My love affair with reindeer started with this adorable fellow. He was so charming and sweet, and oh, the way he jingle jangled…. His stoic expression belied a festive disposition that lit up any room! He was freakishly adorable, in a mysteriously quiet, baked potato-ish sort of way. He came into my life when I was counting carbs; we were reckless and so in love. I never tired of chasing down and re-attaching his hooves, which seemed to spring off at the slightest breeze.
Our love blossomed and I faithfully supported him in all his outdoors-y pursuits. When he randomly announced one day that he wanted to take up deer hunting, I thought it was odd, by my love never wavered. For chilly mornings in the woods, I insulated his camouflage coveralls with well-read pages of one of my favorite short stories “How to Talk to a Hunter” (Cowboys are My Weakness, Pam Houston) and shopped Cabelas for all the best gear.
Love can make you do crazy things. It can make you climb tree stands, and drag 50lb sacks of corn deep into the woods, scan the forest floor for acorns, scout for rut scrapes on tree trunks… I loved being in the woods, but didn’t understand his extreme over-reaction when I unscrewed the lid on my hot thermos of coffee. In the end, it just didn’t work out, but I was forever changed. Thus began my lifetime love of all things reindeer.
Clearly inspired by my first love, the next reindeer (covertly referred to with friends as “Gen 3”) was big and bold! He too was made out of papier mache, and mostly upcycled materials. Perhaps his most distinguishing feature was that he had elbows & knees & could move his arms & legs, a range of motion that had been significantly lacking in my previous relationships.
Next came along Dasher, with that irresistible reindeer nose made out of a real glass Christmas bulb! He had real antlers made out of real sticks from nature, not that tangly wire stuff! It felt like a real, grown-up relationship. But in time, I realized he had issues. He was insecure & never went anywhere without his seven buddies. And he would hurl himself onto the floor when trying to make a point, shattering the glass bulb nose and just expecting me to pick up all the pieces and replace it (which I of course did, time after time). And he was constantly shedding his antlers and taking for granted that I would just happily re-attach them, as if I hadn’t already spent a long day at the studio, re-attaching wobbly things for other people. I tried everything to stabilize his antlers (and our relationship): hot glue, duct tape, gorilla glue, wire, string… No adhesive was strong enough to mend what had been broken. It was time to move on…
I had been in committed reindeer relationships for so long, I decided to see what else was out there! I joined an online reindeer dating site and was amazed to see that there was a huge population of reindeer lovers just like me – who knew?! Enter Gen 4. This was such a magical time in my life. Everything was in Mardi Gras-like technicolor! The paint was bright and bold and iridescent. We threw fistfuls of glitter in the air and twirled & danced as it wafted down around us. I was invincible and fearless. I will always be thankful for this time in my life, and for all of these festive happy-go-lucky reindeer were a part of it!
Next, let’s be honest, I wasn’t getting any younger, and really needed to downshift a little. I was looking for someone a little more mellow, a little more chill… Someone who had his you-know-what together and wasn’t going to shatter his lightbulb nose or lose his antlers every time he didn’t get his way! I seemed to have found the perfect match in this guy! He was strong and stout – built on a solid foundation, which added to his personality and character! His ego wasn’t ginormous, and his antlers were not unwieldy. They were shimmery and glimmery, and just right! He was expressive and communicative, patient and kind. I think he will always been the one that got away. I don’t know what happened… it wasn’t him, it was me…
Next, enter my Mixed Media reindeer phase. I realized I had a “type” and decided to branch out and explore lots of different mediums. First, I wanted to see what a ceramic reindeer would be like. Oh man, this guy really broke my heart. He was such a show-off… Always grandstanding, so proud of his dancing moves, despite literally having no arms! It’s a long story, but, well, you can see where our relationship ended up. I’ve never even spoken about him.
After that dramatic ending, I needed time to heal and reflect. The next reindeer to enter my life was the polar opposite of that crazy character! Hand drawn on cardboard, he had only two dimensions to his personality. He was either black or white, and a lot of our conversations were about tint and tone. I liked him. He was simple and uncomplicated. But ultimately, we had different ambitions in life, and we wished each other well. I just ran into his sister – I heard he moved to Buffalo.
Then one foggy Christmas eve, it seemed like the right time for a painted reindeer. The mood called for deep, muted colors, with a little shimmer and lots of grays. This was just what I needed at the time and I will always be grateful.
It’s been many years since my encounter with that first lovable papier mache reindeer. I’m older, wiser, and much more grounded. I find myself gravitating towards like-minded reindeer who appreciate simple, organic materials that are inexpensive and easy to work with. Not fussy. Less is more. I have no idea what the future holds, but right now in my life, cardboard is king.