By Andrea Chaffin
I knew I was in trouble when she walked into Texas Roadhouse carrying what can only be described as the pantyhose reindeer.
Glancing at the homemade Christmas decoration in one of my mother’s hands — and the bag likely full of many more in her other hand — I quickly ordered a margarita.
She was proud of herself and grinning wildly.
It was a week or so after Christmas. About a dozen family and friends had gathered at the busy restaurant to celebrate my 22nd birthday.
Apparently, we would need another seat at the table for the pantyhose reindeer.
I had seen it before. Many times, actually.
The first time I saw it was when I created it in preschool. Want to see a happy 4-year-old? Give her a wire coat hanger, a pair of tanned hosiery, a couple wiggle eyes, a red cotton ball and a hot glue gun. And alas, the reindeer was born.
And, after that, the reindeer returned each year.
At our first house, I remember it being placed on top of a holiday-themed table in the living room with Santa figurines and hand-me-down pine-cone wreaths. Because of the bend in its wire coat hanger frame, it wouldn’t sit completely upright.
Later, it was joined by more school projects: the construction paper reindeer, the candy cane made from beads and the mistletoe in the shape of — what else? — my 6-year-old toes.
As time went on, the pantyhose reindeer found its way on the walls. I’m not sure how Mom attached the reindeer to the wall, but I’d be willing to bet it involved something complicated like a thumbtack.
The Christmas tree was always adorned with these homemade goodies, such as my kindergarten photo with “1994” and “Anbrea” scribbled in the handwriting of a little girl who often confused D’s and B’s.
There were more reindeer made from glittery pipe cleaners and Popsicle sticks in second grade. And my third-grade masterpiece: a sprawling Santa colored and glued onto a white piece of paper in a star shape. It made Santa look like a starfish.
I thought they were tacky and, as a middle and high schooler, I was more than happy to “forget” to place those ornaments on the tree.
Mom would come out to inspect my decorating.
“Where’s that Santa made out of the toilet paper roll?” she would ask. “That’s my favorite!”
At age 22, I had enjoyed decorating my tree at my new contemporary house. It did not include any felt, or Popsicle sticks, or buttons or Elmer’s glue. I had purchased glass and ceramic bulbs, white lights and a delicate star for my very own grown-up tree.
I did not want the pantyhose reindeer. I did not want to hear the embarrassing stories she shared about the creation of the pantyhose reindeer. I did not want to see the waitress snickering as Mom passed around the various decorations.
To cope with the situation, my sister, best friend and I began to pose for photos with the cheesy crafts.
“Take these home,” Mom pleaded after watching our sarcastic photoshoot. “You need to have these for your own house.”
“No, I don’t,” I argued.
Eventually, I thought we came to a compromise. I would keep a couple things, but pitch the rest.
“No!” she exclaimed. “You can’t throw this out!”
She cradled in her hands a 15-year-old, upside-down, white Styrofoam cup with a gold pipe cleaner handle sticking out of the top. It was supposed to be a bell. Or maybe an ornament. I couldn’t tell.
But if I wasn’t going to keep it, she would.
Last year, a couple items made it on to my tree. The “Anbrea” ornament was tucked into the back.
Admittedly, I found myself showing it off to a couple holiday guests.
I shrugged my shoulders. “It is kind of cute, I guess,” I stammered.
Maybe pantyhose reindeer can stay after all.
Pantyhose in a brown color
Brown construction paper
Red Pom Pom (black if you prefer)
Trace your hands (or your kids’ hands) on the brown construction paper. Cut them out and set them aside.
Take your metal hanger and stretch and bend it until it looks like a wide, nicely shaped diamond or something long and not so wide, if that is how you want your reindeer to look.
Take the pantyhose and stretch them over the diamond shape, making sure the top of the pantyhose goes to the top of the hanger. Knot it well and cut off the excess pantyhose.
Glue the cut-out paper hands on the top of the reindeer, one on each side, so they look like antlers.
Glue your craft eyes into the center of the pantyhose where the eyes would be.
Glue the red Pom Pom to the bottom end of the diamond to make a red nose.
Set aside to dry.
Andrea is the food editor of Salt magazine. An OSU graduate, she enjoys singing in the car, photography and spending time with her two fur kids. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @andeewrites.