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My Reindeer

Christmas begins early at our house. The tree goes up right after Thanksgiving, a faux pine but a beautiful one, with artificial snow sprinkled about its branches. It’s always a full weekend of hauling boxes, unpacking ornaments, putting out the whimsical Santa that stands in our front hallway, and climbing up on the ladder to put the spindly glass ornament on the top of the tree. But for me, there’s really no Christmas tree without one special ornament, a reindeer with a red nose: Rudolph, of course.

This particular ornament takes me back to my childhood in Wisconsin. I don’t remember not having it. As far in the past as my memory travels, it hung on my parents’ Christmas tree. To see it, I imagine most folks would wonder why it’s so special. It’s made of plastic not gems or even blown glass. It doesn’t sparkle. It has no value. But to me, it’s irreplaceable.

My mother kept it in a green box, in amongst her collection of ornaments. There were many. Some my maternal grandmother crocheted, others my father’s sister and mother made of wax paper and sparkles during the Great Depression. As a small girl, I heard the stories of how my father sold the tiny creations door-to-door, desperate for money to buy food and wood for the stove. I think of the trials many are enduring today, with a rocky economy and so much trouble in the world, and those small tattered stars remind me that there have been tough times before, and always we’ve persevered.

Of all the ornaments, however, for me the reindeer was exceptional. I don’t know why except

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