Brunello takes the sting out of Bella's curse

Someone asked me the other day if I remembered what I had received for Christmas gifts.
I thought hard for a moment and said I couldn’t recall exactly.
Was this a dementia test, I asked?
No, said the friend, explaining that life seems to be a blur these days — everything’s going by so fast.
I concentrated harder.
It was three months ago, I said, and the Wine Goddess, my wife, always outgives me by two-to-one in small, thoughtful, necessary gifts that I wouldn’t normally purchase myself unless I was headed to Iceland for the rest of my life. Socks, winter hats and gloves, flannel pajamas, etc. Nice surprises are also mixed in. A bottle of wine. A Norman Rockwell tie. A U.S. history book.
But the days of exchanging expensive luxury gifts are long gone. Christmas is for the kids — and has been for awhile.
Then comes Bella, the Bobtail cat stray who the Wine Goddess brought home eight years ago. It’s ironic how I can remember what she got for Christmas.
One day in mid-December I saw a big box sitting in the garage. Since there were no wings on it, I realized it was waiting to be carried up the stairs by the house butler — me. It was one of those electric fireplaces that looks like a piece of furniture. The Wine Goddess bought it for our upstairs bedroom which sometimes gets a wee bit cold at night. She said it was “our” Christmas present to each other. Good, I said, I can cross a blank space off my gift list.

Bella the cat snoozes in front of her fireplace.
Bella the cat snoozes in front of her fireplace.
Well, a day or two went by, and I came home from work and saw that the Wine Goddess had assembled the faux wood, glass and steel structure in the living room. She said she had to see if it worked properly. Bella sat on the couch looking amused. When I saw the remote control in the Wine Goddess’ hand, I knew this gift to ourselves was a bit more technology than I was used to. Heat button? Flame button? I started to perspire.
When she put the electric cord into the wall socket and hit a few buttons, the image of a flame appeared on the fireplace’s glass screen. Another touch of the remote and heat started to flow from the metal grate above the flame. A few more touches, and the screen temperature read 70 degrees. Bella picked up her black head from her black paws and studied the contraption. I should have seen it coming, but once again I was blinded by the strong influence that a speechless, conniving, sleep-all-day feline could have in a two-person household.
“Wow, that looks nice,” I said to my wife. “It’s got a nice, soothing hum. That should help put us to sleep at night.”
I told the Wine Goddess I would transport the new bedroom amenity upstairs to the second floor over the weekend. She smiled appreciatively.
Like I said, that was mid-December and the fireplace remains in the living room. In front of it sits a cozy, fleece bed — not “ours” — but Bella’s. It turns out Bella took a liking to the nice, steady hum and warm heat and adopted the “gift” as her own. She won’t leave the spot, except for din-din that comes twice a day. The Wine Goddess said this is good. Bella, she said, is probably 12 years old, a “senior-senior citizen” in cat years, and needs all the comfort she can get.
I wanted to remind my wife that we are both “senior citizens” and could use some of that warm comfort too. But I didn’t. Instead I opened a bottle of expensive wine, a 2008 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Poggio alle Mura, and poured two glasses — one for her and one for me. It was fabulous. The Wine Goddess praised me for making such an excellent choice, a comment I believed to be for the wine. That’s when Bella raised her tired head and yawned at me.
My Christmas memories are flooding back.