“And this,” Youhei explained carefully to Chi, raising her up to see the table and its contents, “is Christmas cake.”
The cake was a strawberry shortcake. In the middle of the cake stood five strawberries in a circle, cut to resemble a grove of fir trees. A small sugar Santa waved gaily from the center. Of utmost interest to Chi, however, was all the cream frosting. Yum!
“But that’s for later,” Mom admonished them both.
Youhei let Chi down. “After presents?” Youhei asked, voice solemn, face lit with hope.
Dad grumbled something rueful to himself, but he was smiling.
“After presents,” Mom agreed.
They pulled out a few gifts, and soon the family was engrossed in a small gift exchange.
“I remember the first time your father took me out for Christmas,” Mom said as she handed Dad a gift.
“I knew she was serious about me when she agreed.” The two shared a sentimental smile.
“You mean because you skipped presents with your mom and dad - ?”
The question and Youhei’s voice faded in the background. There was only the Christmas cake, the beautiful, delicious delightful-looking Christmas cake.
It took a couple attempts to clamber up the chair. From there, Chi could barely, just barely, reach her paws to the table’s edge. Unfortunately, this left her stretched between the two. If she released the table, she’d fall, but she couldn’t - quite - find the purchase to pull herself up.
“Chi!” Mom scolded. She scooped her up.
“Why don’t we open Chi’s present?” Dad asked.
Mom held Chi while Youhei presented her gift.
Is it, Chi thought with wonder, all for me?
It dangled and curled and drew the eye in, exciting as any Christmas cake. Mom allowed her to leap free, but just as soon as Chi subdued one end, the other would wind free and uncurl.
“Ah,” said Youhei, “Chi, that’s not quite - ” He took a small step forward. Under his socked foot crackled - more presents!
There ensued a fierce and fearsome battle. It was not without casualties.
“So much for saving any wrapping paper for next year,” Dad said.
“Chi, look,” Mom entreated. “Now that you’re tired, don’t you want your new pet bed?”
She gestured, and Chi followed the motion of her hands. There - it looked so perfect, so peaceful. It was just the place for resting her paws, weary and worn out from war. She patted its surface, pleasantly firm, and curled up into its warm embrace.
“But - ” Dad said, dismayed.
“Told you she’d prefer the box to the bed,” Mom said, amusement lacing her voice.
“Chi,” said Youhei.
“I know, son.” Dad patted Youhei on the shoulder. “I know. Here, let’s set up your - ”
“She’s already asleep, but I wanted to play with the ribbon and wrapping paper some more!” Youhei burst out.
Dad’s shoulders slumped. “This is why I prefer New Years,” he told Mom.
Later that night, after Chi had rested and Youhei had also bedded down for a short nap, they served the Christmas cake. Even Chi got a generous helping, though limited only to the frosting-cream.
Looking from her humans to her presents to her half-full bowl of cream, Chi decided she knew one thing for sure: Christmas was amazing. She hoped they could have it again tomorrow.