This is the eighth of my "Advent Calendar" Christmas ornament posts. For some background information about this project and why I'm challenging myself to complete it, see here. Note: it's entirely possible some of these memories are inexact, but I'm sticking with them anyway.
Potatoes make good reindeer hooves. This is something my parents taught me.
I must have been 7 or so, because I was sharing the purple room with my sister then, and my parents had moved their bedroom down into the half-finished basement space. Before that, all three of us kids shared one small room, with bunk beds for my sister and me, and a crib for my brother. In the purple room, our bunk beds were taken apart and put against opposite walls. I had the window side.
Christmas morning, we woke up excited, as all kids do, and rushed to see what Santa had left us. But there was more than just a pile of presents waiting in the living room. On the floor, making a wobbly circuit from the porch door to the tree and back again, was a set of muddy tracks. Santa's stack of cookies was reduced to stray chocolate chips and crumbs, and a carrot stub sat by the plate. Santa came in for his cookies last night, my parents explained, and one of his reindeer must have come inside with him because he smelled the carrot we'd left him! How exciting!
I smiled and played along, but I knew the truth.
Sleeping was never one of my favorite things to do, so I was still awake when my parents quietly moved the wrapped presents from their hiding place and stacked them under the tree. I heard the noise and tiptoed to my door, inching it open just a crack. That's when I saw Mom on her hands and knees, pressing something carefully to the floor. She crawled backwards a few inches and pressed it down again. One by one, she laid down a trail of reindeer hoofprints, crawling backwards across the floor so as not to disturb the fresh paint. Dad stood by the tree, crumbling a piece of the last cookie onto the plate.
The next morning, after we opened all the presents, I went to throw out the carrot stub. In the trash sat half a potato, cut to look like a reindeer hoof, stained with paint.