The snow fell quietly outside. Leo the Cat was relaxing on his favorite windowsill, purring. The heater beneath him provided a pleasant warmth.
He closed his eyes and relaxed. It was so pleasant to lie there and watch the flakes drift against the window pane and slowly gather in a pile of soft snow.
Every now and then, Leo would reach out to catch a snowflake and bump his paw against the window pane. He’d pull his paw back in surprise, annoyed that he had been fooled.
Just as he was drifting to sleep, Leo heard the sound of someone unlocking the front door, followed by unusual footsteps on the stairs.
“I wonder who that could be?” thought Leo. The room suddenly smelled like a forest.
He jumped down silently from his windowsill and peered cautiously around the corner and into the hallway.
Leo saw his dad climbing the stairs quite laboriously, dragging a huge fir tree behind him. He was leaving a trail of pine needles and small piles of snow on the ground. Leo knew what this was about!
“Meow! It’s that time of year again. The house is going to be very busy for the next little while!” Leo thought.
While Leo didn’t like the hustle and bustle, he also found the preparations for the celebration exciting. Plus he always had his beloved windowsill to escape to if it got to be too much.
What Leo liked best about this special time of year was the way that it always smelled like freshly baked cookies. Some were even specially made for him with his favorite ingredients. Even though they were all packed in sealed tins until the feast, the whole house smelled of them.
“Yummy!” thought Leo. He couldn’t wait to try one of the cookies. He was so excited!
It was also nice that the whole family was in a good mood this time of year. Leo knew how to use that to his advantage. He could get little treats and even some extra attention if he played his cards right.
And then there was the great secrecy that only existed in the pre-Christmas season. It amused Leo to see his family behave like squirrels in the forest burying their nuts for the winter.
Leo had often observed from his windowsill that many things were done behind closed doors around Christmas.
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One evening, as Leo was rubbing against his mom and dad’s legs, he heard them start talking about who would watch him while they went away on winter vacation for a few days before Christmas.
“Well, that’s a new one!” the cat thought. He started paying attention. It was about him after all.
His mom said, “Oh, I’m so looking forward to this ski vacation! What a great surprise! I hope it snowed properly there, too. I am a little worried about Leo though. It’s so close to the holiday and the big fir tree is in the living room. Maybe we should take him with us so he doesn’t get into any trouble? The vacation apartment is big enough. A little change might do him some good.”
“Leo on a ski trip? I don’t think so!” exclaimed Leo’s dad. “He already tip toes across the terrace when there’s a light snowfall. Plus, he is very reluctant to travel, as you know! Our Leo is very happy at home. Besides, he doesn’t know any different when we go to work every day and he behaves then, doesn’t he?”
“Yes, you’re right,” Leo’s mom agreed. “Our Leo really is a very well-behaved cat. It’s only a few days. I’ll ask Evelyn if she can look in on Leo once a day and prepare his food in the evenings. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just have to take him with us!”
“Mhmm,” replied Leo’s dad, which he figured was a sound of agreement.
Leo preferred to stay home. He didn’t like the snow and cold.
“I’m not going anywhere without my warm windowsill!” he thought.
Leo was worried. He sauntered over to his basket and was trying to figure out a way to get out of going on the ski trip when fell asleep.
The next morning, Leo’s dad placed the huge tree, which reached the ceiling, in the middle of the living room in its stand. He shook it and said, “There, it’s solid. Nothing could knock it down. I’ll put the fairy lights and the Christmas decorations underneath it so that we can trim the tree as soon as we get back from vacation. It should be another beautiful celebration!”
He whistled a Christmas tune as he took some suitcases from the bedroom and put them in the hallway.
Leo stayed in his basket and tried to figure out what was going on. He didn’t see any his things among the rest of the luggage so he tried to relax. Suddenly the doorbell rang.
“That’s not the cab, is it?” his mom called frantically from upstairs. “I need more time!”
“Do you want me to open the door?” grumbled Leo. He was grumpy because he didn’t know what his family was going to do with him.
“What’s wrong with you, Leo?” his dad asked as he passed by. He rushed to open the door.
Their neighbor Evelyn was standing in the doorway smiling!
It turned out that she had already agreed to keep an eye on Leo. She was here to say goodbye to the family, check on the cat, and pick up the keys.
“Phew!” Leo thought. He knew Evelyn and thought she was very nice.
She came up to him, scratched the back of his neck and said, “I’m sure you and I will get along fine!” Then she went into the kitchen to discuss some things with Leo’s mom.
“You’re in good hands with Evelyn,” Leo’s dad reassured him.
“Meow,” Leo agreed, circling the many suitcases. The doorbell rang again. This time it was the cab driver and everything happened very quickly. Everyone patted Leo and hugged him as if they were taking a trip around the world.
Then they grabbed their suitcases and shouted, “See you at Christmas, Leo!” and “Be good!” The door closed and they were gone.
Leo was not the least bit sad that he was home alone. Quite the opposite. He was just glad that he didn’t have to go out in the cold and sit in the car for five hours.
He relaxed and strolled over to his bowl brimming with food. “This is a good way to start the day,” he thought, smacking his lips.
The next day, Leo trotted leisurely through the apartment in search of a distraction. He kept circling the fir tree, trying to get his thoughts in order.
“I would love to do something nice for my family, but what?” he wondered. “Maybe I could make them something? Or cook them something delicious? Everyone likes a nice roast goose, but… I don’t trust myself to do that yet.”
Suddenly Leo had an idea! “I know! I’ll decorate the Christmas tree. My family will be amazed! Oh yes, that’s exactly what I’ll do. Meow! They’ll be so happy!”
Full of excitement, the cat fetched the ladder. Only it didn’t reach all the way to the ceiling. “I’m sure with how athletic I am, I can get to the top of the tree. I’ll start with the string of lights,” Leo thought to himself.
He had observed that his dad always started with the lights. “Just unwrap the wire and then wrap it around the tree—easy!” Leo thought.
But Leo soon realized that it might be more challenging than he thought as he tried to unwrap the seemingly endless string of lights. He tried his best, but even four paws weren’t enough to keep it from getting tangled.
Leo didn’t have much patience either, so he just pulled the string up as far as the ladder would reach and somehow knotted it in the tree.
Then he moved the ladder, pulling the wire behind him, and tried the same thing on the other side of the tree. Only now the string of lights was tangled with the ladder too. So he had to go back.
Leo couldn’t see where to pull the string of lights next. Every time he managed to untangle the lights from the ladder, they became tangled around his legs.
“Meow!” complained Leo. “If only this tree wasn’t so prickly!” The cat continued to struggle. He didn’t want to give up. After all, it wasn’t the first time he was challenged. The string of lights was now strung around the tree to the best of Leo’s ability. It didn’t look very neat, but who would care?
“That’s enough for me for today!” decided Leo. “I’ll have to manage my energy. There’s still a lot to do.” He pushed the door shut behind him with his paw so Evelyn wouldn’t know about his plan.
The neighbor took very good care of him. After some food and attention, Leo felt strong enough to get back to work.
Next, it was time for the Christmas balls. Leo unwrapped them carefully and noticed they were all white.
“How boring! I’ll have to paint them so they look more cheerful,” he thought. He got the paints and brushes from the craft corner and got started. Since the paint didn’t dry right away, Leo placed the painted balls on the parquet floor.
The floor was now very colorful and so were Leo’s paws. Leo didn’t notice as he admired his results. “They are going to love this!” he thought.
“Now I just have to hang them on the tree!” Hanging the balls meant endless trips up and down the ladder.
“Hmm, maybe I could carry several at once. Then I could save myself the gymnastics.”
But as soon as he started to climb the ladder carrying several balls, one fell to the floor and was smashed.
“Oh well, there are plenty left!” thought Leo. The cat was so busy that he lost track of time. Suddenly, he heard Evelyn coming in, so he had to quickly close the door behind him and dash into the kitchen.
He left a colorful paw print behind with each step. Fortunately, Evelyn hadn’t put on her glasses and didn’t notice. She stroked the cat and told him that his family would be home the next day.
“I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you, Leo. I’m going to miss you,” she said. The cat was happy and cuddled into Evelyn.
Once she left, Leo started to get nervous.
“They’re coming back already? Did I understand correctly? I still have so much to do!” He dashed into the living room to continue decorating but he slipped on the floor that was still wet from the paint.
He slid on four paws right into the tree! He clawed at the tree trunk to get his balance. Luckily, the tree stayed standing and only a few balls fell down and shattered.
Leo got the mop but it wasn’t any good at collecting the fir tree needles and shards of broken glass. So Leo went to get the vacuum cleaner.
It clanked and clanged as it sucked up all the little pieces. Leo wasn’t sure the vacuum was meant to make noises like that, but the room looked a lot neater.
Now all that was left was to put away the ladder.
“Finished just in time! Whew, that was exhausting! What wouldn’t I do to make my family happy? Meow! I can’t wait to taste my Christmas cookies!”
He took another look at the Christmas tree and was pleased with his work. Then he retired to his cozy windowsill to wait.
Leo woke from his nap to footsteps in the stairwell.
“Leo! Where are you? We’re back!”
“Meow!” Leo greeted his family. They put down their things to pet him and Leo’s mom went to open the door into the living room.
“Oh my!” she said. “Everyone, come see!”
They all stood in the doorway taking in the beautiful tree.
“Evelyn really didn’t have to go to all that trouble!” said Leo’s dad.
Leo’s parents both looked at the cat. His mom said, “Well, Merry Christmas, Leo!”
Leo beamed at them and thought, “I knew you would like it!”
You can find our collection of Christmas Stories here.