Thursday, December 24, 2009

Crustaceans for Christmas

It’s really been a Christmas tradition since there was a Christmas at all. Joseph and Mary, the shepherds, the wise men, and even Jesus, himself, were unexpected visitors who just kind of appeared during the story of the miraculous events surrounding the birth of a savior. We, too, have received surprise visits from friends and family members during past holiday seasons, and it’s always a wonderful thing, filled with the joy, love and sense of welcome that only occurs at Christmas.
But this was a little different.
It all started on Friday, a week before Christmas as I was tending to last-minute preparations before we started on the first leg of our journeys. You see, as much as we’d like to have all our kids and grandkids gathered around our tree and table, it’s tough to coordinate with schedules that include work, school, coaching, and other family and friend commitments. So, this year, we’re on the road. That means north to Fargo during the week before Christmas, followed by a visit to North Carolina the week after. My role in the days before a trip are kind of like those of a NASA mission control officer, with one of my vital tasks to arrange cat care for Max, the striped whirlwind who pretends to be my pet. It’s tougher than you think, as Max is not your average, lap-loving tabby. In fact, he’s not especially loving or friendly at all. One of his more annoying habits is to nip the legs of the person dishing up the cat food to encourage better service. It’s a small town and word gets around, so volunteers are hard to come by. Max also needs someone to let him in and out of doors. He used to have a cat door, but he abused the privilege when he instituted a bizarre catch-and-release program. You don’t need coffee to wake you up when you’ve had your hair parted by a startled starling flying down your hallway first thing in the morning. Bunnies are cute, but I prefer viewing them in the yard, not hopping around my kitchen. After a few such incidents, I sealed the cat door and now force Max through a full body inspection anytime he wants to come in.
Me: What’s that in your paw?
Max: Mroww.
Me: Open your mouth.
Max: Mroww.
...and so on.
I had just finished finally arranging for a cat-sitter, a young friend, college student and Iraq war veteran who seemed up to the task, when there was a ring at the door. Stepping outside, I found a box.
“Perishable,” it said, in bold letters.
“Oh, good,” I thought. “Fruit.”
A closer look offered the name of a seafood company.
“Oh, good,” I thought. “Fish.”
An even closer look revealed the real contents of the box: Four live lobsters.
“Oh, good,” I thought. “Pets.”
A dear cousin of my wife had sent the little critters direct from Maine. I had often heard the tales of Megan and her cousins enjoying great times on vacations in the different spots her Navy officer uncle was stationed. I had even heard about the time they had lobsters in the bathtub. Her cousin recalled that time, too.
“I remembered what fun that was,” she said later. “And memories are what Christmas is all about.”
Yeah, and live crustaceans on a 600 mile drive. We were leaving that evening, with a stop planned for the halfway point. Could I find a “pet-friendly” hotel? Would they be allowed to use the pool?
Happily, the lobster company gave me just enough information so that I was able to keep them kicking all the way to Fargo. From there, my son the chef took over.
And the foursome became Lobster Thermidor, served on a Christmas tree-lit table in their warm, friendly home.
And another Christmas tale to share and enjoy.

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