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Posted Thursday, December 22, 2011, at 6:04 PM


By Rayla Stewart Hogue

Special to the Daily Statesman

The skirt under the tree moved slowly, stealthily. Then the other side of the skirt moved. It stopped as soon as she pointed it out to the others. As they continued to watch there were subtle movements--here, there, and then nowhere. Watching closely she caught a flicker of movement--just the tip of a tail. Something was under the tree skirt, lying in wait for the unsuspecting.

She decided to ignore the moving tree skirt and was doing a fairly good job of it. She couldn't overcome the feeling that she was being watched--stalked even. Glancing around the room she noted the dogs sleeping near the door. There was no on watching her, but it still felt as if someone was.

There was a slight movement of the tree skirt again. She glanced over and was startled by huge blue eyes. They speared her and held her under their spell. Slowly, barely visible movement became a gray paw quickly snagging a ribbon from a package and dragging it beneath the tree skirt. She watched with bated breath.

Next she saw the tip of a gray tail slice the air around the tree skirt. Then an eye appeared again. Another paw appeared grabbing further up on the ribbon being pulled under the tree skirt. Suppressing a giggle she continued to watch.

The long curling ribbon was slowly being reeled in by the silent thief under the tree. First one paw, then the other grasping farther and farther up the ribbon. At last there was no more ribbon to be pulled under the tree skirt when the paw reached out again. The paw tugged, but nothing moved--the package was heavy--too heavy to move.

The paw got a new grip on the ribbon; a second coming to join it as the paws tugged. The package started to move and then fell back into its place. A tail flicked out from under the tree skirt. The paws gained a better grip. A huge tug still failed to budge the package.

The tree skirt began to move--it seemed a fight of some sort was going on beneath the tree. The paws disappeared beneath the skirt. Punches appeared at many points under the skirt; first one direction then another; and sometimes multiply places at once. Paws erupted from underneath the skirt grasping at the ribbons, tugging on the package . . . tugging . . . tugging . . . but not moving the package. A head appeared from under the skirt and then disappears again.

After the appearance of major fighting, growling, the skirt puffing out, a tail switching in and out she couldn't keep from laughing at the frustrated cat. Blue eyes beamed out from under the tree skirt scorching her with their intensity. She covered her face to hide her laughter. The long, sleek, champagne grey cat flowed out from under the tree skirt, stopping to lick a paw, then a minute speck of dust from his hindquarters before he continued to emerge into the room.

His slashing tail cut the air about them as he stalked toward the package whose ribbon still trailed under the tree skirt. One swipe of his paw and the offending ribbon bounced back to the package. Burning his ferocious stare toward the offending package he lifted his paw to accost it . . . .


He whipped around to look at his mother with ice blue innocence that only a child can accomplish when caught in mid-naughtiness. Leaping up to her lap he rubbed his cheeks and jowls against her, purring, melting her with his beautiful blue eyes and champagne grey fur. She couldn't resist and began petting him; telling him he is such an adorable young man!

He leaves her lap, meandering toward a chair beside the tree. As he approaches the package beside the chair, one paw slashes the air over it. "Mew!" is all he hears as he leaps into the chair, pinning the package with his icy stare "I will deal with you later! You are mine! Anticipate the torture I have planned for you--when mom isn't here. Count your days."

Christmas is often like that for all of us. We attempt to discover what surprises lie under the tree--anticipating the presents . . . the joy . . . the excitement of opening presents. We find waiting and patience difficult to attain.

Anticipating the opening of packages; anticipating the family gatherings; anticipating our celebrations of the coming of the Christ child can be exhausting. Anticipation can lead to short tempers as we overstimulate our senses. However, anticipation can be the blessing of knowing that something wonderful is going to happen, trusting and waiting, safe within the knowledge that anticipation will turn to fruition and completion.

God as we anticipate Christmas--the giving and receiving of gifts--we know within us that your gift to us is the best gift for which we could ever hope. We thank you God for your gift of life, love, and eternal hope. So be it. Amen.

P.S. Thanks for giving us our kitten impishness too. Help us to remember to play as well as pray.

İRayla Stewart Hogue


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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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