I lost an old friend the other day.
It was swift and unexpected, and it left me unsure of my own footing. I crawled from disbelief to anger to sadness and then back again.
In the end, I realized what I was feeling was guilt.
I wasn't there for him when it mattered most. That's the unfortunate truth and nothing will ever change that. I mistakenly thought we had all the time in the world, and was blithely Christmas shopping at the mall that fateful night.
That's what makes this so difficult. He lived for this season. In may ways, it was his time to shine.
He would stand out in the yard with head held high, as if all those wreaths and lights were there simply to draw attention to him.
And then one night, without warning or mercy, he was gone.
Someone stole my %&#!@$ Rudolph.
I know what you're thinking. Why don't I just go to Target and get a new reindeer? Maybe a bigger one. Better yet, why not look for a package deal with Clarice and Hermey the dentist.
If only it were so easy.
My wife and I have been collecting — some might call it hoarding — Christmas decorations for close to 30 years.
There's no rhyme or reason to our haul. The Waterford crystal Santa Claus has accepted that he will forever share shelf space with the Donald Duck nutcracker whether he likes it or not.
In my mind, it doesn't matter how they go together as much as how they came together.
You see, I don't really care if the gaudy colors of our Yellowstone National Park Christmas bell clash with the silver and gold decor of our tree when I remember that the bell was an impulse buy at some kitschy mountain tourist trap on our honeymoon.
And the ornament that was supposed to represent our growing family is only enhanced by the fact that I wasn't paying attention when the handwriting artist was printing the wrong names underneath the mother, father and baby penguins.
To me, this familiarity is the best part of the Christmas season. As children grow and lives change, there is always a little bit of the past that re-emerges every time we drag the boxes out from under the staircase.
So our yard decorations look as if they were designed by a team of lunatics traveling in a time machine. And instead of being relegated to the trash, broken ornaments are given a martyrlike status in the closet pecking order.
That's why I have warmed to the suggestion that whoever stole our Rudolph had a greater need for him than we did. Maybe he will be the centerpiece of a yard with an even bigger red light tucked inside of his nose.
If that's the case, I'm okay with it.
Just keep your stinking hands off my SpongeBob Santa.