Thursday, November 12, 2009

From the archives: The Christmas Reindeer

Folks: An old column of mine from December, 2006 that may help get you in the holiday spirit...

How the Grinch stole the reindeer - or one homeowner's decorating ploy

By Slim Smith
Tribune Columnist
This is a Christmas story and the first thing you should know is that the Geyer family of Gilbert - Steve, Renee and their children, Gabriella and Sophia - have all the qualities you would expect to find on a Hallmark greeting card.
They are all good-looking, smart, successful, responsible and, above all else, so very nice.
Last weekend found Steve doing what most everybody in his neighborhood does this time of year: Stringing up Christmas lights. In addition to the lights, Steve has a couple of those lighted metal reindeer that are all the rage these days.
Steve is a contractor and is the meticulous sort, so rest assured that his decorations are hung with precision - no detail escapes his attention.
But there is the matter of what to do with the reindeer, and this is the dramatic focal point of our story.
This is also the point where you realize that the Geyers' lives are not always as idyllic as you might assume. For as Steve considers what to do with the reindeer, he is really engaged in a battle of wills and of wits that has been a part of the family's Christmas for almost three years now.
It began when Steve bought his first reindeer and placed them on his lawn near the front door a few weeks before Christmas 2003.
Steve went to get the newspaper one morning to discover the reindeer lying on their sides near the curb. Someone had tried to steal them, he realized. The thief must have been startled and abandoned the spoils by the sidewalk. Steve gathered up his reindeer, put them back in their spot and left an outside light on to discourage would-be thieves.
So last year as he was putting up his decorations, Steve remembered that close call. He had an idea: He would anchor the reindeer about three inches deep, which would surely prevent them from being stolen.
It seemed to Steve the perfect solution. He was so confident, in fact, that he decided to enhance the display, buying a string of blue lights which he laid near the reindeer's feet to simulate water. It was a nice effect, two reindeer posed by a serene pool.
A week later, Steve, his family and another couple went for a drive to see the Christmas lights in a Gilbert neighborhood noted for extravagant displays. They were only gone for a couple of hours.
When the Geyers pulled into their driveway, it was 3-year-old Sophia who first noticed something amiss.
"Look!'' she gasped.
There in the front lawn was a solitary string of lights, still shining like a blue pool. An abandoned pool, in fact.
For a long moment, no one spoke. It was almost as if Steve was trying to remember a curse word appropriate for the situation.
Finally, 6-year-old Gabriella broke the silence.
"The reindeer ran away 'cause daddy didn't feed them," she said.
And everybody convulsed in a fit of laughter.
Everybody except Steve, who was striding toward the pathetic scene, muttering under his breath as he unplugged that pitiful string of blue lights. Somehow, his demeanor made it all the more funny and for almost a year now his buddies have teased Steve unmercifully.
"Look on the bright side," one quipped. "At least they didn't steal your water."
Someone suggested that this year he rig his new reindeer with enough voltage to give any robber a suitable electrical shock.
But Steve is simply too kind, too gentle to consider that.
So what did he do?
I will not tell you how this story turns out. For who knows? In this battle of wills and wits, this may not be the final chapter.
But if you happen to find yourself driving around Gilbert and see a home where the lights are strung in perfect symmetry, look a little closer and you will see a couple of lighted metal reindeer. . .
On the roof.

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