Oatmeal for the Reindeer’s.
It was Christmas and I was four. I LOVED Christmas morning at my house. A couple of weeks before Christmas my mother and I would scan every Christmas tree lot for the perfect tree. She would always get it flocked so it was pure white by the time we got it into the living room of our condo in La Habra. Her decorations included red Christmas lights, large red velvet bows and red satin balls, and when you lit it up at night, it was really something to see. Not in a gaudy sort of way, but in a magical, almost cover of Homes and Gardens kind of way. There was garland on the staircase. Santas throughout the house. And one of those Twelve Days of Christmas trees that stood up on the end table. It had pieces of chocolate in each of the twelve days. Every morning I would wake up looking forward to that day’s piece of chocolate. On Christmas Eve we would sit together and listen to Christmas carols sung by the Supremes, drink hot chocolate and just watch the red lights blink. I love the memories of Christmas as a child.
On this particular year we had set out our milk and cookies like we usually did and I was getting ready to go upstairs to bed when I had a horrible thought.
“We forgot the reindeer!”
“Mom, we forgot the reindeer. They must be hungry too.”
“Okay. Um…how about if we feed them some oats then?” my mother said, thinking on her feet.
“Okay!” I was so excited. I bet no one else had remembered to feed the reindeer. I was about to go down in Santa history and make it on top of the “Good” list. I would live in North Pole infamy! I followed my mom into the kitchen and into our walk in pantry and she came back with a large round cylinder of Quaker Oatmeal. Now we’re talking! She opened the cylinder and took a large bowl out of the cupboard and poured the dry oats into it. What is she doing?
“Mom, you have to cook it first,” I told her, amazed that she hadn’t thought of it.
“Stacy…are you serious?”
“Mom, they don’t want to eat it like that!” My mother sighed and took out a pot from the cupboard, and proceeded to make the oatmeal for my non-existent reindeers.
After the oatmeal was cooked she poured it into the large bowl she had used earlier.
“Mom, they can’t all eat out of the same bowl,” I said to her.
“What would you like me to do, give them each their own bowl?” she said jokingly.
“Yes.” My mother at this time was starting to lose patience with me and was ready for me to go to bed.
“Fine. So she pulled out our bowls from the cupboard and of course being as there were only the two of us living there, we didn’t have anywhere close to enough bowls. So I made her use the rest of her pots.
“Don’t forget Rudolph. He’s my favorite,” I told her proudly.
“I won’t… forget… Rudolph.”
After we got the oatmeal separated into nine separate bowls she was going to leave them in the kitchen for the reindeer.
“Reindeers can’t come inside, silly,” I told her. She was no longer smiling. I made her take all nine bowls of oatmeal and leave them outside in front of our condo. Then we sang the Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer song together until I was completely satisfied.
“There was Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer, and Vixen. Comet, and Cupid, and Donner, and Blitzen. But do you recall the most famous reindeer of them all? Rudolf the red nose reindeer. Had a very shiny nose. Like a light bulb. And if you ever saw him…..” My mother and I sang all the way upstairs and into bed. I was happy.
But, I couldn’t sleep. Now I knew for a fact that Santa didn’t bring ALL my Christmas presents and that my mother would be downstairs wrapping them right after she put me to bed. So I got out of bed and did my best “Indian Walk.” The Indian Walk is when you can walk in total silence. Not a footstep can be heard. Not one sound. I Indian Walked across my bedroom and down the stairs. But apparently I had not yet perfected my technique because once I got to step three from the top I heard, “Stacy, go to bed. NOW!” And back up to bed I went. But I didn’t give up after one try. Giving up is for the weak. I’m part Navajo. We come from a proud people. Giving up is unheard of! So back down the stairs I snuck. Did I mention the Navajo was on my mother’s side? Considering she’s ½ and I’m only a ¼ I bet you can guess who won most battles.
I don’t know what time it was before I finally fell asleep but when my mother used to tell me this story, and it was pretty damn late. After she had wrapped all the gifts from her and Santa and put them under the tree, she took small bites out of the cookies and then drank the milk. After that she went outside and scooped a small amount of oatmeal from each of the nine bowls we set out for the reindeers into a larger bowl, so that I would think they ate it. To hear her tell the story, she was being whipped and beaten by Santa the entire time. But every time she would tell the story, she would tell it with a smile on her face. She loved this story.
The next morning I woke up and ran downstairs and there it was, the white tree with the red lights blinking surrounded by gifts just for me. Just as I was about to dive into the pile I remembered the reindeers. I yelled for my mom to open the door being as the lock was out of my reach, and as she opened it I pushed past her to where the half eaten bowls of oatmeal were. I looked down at them and back up at her and I was beaming.
“Look mom! I told you they would like it!” I was so happy. My mother said I talked about it for days and told anyone who would listen about how I fed Santa’s reindeer. I told my dad, my teachers, all the kids I went to school with, even the woman on the other end of the 911 call I had to make after she tried to kill me for pouring out her favorite perfume just so Barbie could use the bottle as a couch.
Now I get to be mom. And this year my daughter turned three. We watched the old Christmas cartoons, and made sure to set out cookies and milk for Santa. After my husband and I had built her train set and wrapped her presents, we made sure to leave out cookies and milk for Santa. And I added my own twist: a small bowl of motor oil for Santa’s Harley. No way am I feeding a bunch of starving reindeer.
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