From the time that he was an infant, Oliver knew that he was different from the other two youngsters in the house. For one, he was adopted. He had no memory of his mother, and he had never met his father. And although he liked his adoptive parents, they just didn't seem to have much time for him anymore. Wayne was a truck driver who was often away from home for long periods of time. And Susan, although she tried her best, just couldn't spend much quality time with him these days. Her own two children, Patricia and William, were 3 and 4 years old now, and they kept her extremely busy.
So lately, Oliver had been spending a lot of time by himself. He really loved the old farmhouse they lived in, and over the past several years he had explored every inch of the old place. His favorite room in the house was the dusty old attic. He would spend hours up there – day dreaming, playing, exploring, or intently looking out the small attic window. He especially liked that window since it faced the river.
That old blue river in front of the old farmhouse was Oliver's second favorite place in the whole world. If he wasn't up in the attic, he was down by the river. He would sit on its muddy bank for hours – listening to the birds, sunbathing, napping, watching the ducks and the geese floating by, and observing the occasional fisherman. Sometimes, these fishermen would even wave to him.
Oliver also had one other favorite pastime - waiting in the long gravel driveway for Grandma Betty. She was the actual owner of the old farmhouse, and she lived in a big city far away. But almost every other weekend, she would drive up to visit the family, to cook for them, and to lovingly tend her vegetable garden in back of the house.
Oliver loved Grandma Betty more than any of the others, and he really looked forward to her visits. He even somehow seemed to know exactly when she would arrive. Whenever Oliver ran out to the driveway and stared down the old dirt road, Susan would soon spot him there and yell out, "Grandma Betty's on the way, everybody! Grandma Betty's on the way!"
Grandma Betty's arrival and weekend stays always brought tons of joy, laughter, and wonderful home cooking to everyone in that old farmhouse. All of her meals were delicious, but Oliver especially loved her fried chicken. And Grandma Betty always made sure that Oliver got an extra helping of that dish.
She would even hug, kiss, and tuck Oliver into his bed every night, while she was there in that old farmhouse by the river that he loved so much.
But a month before Christmas, everything suddenly changed for poor Oliver. Grandma Betty arrived one snowy Friday afternoon with the news that she was retiring from her city job and moving back to the old farmhouse for good.
Everyone was extremely happy. The Johnson family had finally saved enough money to buy their own home; and Susan, Wayne, Patricia, and William could now hardly wait to move out. They had always wanted to live in a city.
Oliver, however, did not share in any of their enthusiasm or excitement. Why would he ever want to move away from here? This was the only home he had ever known. This was the only home he had ever loved.
When moving day finally arrived, Oliver hid in the dusty old attic and pouted. No one could coax him out, not even Grandma Betty. She finally had to drag him out to the van.
And as she cheerfully waved good-bye to them all, Oliver sat very glumly in the back seat of that van- very sadly watching his wonderful home, his treasured attic window, and his beloved blue river vanishing before his very eyes.
As the other family members laughed, joked, and excitedly talked about their brand new home, Oliver sat silently, growing more miserable with every passing mile.
First, the family headed down the old dirt road along the river; then they crossed the river on a steel bridge; then they got on a huge four-lane highway. They seemed to travel onward forever.
Eventually, they turned off the highway and headed down a new blacktop road. This road led them to a huge town. Finally, they pulled into the driveway of their brand new home.
As the rest of the family excitedly carried boxes into the house, Oliver slowly got out of the van and glumly looked all around. Their new home was located on a very busy street, in a brand new subdivision. It looked exactly like every other house on the block. And worst of all, there was no river to be seen anywhere.
Oliver immediately knew that he could never live here. Without hesitating another second, he slowly walked away from the new house towards the center of town.
That had been two days ago. Although he had now finally stopped for the night, Oliver had been walking ever since. He had walked straight through that town and down that blacktop road. He had marched on and on until he had reached that highway. And it had scared him half to death. There were too many cars, trucks, and buses racing down it.
But Oliver knew he had to get home. He just had to. So he had kept right on walking in the tall, snow-covered grass by its edge.
Oliver had reached the steel bridge and his treasured blue river hours ago, yet he had still pushed on. He knew that it couldn't be much further now, but he was hungry, afraid, and extremely tired. And it was getting bitterly cold in these deep dark woods.
Oliver finally decided to stop and rest – just for a bit, and he exhaustedly sprawled out on the ground under a huge evergreen bush. He was now cold, frightened, and extremely anxious.
But just as Oliver closed his weary eyes, a loud fierce growl startled him awake. All he could see in the dark moonless night were two enormous yellow eyes; and, even worse, he heard another terrible growl.
Oliver jumped up and ran. He ran for his life. With his heart pounding and his legs almost giving out, he ran, and ran, and ran.
After about an hour, he finally had the courage to glance behind him, and he now sighed with relief. Whatever had been chasing him through the deep, dark, snowy forest had finally disappeared. And it was almost dawn once more.
Although totally exhausted now, Oliver marched on. He walked for several hours more.
Finally, he climbed a small wooded hill and now spotted his beloved old home. Total joy and excitement immediately filled his entire chilled body.
Oliver raced around the old farmhouse as fast as he could, straight toward the backdoor, straight into the kitchen – straight into the loving arms of Grandma Betty.
"Oliver! My dear, dear, Oliver! Thank God you're safe! Where in the world have you been? The entire family and most of their neighbors are out looking for you! You've scared us all to death. I must call Susan immediately!"
Several hours later, after a hot soapy bath and a big helping of Grandma Betty's fried chicken, a very tired, but extremely happy Oliver slowly headed up the staircase to his very familiar, very cozy, very warm bed. But on the way, he stopped at the doorway of Grandma Betty's room, just to check on her.
She saw him silently standing there, and she quickly called out to him.
"Come here, Oliver! Come here, my sweet, sweet, Oliver! You've had quite a harrowing journey and you must still be scared to death. Why don't you sleep here with me tonight, my dear?"
Without hesitating one second, Oliver jumped on the bed and snuggled very close to Grandma Betty. As she smothered him with hugs and kisses, Oliver never felt safer or more loved in his entire life than he did at this very moment. And although he couldn't speak, he did find a way to show his love to Grandma Betty.
Oliver began purring as loudly as he could. Although cats can't speak, they can truly purr your ear off when they're happy.
And, there is no happier cat in the entire world than the cat that's cuddled up with the person it loves, in its own home.
And this, as they say, is a true story about a very determined being that wanted nothing more than most of us yearn for each and every year - to be Home For the Holidays.