Once upon a time there lived in the south of France a lovely family: a momma, a papa and three young children. One of Momma and Papa’s greatest pleasures in life was inviting friends and neighbors to parties. (This story may begin like a fairy tale, but it’s actually a true story, recounted to me by an old friend, an American who grew up in France.)
As the last guests left a particularly festive party one evening, the clock had long since struck midnight. Momma and Papa, a little tipsy after having imbibed a bit too much wine, were feeling quite exhausted. Looking around at all the platters, glasses and assorted post-celebration debris, they were in no condition to start cleaning up. They were ready for bed.
Before going upstairs, Papa turned to the couple’s au pair, a young Spanish girl who had begun helping look after the children only a couple of weeks earlier. “Maria,” said Papa, “don’t worry about the mess. Please just put the cake (le gâteau) in the refrigerator and get some rest. We’ll tackle the cleanup in the morning.”
Maria, who still had a thing or two to learn about the French language, thought this was a strange request, but did her best to comply.
Luckily, in the wee hours of the morning, Papa awoke, feeling very thirsty. Sleepily, he went downstairs to the kitchen, where he was surprised to see the cake still sitting on the counter. When he opened the refrigerator, looking for something cold to drink, he was even more surprised — startled, actually — to see the family cat (gato, in Spanish) curled up on the middle shelf, shivering.
In the morning, Maria — to her surprise — learned that gâteau is not how the French pronounce gato.
So el gato got to enjoy eight more lives, the children each got to enjoy a slice of gâteau for breakfast, and just like a fairy tale, this true story has a happy ending!
* The cat in this photo is our recently deceased Shadow, a fabulous feline, named in part for her coloring and in part for the fact that she always followed Sandra around the house, not a common feline trait.