpa Benjamin kept talking. “We’re together in this warm room with a nice meal on the table. And we all have each other. I can remember one Christmas when we longed for a warm living room like this!”
The children looked at him with wide eyes and asked, “Why, Grandpa?”
“Well, let me tell you a Christmas story that happened a long time ago,” Grandpa Benjamin said.
Now even the adults were listening intently. Everyone moved over to the cozy sitting area to settle in for the story. The children snuggled up to the adults and Leo sat at Grandpa’s feet.
“It was a bitterly cold winter. And I was just a young child. We set out to visit our relatives to celebrate Christmas together. Just like we do today,” he said as he looked around at his family.
“We lived in a small village and needed a big sleigh to carry the presents and us kids. We were full of excitement for Christmas and to see our family again. But about halfway there, big, dark clouds suddenly covered the sky and we found ourselves in a thick snow storm. The wind whipped the snow in our faces from all directions and we completely lost our bearings.
“There was nothing around us but forest, and as darkness fell, we worried about the wild animals that lived out there. I thought I heard a wolf howling in the distance, but I didn’t say anything to the others so that my younger siblings wouldn’t be afraid.
“At one point, the sled was completely filled with snow so the children had to continue on foot. We held onto the sled tightly so that we wouldn’t wander from the path. We kept walking, not knowing if we were going in the right direction. Our father was determined to reach the village by nightfall because it was getting colder by the hour.
“‘Don’t give up hope,’ our parents said to us. We children had become very tired from the long, strenuous walk.
“Suddenly, the snowstorm subsided. Not a single snowflake more fell from the sky.
“Our mother put us back on the sled, shook the snow off the blankets and wrapped them around us. Then she said very quietly to our father, ‘Now we just have to find the right way.’ Together they pulled the sled through the darkness with renewed strength.
“Then, something magical happened. We big kids saw it first. Slowly, more and more little lights started appearing ahead of us. Tired, but joyful, we followed them to safety.
“‘Where are they coming from?’ our father exclaimed.
“Our mother replied, ‘It’s almost Christmas Eve, it must be a miracle!’
“We started to see the outline of the forest and all the animals stood there peacefully. There was a wolf, a pair of foxes, a family of hares and many deer. The woodpeckers and owls sat in the trees. They all looked up to the sky, as we did, and were quiet as mice. The clear sky was full of stars, with one that shined the brightest.
“Our parents were so relieved to be on the right path that we stopped the sleigh and shared the supplies we had with the animals around us.
“Then we started seeing people with torches moving through the deep snow toward us. Our relatives had heard about the snowstorm and had set out to look for us.
“Many villagers had joined to help. Joyfully, we all hugged, rejoicing that we were safe. ‘Now let’s go to our warm living room to celebrate Christmas!’ they shouted.”
Leo found the story inspiring. He had never heard such a story before! So many things were going through his mind.
“I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had been out there in the cold. I’m already scared of the noises I hear coming from our garden,” he thought to himself.
Leo suddenly felt the need to do something for the animals out there as well.
“But what?” he wondered.
The youngest child suddenly asked, “Grandpa, can you see the bright star here, too?”
“Let’s go to the window,” he said. “If we believe in miracles, maybe we’ll get lucky!”
Leo was the first to land on the windowsill. He had looked at the moon a thousand times before, but now he was looking for the brightest star.
“I think Leo spotted the star!” a child shouted as he ran to the cat.
“I can see it too!” said another.
“Me too!” They all began to shout.
“If you ever can’t spot the star, it’s probably hiding behind the clouds,” said Grandpa Benjamin.
Everyone agreed Grandpa Benjamin’s story was wonderful. He sat down in an armchair and looked lovingly at his family.
“Now it’s time for presents. Go look under the Christmas tree!” he said.
Everyone ran to the tree. “Leo, that package is for you!” said Grandpa Benjamin.
Before unwrapping the present, Leo remembered that he wanted to do something nice for the animals in the garden.
“I’ll get started first thing tomorrow. The workshop is in the basement and as soon as everyone is gone, I will build a bird house so that the birds in our garden will have it as good as I do with my family in here,” Leo thought. Satisfied with his plan, he began to unwrap his gift.