It all started with a cat. The cat set the scene. The memory starts with me on my way home from work wondering what to get hubby for Christmas. We were living in Kensington then, close to Berkeley and barely managed to pay the rent on a very expensive apartment. Still, we were so happy with so little material wealth and the apartment did have a great view of the city across the bay and a fine bakery across the streeet. Hubby was and, still is a cat person. The guy on the street assured me that the cat he was selling was the best cat anyone could wish for. I took the cat home in a cardboard box, hubby seemed pleased enough until he picked up the cat and the cat spat and hissed at him. I said he, the cat needed time and so we let it be.
We pretty much forgot about the cat then because we were busy getting the apartment ready for Christmas. My mother in law and hubby's step father were coming to spend a couple of days with us. Anxious to impress my newly acquired mother in law with my cooking skills I planned an extensive menu that included the traditional (for Ireland) Turkey, Ham, Potatoes, Celery in White Sauce, Gravy, and on we go. I cleaned the place twice over, hubby washed the car, we chose our best Bossa Nova albums for the occasion, bought a tree that touched the ceiling. We were going to be so sophisticated and show mother in law and step father how well we were doing with the apartment and the view and the cat. We looked great too, we held hands all the time and kissed and stood at the window and watched the city across the bay magically turn into towering meringues in the blue haze of the morning light.
The cat stands out in this memory because when mother in law came rushing in with excitement she picked up the cat because she happens to be a cat person like hubby. What happened next still jars in my mind because I wonder if it really did or was it all a nightmare. The cat peed on mother in law. Mother in law tossed the cat into the air and it landed on the tree. The tree fell over. Step father, who apparently was handy with such things managed to fix the tree. Mother in law had to throw her clothes away. I peeled potatoes, possibly two bags. Mother in law laughed and said she never saw so many mashed potatoes in her life but I silently thought the Mount Everest replica in the middle of the table looked smashing, a work of art. And, I figure, for all the money we paid for that apartment, the oven could have been more reliable. I am sure I got the timing right for the turkey but when I took it out it looked succulent and nicely burnished but two minutes after that it collapsed like a flat tire on the side of the road and hot air rose in swirls from its hind quarters. But I didn't mind really. I was young, the tree was standing, I was in love. The view from the window was intact. The memory solid of new love strangely tang in my mouth.
But, let me add, don't ever buy a cat from a nice man on the street for your hubby for Christmas because someone told me afterwards, months later that these cats are likely to be feral and you know you can't teach a feral cat new tricks. Mother in law said that.