Mitzi the Weimaraner had fur the color of soft ashes. Mitzi lived across the street and, according to Mrs. H, was a dog that possessed the gracefulness of a gazelle and the same chutzpah and charm as her owners, the Haskvitzes. The Haskvitzes celebrated Hanukkah and during past holiday seasons, Blossom could never predict exactly when, a menorah would appear in Mitzi’s window. The menorah had eight candles that were lit one, then two, then three and so on over the course of many nights. A ninth candle right in the candelabrum’s center burned every single night. This whole ritual somehow made Blossom’s Christmas complete.
Tonight was Christmas Eve and the Haskvitzes had just lit the first candle on the menorah. Snowflakes dotted the gray sky. The combination of the multi-colored Christmas lights running round the Hatchers’ living room window and, across the street, the menorah with its first glowing candle gave Blossom a feeling of comfort and hope for good things to come to Tulip Drive.
That evening Blossom scratched at the door to be let out. She then raced around to the side of the house where the chain link fence faced the street. “Happy Hanukkah, Mitzi!” she called.
Mitzi galloped out to the edge of her front yard. “Shalom, Blossom!” she barked. “And Merry Christmas to you! I love, love, love celebrating The Festival of Lights. But enough kibitzing. I’m off to beg for latkes and open my first gift.”
“Your first gift?” Blossom meowed.
“Yes, my family gives gifts for each night of Hanukkah. Tonight is the first night of eight.”
“Eight gifts!” Blossom felt the fur ruffle up her back. She wouldn’t get eight gifts if the Hatchers won a shopping spree at Petsmart.
Mitzi’s nose pinched up in puzzlement. “Well, you Christmas cats do all your celebrating on one day. Surely you get at least eight gifts.”
There was something in the way Mitzi had woofed the word surely that made Blossom casually bat a paw and meow, “Eight gifts? Try twelve.” Blossom watched Mitzi let out a surprised yip and run back to her house, leaving Blossom to ponder over the Santa-sized fib she’d just told. Yet, excitement still swirled like snowflakes in the night. Blossom had heard first-paw from Riley, her best feline friend forever, that Santa was delivering some howlingly good gifts this year. The thought made her toes absolutely tingle for Christmas morning!
Christmas morning arrived. With the Hatchers’ home smelling of pancakes, Blossom admired the new cat condo she’d found near the tree. Santa must have worked half the night getting her gift down the chimney. The condo, indeed, was top-of-the-line with enclosed sleeping quarters roomy enough to turn around in and spacious enough so that Chip, Blossom’s favorite felt toy mouse, could join her. The condo had stair steps and perches and carpeting. A cat could not have asked for more.
After Blossom had placed Chip just so in the cat condo’s shelter and tried out a few new sleeping positions, sprawling out on her back, then sides, she headed to the Hatchers’ living room window. The second candle had been lit on the Haskvitz menorah. Outside at dusk the clouds looked heavy enough to burst. Blossom stood at the fence, waiting for Mitzi to show. Mitzi shot from her front door and down to the curb, carrying something in her jaws, which she let plop in the powdery snow.
“Tell me about your Christmas, Blossom. What did Santa bring you?” Mitzi was all eyes and ears.
“Well, I can’t drag it out here, it’s so huge.” Blossom’s whiskers quivered. “But I got a cat condo.” Blossom sat back smugly, trying to hold in her boastfulness until her eyes almost crossed and she feared her head might spin. “And it’s fully carpeted, has two flights of stairs and perches that face south and west.”
“A cat condo!” Mitzi’s nose twitched. “Well, mazel tov to you, Blossom!”
Did Mitzi’s nose twitch indicate just a touch of resentment? Even though that wasn’t really Mitzi’s style, Blossom wanted to think so. Because the cat condo, which she loved almost as much as Chip, was all she got for Christmas. “What about your Hanukkah?” Blossom meowed.
“Look, a menorah toy,” Mitzi barked, picking the dropped item out of the snow with her teeth. Then she let it fall again, placing a paw on it. “Listen. It even squeaks.” Mitzi pressed her paw to the menorah, making it wheeze. “Sort of schmaltzy but see the rainbow of colors, it’s almost a work of art.” She picked it up again so Blossom could get a better look.
It was a work of art, thought Blossom. And would look stunning as an accent in her new cat condo. The menorah was made of rubber, the really squishy kind. Each candle was a different color. There was no description for it other than meow-velous.
“Well, must schlep myself back to the house and schmooze with the cousins,” Mitzi warbled through clenched teeth and trotted off with her toy.
Blossom scratched at the back door to be let back in, thinking about Mitzi’s menorah toy. It was awesome but the cat condo was still a much better gift.
The next day when the third candle had been lit, Blossom paced about her cat condo, the new carpet smell curling around her nose like pipe cleaner. She’d told Mitzi about her cat condo and now she had no more gifts to show off. But she had to tell some tale to Mitzi. She hauled her haunches to her toy box, looking for ideas.
As the sky grew grayer, Blossom ran out to the chain link with her old red pom-pom. Hopefully from a distance Mitzi couldn’t tell that it was older than Blossom was. “Look at my new pom-pom, Mitzi! I love pom-poms and this one bounces really far. I think the yarn has rubber in it. What did you get?” Blossom asked, even though five plump mice couldn’t distract Blossom from what sat atop Mitzi’s ash-colored head.
“How do you like my dreidel hat?” Mitzi tipped her head from side to side.
Blossom didn’t say so but in that moment she wanted a plush dreidel hat more than she had wanted the menorah squeaky toy.
“Too schlocky?” arfed Mitzi. But before Blossom could meow well, maybe a tad, Mitzi said, “Well, must go now. Time to break out the real dreidels.” Mitzi tossed her dreidel clad head, creating a whir of blues and gold. “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel I made you out of clay,” she yodeled as she pranced off.
Blossom felt the steam puff from her ears. Mitzi just had to know that her dreidel hat was not one whisker schlocky. Didn’t she? In fact, Blossom thought it was perhaps the most beautiful dreidel hat on earth. One could drown in its plushness.
Blossom’s eyes followed Mitzi as she trotted through the door. What was going on? Mitzi had always been a good friend. Now Blossom felt like she was in a one-up competition with Mitzi, which was something, according to Mr. H, that upstanding people did not do.
That evening as Blossom sat staring at Chip in her cat condo and wondering what her next gift to show Mitzi would be, a meower of an idea flashed in her face. Chip would be the gift. Mitzi had never seen him, Blossom had never meowed of him. And Chip really was Blossom’s favorite, even though his once lemon-colored felt was now a dismal shade of Grey Poupon. And one of his beady eyes dangled from his head.
Next night, the fourth candle had been lit. Blossom went over in her head her rehearsed fib about Chip being the newest and best cat toy on the market when really, he now resembled something one would pluck from a vacuum cleaner bag.
Mitzi went first. “Blossom, see my new blue chew toy. It even has the Star of David on it.” Mitzi gazed upon her gift with wistful ash-colored eyebrows. “It’s so beautiful, I don’t know if I should chew it or just admire it. Oy, what a dilemma. Let me see what Santa brought you.”
After Blossom described all of Chip’s bells and whistles, which she could not demonstrate because actually there were none, she meowed, “Did I mention my cat condo has a sleeping shelter with an arched entry?” As Blossom bragged, she felt her ears flicking with envy over the beautiful blue chew toy. She sure as shellfish knew what she’d do with that blue treasure. She’d give the Star of David chew toy a place of honor in her cat condo, like people did with crucifixes and vintage posters. Why did Hanukkah and all its gift giving have to go on for days and days? It was totally not fair.
And then a Meow Moment sprung from nowhere, giving Blossom that all-too-familiar need to cringe. Mitzi wasn’t even bragging. Mitzi was just being Mitzi. But Blossom was . . . jealous. Or even worse. Blossom looked at the gray clouds above, wondering if God was observing all this. Because the real fly in the butter was that Blossom wasn’t thankful for what she already had. And, according to Willow, not being grateful was worse bad manners than being jealous.
Next night, the fifth candle had been lit. The glow of Mitzi’s menorah stretched all the way out onto the snowy street. The flames created little halos about each candle. Blossom watched from her window as soft snow fell, blanketing the ground like a white cotton tree skirt. She sighed. The scene was truly magical. But she must head out to see what new trinket Mitzi had received this evening. Blossom, however, would lie no more. She was now a cat with a conscience. She was also a cat out of clever ideas.
Mitzi came a-galloping out her front door, plowing through the fresh snow, leaving paw prints criss-crossing all over the yard. “Happy holidays,” she barked to Blossom. Mitzi frolicked in her yard, leaping and licking at the air, trying to catch snowflakes with her tongue.
“What gift did you get today?” Blossom didn’t really want to know. And yet she did.
“This snow is better than opening gifts!” Mitzi howled, then stopped short as if she’d burnt her tongue or stubbed a toe. Her mug turned serious as she trotted to the edge of her yard and peered across the street. “Blossom, do you know what I love most about this time of year?”
“Opening gifts for eight days straight?” Blossom meowed.
“No, you silly mensch!” Mitzi crowed, then turned her nose to the snow-filled sky as if deep in thought. “I love looking out my window at night and seeing the colored lights all a-twinkle on your house and in your trees. I think that’s what Heaven must look like.”
Blossom felt the white flakes light on her back. The envy and ill feelings tightening her ears to knots fell away like loose tree tinsel. “I feel the same way when I look out my window and see your menorah,” she purred.