If you know anything about toys with batteries, you may be familiar with the random uprising of otherwise dead computer chips, and how toys sometimes do a postmortem dance on their own volition. This reindeer had a few such spasms. We'd be eating dinner or watching a movie and suddenly a muffled sax solo would wail from under a pile of toys, wishing us a Merry Little Christmas. We'd startle, laugh, and if Zysean was there, a moment of hope would cross his face and we might dig it out to try the foot again. But it was really dead. Just a phantom.
Just before Christmas this year, we cleared away the toys-whose-time-had-come to make room for a new pile that would surely take its place. It was decided that the reindeer would have to go, too. If only it could still play its Christmas song, it might have had a chance at a second season. But it was retired with all the love-wounds a stuffed toy would ever want. It spent the holiday in the garage, its damaged Santa hat poking out the top of the bag of outgrown toys.
Meanwhile, this Christmas there were many more teachable moments. We got familiar with Santa images. We looked at creches and talked about the "Mommy, Daddy and the Baby." And the cows. And the angels. And the star. We learned how to tear open presents. Toys filled the floors. Family surrounded Zysean in every direction and music came from harmonicas, ukuleles, whistles and voices, much of it made by Zysean himself. It was a day or two after the visiting family went home that Zysean and I were in the garage together filling bird feeders. It was good that he got bored and wandered off - birdseed was getting all over the floor and there would be sweeping to do. He got attracted to the bag of discarded toys and yanked his old reindeer out by one leg. Walking over to show me his discovery, his hands went instinctively to squeeze the foot. "I know, all gone." I sighed. But the reindeer's head began to sway and the plastic sax shifted with a click. The music began. Our eyes struck on each other and we both laughed out loud. Hanging upside down, wriggling with sudden life, our reindeer's presence was felt as he belted out his creed one last time, not too late to have ourselves a Merry Little Christmas with him.