Leave the Reindeer, Take the Cannoli

So, over a decade ago, when i was still married to my second, and my weedlings were still little, my ex and i used to put a lot of effort into decorating the house for the holidays. We strung up lights, suspended a star, and, for a while, had lit-up deer for the yard. Now, maybe it was because we bought them on clearance. Maybe it was because we got one that had been dropped. Or maybe it was because we are Italian. But one of those deer could never keep his head on.

The very first night we put them up – One curled up like a momma, and one standing and animated to bob his head up and down like he was eating – we were delighted at how pretty they were. Fancy holiday decor for a young family! And flashier than anyone else on the street! We were so proud! We left them aglow all night… And woke to a decapitated Prancer with his head still moving on the ground beside him. It was the stuff of childhood nightmares.

We turned them off and spent most of an hour reattaching Prancer’s noggin.

Back then, we had a lovely tradition of spending an evening driving to various neighborhoods to look at other people’s holiday displays. We would make up little papers that said “Elf Award” and stick them in the mail boxes of people who had especially good decorations and lights. Christmas carols blaring and hot chocolate in hand, it was always a good time. And that year, we made sure to leave our winter extravaganza up while we went around admiring others’.

While we were gone, Prancer apparently got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Again on the lawn, Prancer’s head was dancing next to his body. It seems silly to say so about a lawn ornament, but it really was an unnerving sight. We stuck the head back on and turned off the lights. Next morning? You guessed it… Sleeping with the fishes.

We were starting to get seriously creeped out by the Reindeer Godfather’s visits. It was time to get inventive. Using wire, we twistied and sewed Prancer’s head to his body, leaving just enough wiggle room to allow for the animation. MacGyver himself couldn’t have done a better job. That night and the next few, we were able to sit outside and enjoy the prettiest decorations Lowe’s had to offer. It snowed, and the movement of the lights became all sparkly and magical. This was a winter lawn at its finest. Then Marlon Brando paid another visit.

I half expected to see bloodstains on the snow where Prancer’s head lay twitching. It was horrifying.

It became ritual: We would light up the yard every night, and in the morning, go out and reattach Prancer’s head. It was a running joke and the subject of family bets, how many nights would his head stay on before the Godfather would visit. When, in January, we took the decorations down, we kept the deer. We figured we’d come up with a way to keep Prancer’s head on by the next year.

We never did.

We re-headed Prancer regularly for many years. It became a holiday tradition (Certainly no worse a tradition than plum pudding.) And it also became part of our family mythos.

Many years later, while cleaning out the garage, my ex decided to finally throw in the towel and gave Prancer away. Since he was free, there was no need to disclose Prancer’s embarrassing secret. As it turned out, the deer had a different idea. He outed himself. As his new owner was driving off with him tucked into a pile of finds in the back of a pickup, he lost his head yet again. As we watched with equal parts horror and humor, Prancer’s head bounced down the street at the end of a string of lights, makeshift wire fasteners dangling in the breeze.

We still talk about poor Prancer every Christmas. We laugh and shake our heads. We do impressions of his head going ‘plop’ in the snow…

And then we watch cartoons so we don’t have nightmares.

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