Ivy’s first flight

Once again, the Argus has been kind enough to let me write fiction for the Christmas day newspaper. In the meantime, many folks have asked me for last year’s tale. Here it is. Thanks for reading. 

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Ivy’s first flight

an old-fashioned Christmas story

Every reindeer has a dream. Can you guess what it is?

Ivy was a reindeer, and so she dreamed the dream of all reindeer—that one Christmas Eve she would take her position in front of an enormous red sleigh, give her harness bells a shake, and let the magic of Christmas blow gently through her thick fur.

She could almost smell the magic now, warm and cinnamon on the breeze, wafting through the Great Plains Zoo where she lived with her mother, Rose.

“Pay attention, Ivy,” said Rose. “Keep your nose on the ground for now. Eat your dinner. Get some sleep. You never know what might happen on Christmas.”

Rose had pulled Santa’s sleigh before. It was a reindeer’s highest honor. Rose had taught Ivy many reindeer games—leaping games, chasing games, dashing and dancing games—all suitable for a young reindeer in training.

But only Santa Claus can make a reindeer fly.

So when Santa came to Sioux Falls early, to eat breakfast with some children at the zoo, Ivy leaped and twirled and danced, hoping to get his attention. She dipped and tried to flip, but she landed—splat!—with her snout in the mud.

“Calm down now, Ivy,” said Rose. “Santa wants to see you just as you are. Stand up straight. Use good manners. You never know what might happen on Christmas.”

Santa came to visit Ivy that day. He stroked her under her chin. He whispered kind words about what a beautiful and strong reindeer she was.

Did Santa Claus really believe in her? That night, Ivy couldn’t sleep. She watched the moon dangle like a silver ornament in the deep midnight above Sioux Falls. For the first time in her life, she saw a shooting star blaze across the sky.

Ivy made her best wish ever. Can you guess what that wish was?

“Close your eyes now, Ivy,” said Rose. “Quiet your heart. You never know what might happen on Christmas.”

The following morning, the director of the zoo stopped by to share the good news. The children of the world had been so good this year that Santa needed two extra reindeer to pull his sleigh. He wanted Rose and Ivy to join his team on Christmas Eve.

This time Ivy really did a flip! Right in the air in front of two children who were visiting the zoo and who were never quite sure if they really saw what they thought they saw. A reindeer doing a flip right in front of their eyes? No one would believe it.

When Santa strokes a reindeer under the chin, maybe, just maybe, a hint of magic takes hold.

Ivy practiced for the big night. Rose taught her everything she needed to know. When visitors came to the zoo, Ivy and Rose acted like quiet and patient reindeer, but when no one was looking, they dashed and danced and prepared for the big night.

And, finally, after what seemed like a reindeer lifetime, Christmas Eve came.

Ivy stood in front the enormous sleigh, next to her mother. She gave her harness bells a shake and looked to the sky. Rudolph stood in front of her; Dasher and Dancer stamped their hooves playfully. Everything was ready, and the magic was so thick in the air, Ivy thought she could take a bite of it.

The breeze came, warm and cinnamon, brushing through her fur. They had an entire world to cover in one night. Ivy was ready.

“Look up to the sky, Ivy,” whispered Rose. “Take a deep breath. Kick your back legs, but not too hard. It’s time. I’m proud of you.”

A deep, booming voice called out from the sleigh. Ivy knew that voice right away.

“Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer, now Vixen, on Comet, on Cupid, Donder, Rudolph and Blitzen. To the top of the zoo and over the wall … come Rose, come, Ivy, come lead us all!”

Flying with Santa Claus was even more spectacular than in Ivy’s dreams. She landed on many rooftops that night—more than she could count. Ivy flew well and landed lightly, so as to not wake any of the children from their slumber.

When morning came, and mountains of presents had all been delivered, Santa returned Rose and Ivy to the Great Plains Zoo. He stroked Ivy underneath her chin. He whispered kind words into her ear.

“Thank you, Ivy,” Santa said. “You were magnificent.”

Ivy was so tired, she could barely stay standing. But just before she drifted to sleep, she heard Rose whisper, “Good night, my dear Ivy. And remember, a reindeer who flies once will fly always.”

After she gets her rest, and when no one is looking, Ivy is free to fly over the midnight skies of Sioux Falls, as long as she is home at the zoo by morning. That is Santa’s special gift to all reindeer who travel with him on Christmas Eve.

So, when your presents are opened and your dessert is eaten, and the darkness starts to paint the sky, just before that moment when you start feeling sad because you think the day is over and the excitement has floated away… step outside and look up. Once a reindeer learns to fly, she can’t quite get enough of it. You might catch a glimpse of Ivy, or Ivy and Rose, up there somewhere, sailing past the moon.

After all, you never know what might happen on Christmas.