As we are preparing for Christmas, I want to share one of my favorite Christmas stories.
This happened four years ago and it still makes me smile when I think about it. It’s a story of love and magic and how random internet friends can make a child’s Christmas special even from hundreds of miles away.
My daughter’s favorite toy is a small stuffed reindeer named “Antler.” Antler and her sister Nose were given to my twin daughters by my husband’s grandmother when they were babies. At first the twins were too young to appreciate these toys, but around the time they were two they started playing with them. By the time they were four, Antler and Nose were well-loved toys (and ironically had lost their antlers and noses).
Antler had a distinct personality. She was a small toy, but she was feisty. She’d often get into fights with the other stuffed animals and she would win. It was fun to watch her toss big teddy bears across the room. Antler also always seemed to have stuffing problems. I’d had to sew her up many times.
Antler traveled with us through our many moves. She lived with us as we moved from Utah, Texas, Alabama, back to Utah, Yellowstone, and finally settled in Idaho. And that’s where this story takes place.
In second grade my daughter took Antler to school for show and tell and then somehow lost her. This was devastating. No one could imagine life without Antler. My daughter was especially distraught.
Miraculously, Antler made it home to us at Christmas. On Christmas Day my daughter opened a present and found Antler smiling back at her. My daughter squealed for joy and then started crying. She called Antler her “Life Companion” and she was so happy to have her back to continue having adventures with her.
There are two versions of the story of how Antler came home to my daughter. One is for children and one is for grown ups. Both versions are heartwarming.
The Children’s Version
Antler was feeling very worn out and threadbear. She didn’t have as much stuffing as she used to have and she could feel her seams starting to open up again.
She loved her owner very much, but she worried that she was getting too shabby for her owner. She wanted her owner to continue to love her.
So she made a big decision. She decided to sneak away and find Santa in the North Pole. She knew he could fix her up.
One day she had her chance. Her owner took her to a big building and left her in a desk. She was able to sneak out of the desk and out a window while all the children were at recess. She started flying to the North Pole.
Antler was a Christmas Reindeer Toy so when she arrived at the North Pole Santa knew just what to do with her. He refilled her stuffing and strengthened her seams. He replaced her black bead nose with an orange bead because he knew that was her owner’s favorite color.
On Christmas Eve Santa let Antler ride in his sleigh next to him. Antler liked watching the big reindeer pull the sleigh. She thought about doing something like that with her sister Nose when she got home.
When Santa came to Antler’s house he put her in a box and wrapped it quickly. He went down the chimney and put Antler under the tree.
The next day Antler was so excited when her owner picked up the box and started opening it. She could barely contain her joy when she saw her owner’s face. She saw the tears in her owner’s eyes and felt how tightly she hugged her. Antler knew that her owner loved her no matter how she looked. Antler knew she would never run away again.
The Grown Up Version
After Antler was lost, I figured other Antlers had to exist out there somewhere. My husband’s grandma had passed away years earlier so unfortunately I couldn’t ask her where she bought those little reindeer. But I knew she’d loved to shop from catalogs. I figured whatever catalog she’d shopped from had to also have an online presence. I started googling things like, “Christmas Deer” and “small stuffed reindeer”, but I couldn’t find Antler.
In desperation I turned to Facebook. I put this post up on October 13th with this picture:
Okay Internet, I need your help. As you do your holiday shopping will you keep your eyes out for a reindeer that looks like one of these? If you see one PLEASE let me know where to buy it.
Many of you remember Antler and Nose, the twins’ beloved reindeer. Well Antler has been missing for a few weeks. My daughter and I talked about her today and she said that maybe Antler went to spend time with Santa and he’ll bring her back on Christmas. I agreed and mentioned that maybe Antler will be all sewn up and have had some stuffing replaced after her visit with Santa.
The problem is that I have NO IDEA where to find a replacement. The original Antler was a gift from my husband’s grandma who has since passed. The original Antler came with a green wreath sewn to her nose. She also had felt antlers. Her original nose was a brown puff ball that was later replaced by a bead.
I know this is a long shot, but it would be amazing if we really could bring Antler back home.
This is where some serious grown-up magic came into play. My friend Leslie googled “stuffed reindeer with wreath” and then scrolled through pages of pictures. She came across a picture that looked similar to the one I’d posted. It was called “Jesus is Deer to Me” and was sold by a Christian Dollar Store. She added the picture and a link to my Facebook post.
When I saw it, I was ecstatic. I immediately replied back, “Oh my gosh yes! That’s Antler!”
I bought the stuffed animal right away and then told Leslie, “Thank you so much. I just bought it. I think I’m going to cry.”
She answered, “So glad I was able to help!! I saw it and thought “Oh my gosh! I think that’s actually it!!!” I’ve been anxiously waiting for you to confirm. Lol”.
My favorite part of this story is that Leslie was hundreds of miles away from me. We weren’t super close friends either. She was one of those fun people to follow on Facebook, but our relationship didn’t have much depth.
Our lives had overlapped briefly while our husbands were in flight school in Alabama. I remember getting together a few times with her at a few Army events. She came to a little celebration I put together for my birthday. (She’d bought doughnuts even though I said people didn’t need to bring anything.) We’d both been busy with young children so we hadn’t had a lot of time to get to know each other very well before we moved.
Until now. After she helped bring Antler home Leslie became a hero.
Antler arrived in the mail and I hid her well. A few days before Christmas I set about to make her look like herself again. I took her nose off and replaced it with an orange heart shaped bead. (I picked orange because I knew it was my daughter’s favorite color.)
I removed the wreath on her mouth. My husband took off the star on her forehead and got rid of the glue it left behind with Goof Off stuff. One of the ironic things about Antler is that she doesn’t actually have antlers so I had to take those off as well. The final thing I did was stick her under my mattress for a few days so she would look a little more squished.
Then I wrapped her and hoped that my daughter would recognize her as her beloved stuffed animal. She did and the tears in her eyes said it all.
Antler has continued to be a beloved member of the family. She went back to fighting bigger stuffed animals, and soon needed to have some stitches sewn up again. A year later she and Nose became big sisters when a new reindeer showed up for my other daughter on Christmas Day. That other reindeer was named Coco because her nose looked like a Coco Puff.