This is the story of The Cat in the Hat and the Almost Christmas Miracle.
You know how Macy’s has a special stuffed animal every year at Christmas? If you spend a certain amount of money, you can buy it for a nominal amount, limited edition, a collector’s item sort of thing. They do it every year, or they did, I don’t know if they are this year, but in 1995 their stuffed toy was Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat. It was about 2 ½ ft tall, and it came with a miniature copy of the book attached to its wrist. It was very cute, but not something that was on my radar until a friend bought it for her boyfriend that year.
It was my son’s first Christmas, he was 6 months old, and he and I went over to her place to visit one afternoon several weeks before the big day. He became completely enchanted with this toy, he wouldn’t let go of it the entire time we were there. Next thing I knew, my friend and I were on our way to the closest Macy’s to find one of these toys for my son for Christmas. It turned out to be a greater challenge than we had anticipated. It seemed that there were none left in the store. We ran from department to department, until we finally tracked one down in the men’s fragrance department, THE last one.
My son was so excited to see it sitting there on Christmas morning, and from that day on, they were inseparable. When my son could speak, the toy simply became known as “CAT”, and he went everywhere with us, even on a trip to Ireland when he was 2. Needless to say, CAT went through the washing machine several hundred times, and after a while, he started to look a little beat up. Not exactly falling apart, but well-loved, worn and faded.
When my son was 5, I came up with the brilliant idea to replace the old cat with a new one. It would be a Christmas miracle! Santa would return CAT to his original beautiful state, a better version of himself, to be loved for many years to come. I scoured eBay, and finally found the same 1995 Macy’s toy, in mint condition, and bought it immediately. I was so excited!
On Christmas Eve, I snuck into the room my son was sleeping in at my mother’s house. Total stealth mission, gently pulling the old CAT out from his arms, and replacing it with the “new” one. He didn’t wake up, it went perfectly. I hid the old one in a closet in the guest room, and happily went to sleep feeling like a little kid myself, I was so very excited to see what my son thought of our Christmas “miracle.”
I woke up several hours later to the sound of my son screaming. I ran in to see what was wrong, as he held out his CAT to me, saying that something had happened, this wasn’t his CAT. I knelt down next to him and told him my story about it being a Christmas miracle. He didn’t buy it, at all. He said NO, this was NOT his CAT. I insisted that yes, of course it was, Santa had just cleaned him up, gave him new eyes, and made him look like new again. He was still skeptical, but he seemed to start to accept what I was saying.
Many hours later, after all of the presents had been opened, I was sitting in the living room playing board games with the family, when my son walked into the room with a huge smile on his face, holding both CATs. He exclaimed, “See Mommy, I told you this wasn’t my CAT, this is MY CAT, Santa brought a new one and now CAT has a friend!” I was devastated for a moment, feeling like a complete failure at pulling off the magical Christmas “miracle,” but then realized how completely ecstatic he was to now have 2 CATs, and that he had been right in knowing that the new CAT was not his CAT. So I just went with his decision that Santa had simply played a trick on him and hid his old CAT for him to find later. The magic I had hoped to create for him hadn’t happened, but he was happy, and that’s all that mattered.
For a while after that both CATs were taken with us everywhere, but eventually I persuaded him to let the old CAT rest, and just bring the new CAT with us when we traveled. So, the new CAT also got to visit Ireland with us as well when my son was 9, and everywhere else we went for the next year or so, until my son decided that he was too old for such things.
Both CATs are still with us, packed away in boxes now, because I couldn’t possibly part with things that had brought my child so much joy for so many years. I would imagine that few stuffed animals have been as well-loved, and as well-traveled, as these two. They’re also a good reminder that when playing Santa, you really need to be smarter than a five year old.