I held the curtain aside with my nose so I could see out the front window, where the sun had set long ago and had been replaced in the heavens by a full moon.
“I wonder if you are excited for Santa too,” I whispered to the moon, all the while trying to avoid being distracted by the reflection of the floppy eared brown dog in the window. I couldn’t help but imagine if the moon had feelings and how it felt about Christmas.
“I am,” a voice came from behind me. Startled, I quickly turned to see the big orange cat smiling at me.
“Hey Rapi, I was just thinking about the moon,” I told him.
“Oh, I see,” he said hopping up onto the table that sat in front of the window. Mommy had bought the piece of furniture hoping to put all kinds of pretty stuff on it but gave up on the idea because Rapi and the other cats kept jumping up on it and knocking her things off. Poor Mommy.
“I think about the moon a lot too,” Rapi said, motioning towards the clouds that were rapidly blocking the silver orb from view.
One huge snowflake floated down right in front of the window, then another, and before we knew it … a whole family of giant white fluffy snowflakes had begun to descend from the night sky.
“It’s snowing,” Rapi screamed in joy.
“White Christmas,” I barked out to anyone who would listen.
A somewhat chubby grey and white cat and her tuxedo sister came dashing down the stairs to see for themselves, then began to dance in bliss and wonder.
“It’s a white Christmas, Yehudi,” the grey and white cat hollered.
“It is, Bella” the little black cat called back, her eyes sparkling with excitement.
“Wowwie, it’s like we are living inside a snow globe,” a tan lab/beagle mix barked from the sofa.
“Your first Christmas will be a white one Mylo,” I said, trotting over to give the puppy a kiss on the top of his head.
Mommy came dancing out of the kitchen carrying vegan ‘eggnog’ and singing about dreaming of a white Christmas. All of us watched on as Mommy and Daddy hugged then kissed.
“Oh no, now that is going too far, I can’t stand to watch spit swapping,” I said turning to look at Rapi.
“But it’s Christmas, let them have it,” he pleaded.
“C’mon Cindee, just this one time,” Bella joined in.
“I am not having it, break it up you too, that is disgusting!” I barked.
They turned to look at me and laughed. I couldn’t resist and smiled back, and was rewarded with some of the biggest, bestest hugs ever.
“Look what I’ve got,” Daddy said, holding up a small book.
“Storytime!” we all cheered together.
With us all gathered on the sofa snuggling around Mommy and Daddy we listened intently when Daddy opened the book, cleared his throat, and began to read.
“’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;”
“What’s a St. Nicholas,” Yehudi interrupted, causing a collective groan to fill the room.
“That’s another one of Santa’s names,” I said warmly.
The little black cat smiled appreciatively, and Daddy continued.
“The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.”
In my mind I could picture Santa’s visit and all the gifts that he was going to leave under the tree. How I wish that I had the strength to stay awake and see the legend himself, but I would never be able to make it. I fall asleep the moment my head hits the pillow, no matter what.
Inhaling deeply, I could almost smell the rolls baking in the oven on Christmas morning and hear the laughter of the cat’s opening their gifts. I even imagine Rapi tearing the paper from a present and finding the toy ball that I had ordered online and wrapped myself for him. Daddy’s voice rose, grabbing my attention and pulling me back to the story.
“He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”
“Yippee!” all the cat’s cheered the moment the last line fell from Daddy’s lips.
“Alright, time for bed,” Daddy said, taking the last gulp of nog from his mug.
“All the good kitties and doggies need to be in bed or Santa will pass us by,” he reminded us, as if we needed reminding.
Rapi and Bella scampered up the steps and were no doubt in bed waiting for us already. I on the other hand was traipsing along behind Mommy and Daddy when it occurred to me that we had forgotten something.
“The fireplace? Is the fireplace off,” I let out a panicked bark. My gosh, we don’t wanna be the one’s responsible for setting Santa on fire.
I stopped and returned to the fireplace to check just in case. Thankfully, all was clear for the big man in the red suit. I remembered something else as well and made sure to stop by the tree and tap gently on the roof of the gingerbread house.
“Yes,” Yehudi stuck her little black and white head out of the house’s door.
“C’mon Yehudi, It’s Christmas Eve, we will make room for you in the bed tonight,” I appealed to her sense of family.
She let the thought play in her mind for a moment or two before relenting and followed me up the stairs, her tail sticking straight up in the air and her lips curled into the biggest smile a little black and white cat can make.
We all settled into our places in the bed and were just about to dose off when Mommy’s voice echoed in the silence.
“Turn on some Christmas music please,” she said in her sing song kind of way. Once Daddy fulfilled her request, we all closed our eyes, drifted off to sleep and dreamed of sugar plums dancing in our heads, whatever those are.
“Doh, that hurt,” the voice startled me awake for a moment.
My eyes were so heavy, and the voice was starting to fade away in my memory. The night was silent once again, and not sensing anything unusual, I figured it must have been Rapi stubbing his toe on the way to the bathroom again. He has that problem from time to time because he is so chubby, you see, he can’t see his feet and so he bangs them on things. I felt the bed shake and his warm body move next to me and curl up. My eyelids quickly surrendered to gravity and I was back in dreamland once again.
No sooner had I returned to slumber I was awakened by a gentle yet urgent tapping on the end of my nose. My eyes cracked open just a little and through the haze of sleep I saw a hand in a red glove tap me on the nose again.
It took a moment to register with my brain, but when it did, I bolted upright. Standing before me with a gloved finger to his lips indicating he wanted silence was a chubby man in a red suit. He wore a red stocking cap lined with fur upon his head and his face was covered with white whiskers.
“Santa Claus,” the words escaped like a silent breath of air.
“Shhhh,” he hushed me.
“We don’t want to wake anyone up,” he said with a chuckle.
The story is true you know, his tummy does wiggle around like a bowl full of jelly when he laughs.
He leaned over and whispered in my ear.
“Cindee, we have run into a spot of trouble, and we need your help,” he said in the tiniest voice.
I looked at him and nodded. Who is going to refuse Santa right?
“Dasher misjudged the approach to your roof and injured is ankle, he isn’t going to be able to continue. Now, I can’t get my sleigh off the ground with only seven reindeer. What I am trying to say is, Cindee with your Christmas spirit so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight,” he whispered, the smell of milk and cookies still on his breath.
“I would be happy to Mr. Claus,” I nodded all excited, until an undeniable fact dawned on me.
“Santa, if you don’t mind,” he corrected me in that jolly way that he has.
“Sure, okay,” I agreed.
“Um, Mr. Claus, I don’t know how to fly,” I informed him, my disappointment must have been obvious.
“Santa please, and don’t worry about that Cindee, a little Christmas magic will solve that problem,” he answered trying to restrain himself from ho ho ho-ing.
The night air was crisp, and the sky was clear. A million little lights twinkled down on us. It was a world of magic that was enabling me to overcome my fear of heights. I took in a deep breath of cool fresh winter air to help clear my head, which was still spinning from the trip up the chimney with Santa, but it didn’t seem to be helping because I stood there staring with my mouth wide open listening to each of Santa’s reindeer introduce themselves. You know, the truth is, no matter how much you dream about meeting famous people, once the moment arrives you turn into a puddle of pudding. Lastly, I met Dasher, who hobbled over to introduce himself.
“Sorry to cut all this short, but we have a deadline to meet,” Santa said with a belly shaking laugh.
“Oh yes, sorry about that Mr. Claus,” I stammered.
“Santa, please,” the old man reminded me.
“Here, you are going to need this,” Dasher said, pulling his collar off and sliding it over my head.
“You see that snow globe on the front,” the reindeer said, pointing to the small ornate object on the collar. I nodded my head and looked back up to him.
“That contains the Christmas Spirit, that is what gives you the power to fly,” he said with a smile and a gleam in his eye.
“That’s true, however, it only works for those who believe in the power of love,” Santa added, patting me on the head.
“Wowwie,” I said. Lame I know, but I was so overcome by everything that it was all I could get out.
“Here, put this on so you look the part,” Santa said, putting a pair of dollar store antlers on my head and leading me to my place in the pack. Once I was harnessed up and ready to go, Santa strode back to the sleigh and sat down inside.
“On Dasher … err … I mean … On Cindee on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen,” his deep voice called out. The reindeer next to me started to do the shuffle step, and I couldn’t help but wonder if that is how he got the name Dancer.
“On Comet and Cupid and Donder and Blitzen,” Santa called out the names of the other reindeer.
“Now dash away!”
“That our cue, let’s go,” Dancer said.
With that we sprinted at full speed for the edge of the roof with the sleigh filled with Santa and presents beginning to move behind us. My heart began to race as we pulled closer to the precipice. I glanced around at the other reindeer to make sure we were really going to do this, and much to my shock and horror, they were dead serious. We were going to commit suicide on the canopy of my home. I swung my head back around to look in front of me, only to discover it was too late, we were going over the edge.
My paws left the safety of the roof behind and we began to plunge straight for the ground.
“Oh em geeeeeeeeeeeeeee …,” I screamed at the top of my lungs, the ground was fast approaching.
“Look up Cindee,” Dancer called playfully from next to me.
Reflex kicked in and I looked up. We quickly swooped up into the night sky and I let out a deep breath, happy that I was still alive.
“You are steering us Cindee, whichever way you look, that is the direction we go in,” Dancer explained to me.
While this whole experience was amazing, it would have been much more exciting had he told me that before we dove off the roof top.
“Where to,” I asked Dancer.
“The next house,” he said pointing to our neighbor across the street.
Without realizing what was happening, my glance had caused us to bank to the left and put us in perfect approach position to land on the Johnson’s roof. I made sure I kept my eyes fixed on the target and moments later we pulled up onto the roof and slowed to a stop.
“Perfect landing, Ho Ho Ho,” Santa called out from behind us. My face lit up with joy at the sound. I turned to watch as he hopped from the sleigh and gabbed his sack full of presents. The man in the red suit bounded across the roof then leapt into the air landing gracefully in the chimney.
“Jeepers, he is more athletic than he looks,” the words just slipped out of my mouth. The other reindeer laughed at the comment.
“He spends an hour in the gym every morning,” Comet called out from behind.
A moment later he sprung from the chimney like he had been shot from a cannon, and to my amazement, he landed with just as much elegance as he had when he descended. All I could say was …
By the time we left my block I had the flying thing down and had put all my fears behind. This was the most incredible night of my life, and I couldn’t wait to tell Rapi about it.
We stopped at house after house, and Santa would check his naughty and nice list at each stop. I really am not sure why he bothered, even if the people who lived there were marked as naughty, he would say to himself, that maybe they weren’t that naughty after all and leave them gifts as well. It turns out Santa is big believer in second chances.
Before long we had settled into a solid routine and were making excellent time. We were already out by the Rocky Mountains and nearing our final drop off. In that time Dancer and I had become good friends. He would teach me a few dance steps at each stop while we waited for Santa to do his thing. It turns out Prancer was pretty sharp with the terpsichore thing as well.
It had seemed that all the Christmas stories I heard were always about Santa, but tonight I was learning that his reindeer were, as they themselves would say … ‘polar’ which only later would I learn meant ‘cool’.
Vixen and Cupid would spend time gossiping about all the boy reindeer back home, while Comet, Donder and Blitzen would discuss astronomical and meteorological things. I would later learn that Donder and Blitzen meant Thunder and Lightning, and only then did it make sense to me why they were into that sort of stuff.
That brings us to right now, at this house in the middle of Montana. Santa had just disappeared down the chimney when lights started flashing and an alarmed blared out loudly into the night.
“Code Red,” Donder screamed. Like a well-trained unit, they all stood alert and ready to go.
“What’s going on,” I asked, my heart thundering in my chest.
“Santa accidentally tripped someone’s home protection system. We need to get out of here ASAP so we are not spotted,” Prancer explained.
The big guy sprung from the smokestack and raced for the sleigh.
“Go! Go! Go!” he shouted.
Below us a man in nothing but slippers and his underwear raced out and fired at us with his shotgun. That was all the incentive we needed. The eight of us charged ahead, pulling, and sprinting faster than we had all night long. Within seconds we had left the house behind and disappeared out of sight.
“Geez, he is only getting coal next year,” Santa grumbled from the sleigh.
Only then did I realize that I had been holding my breath, and letting it out, I was quickly engulfed by the Christmas Spirit, and set about my task of leading Santa’s sleigh across the night sky.
We had made our last drop half an hour ago and had been cruising clear across the country again to take me back home. A quick glance below me revealed that we were now flying over the Great Lakes and ahead of us the very first rays of sun were beginning to peek over the horizon.
“There it is Cindee,” Santa called from behind me, his gloved finger pointing to my house in the near distance.
No sooner had I set my sight on it then we began to bank to the right, reduced speed and slowly dropped in altitude until we were traveling down my street. With a night full or experience I eased the eight of us and the giant sled down making contact ever so lightly with the snow-covered roof until we came to a smooth easy stop.
“How was your night,” Dasher asked, hobbling over to greet us.
“It was totally one hundred percent super duper fantastic,” I said, my voice brimming with excitement.
“We need to hurry, the sun is almost up, and we have to get out of here before we are spotted and Cindee, you need to be inside when your Mommy and Daddy wake up. We don’t want them worrying about you,” Santa reminded us.
“Right,” I said, removing the magic collar and handing it back to Dasher.
“It has been great getting to know you guys,” I said to the reindeer, sad that I had to say goodbye already.
“You too,” Dancer said.
“Merry Christmas,” they all shouted.
“And a good night,” Santa said reaching over and touching me on the nose.
Suddenly my eyes grew heavy and I was so tired, I couldn’t even wish Santa and the reindeer a Merry Christmas back. Just like that I was out.
I awoke to shouts of Merry Christmas coming from all around me. I opened my tired eyes to see Bella and Yehudi dancing next to a Christmas tree littered with presents underneath it’s branches.
“Merry Christmas Cindee” Rapi said, kissing me gently on the cheek with his rough little tongue.
“Merry Christmas little one,” Daddy said, smooching me on the nose.
“Look a present for you from Santa,” Mommy said, handing me a small package wrapped in shiny silver paper.
I smiled, then looked around the room, trying to figure out how I got here. Then the realization began to set in. It had all been a dream. I didn’t really fly across the country with Santa and the reindeer. Suddenly, the excitement was gone.
“What’s wrong girlie,” Daddy asked, sitting down next to me, and running his fingers through my hair.
“Let’s see what Santa brought you,” he said, making a little rip in the paper to encourage me.
I could see he wasn’t about to let this go, so to appease him I grabbed hold of the silver paper and tore it into a million and one little pieces, plus one!
Underneath the gift wrap was a glittering silver box. Now my curiosity was piqued, so I took hold of the top and pulled it off, tossing it to one side. I looked inside to see the gift. There was something there, but card with a note sticking out of it sat on top of it.
I extracted the card and set it down. There was a picture of a reindeer covered in sparkling snow. I noticed something odd about the deer and it took me a few moments to realize that it was winking at me. With my nose I flipped the card open, unfolded the note and began to read the swirling script.
My dearest Cindee,
The Reindeer and I thank you so much! Without you, it would have been impossible to make our deliveries last night. We are all grateful to you and this gift is the least that we could do. We all hope it helps you to remember this Christmas and that you will always keep the Christmas Spirit alive inside of you.
PS. Dancer wants me to remind you … heel, toe, heel, toe, shuffle step! Ho ho ho!
I smiled and set the card aside so I could peer inside the box. I gently took hold of the tissue paper with my teeth and pulled it out of the box, recklessly tossing it over my shoulder. My eyes widened in disbelief as I stared into the box at the collar with the ornate snow globe that had carried me through the night sky that wonderful Christmas Eve.
“Wow, that is beautiful Cindee,” Rapi said, looking at the gift.
“Thanks,” I said, smiling proudly.
“You okay Cindee,” Rapi asked.
“Hey Rapi, you are never going to believe what happened to me last night,” I said as we wandered off to the big glass door in the dining room, where we share all of our special moments together. The big orange cat sat and listened wide eyed as he heard the tale of the Christmas Eve that I pulled Santa’s sleigh.
* all images are courtesy pixabay.com except for Cindee in her Reindeer antlers.