A Christmas Story
By Janet M. Gibson

Once upon a time there was a Christmas decoration called Snoodles. He was a stuffed animal, a green dachshund with a Santa hat and a red sweater that said Merry Christmas. He had a pointy snout with a little back fuzzy nose, and a pointy green tail. His ears were black brushed velvet. Perhaps he was about 8 inches long and 3 inches tall at his head. He was firmly stuffed, not the squishable type, and his face and posture were friendly, cute, and lovable.

I first saw Snoodles under a Christmas tree at the house of my mother's friend from childhood. Her name was Mary. I liked Mary very much, but I didn't see her all that often in my early childhood, but in my early twenties when my great aunt died, she helped me and my mom with the packing of the china and various odds and ends for the auction house. A year later, on a rare occasion, which adds this chance element to my meeting Snoodles, my mom took me with her for a visit to Mary's house at Christmas time. Under her tree among some wrapped presents was Snoodles, just standing there to add to the Christmas spirit. When I told Mary that I thought he was the cutest decoration ever, she insisted that I take him home. I was very surprised, a bit reluctant to take this treasure from her, but very happy to comply. Mary died of cancer the next year, and I often wondered if she gave me Snoodles because she wanted a home for him. Stuffed animals and decorations are like that; they accrue sentimental value for no reason other than their presence.

Somehow this dog required a name. He was that unique and inviting. We decided that the name of my mother's grandmother's dog, Snoodles, was the perfect name. It was the only decoration I ever named, and it became an annual tradition for us to unpack and pack Snoodles with the other "must use" decorations. We displayed him in the living room every Christmas, not under the tree, but on a shelf in the television's entertainment center.

I moved away but went home every year for Christmas. If my mom decorated before I arrived, I would ask, "Is Snoodles in the living room?" and the answer was always "yes." As the years wore on, my mom would want to put up fewer decorations because of all the time and effort it took to decorate, but Snoodles was a must. No matter what decorations were out when I arrived, I would always look for Snoodles in the living room and there he was. Snoodles embodied the warmth and good feelings of friendship.

And then it happened. In 2004, I did not go home for Christmas. My mother, while packing up the decorations in January, decided to mail Snoodles to me. Only the package never arrived. We don't know if it had the wrong address, was delivered to the wrong address, or was just a lost package. The horrible reality was that I never received it. Snoodles was lost.

He is an absent friend every Christmas. Like a lost dog, I wonder if he has found a new home and someone else, like me, became attached to him and enjoys his Christmas spirit. I wonder if he is in a landfill, or if the package could be delivered one day if ever found, like you see lost letters in movies arriving years after they were mailed.

Every Christmas, I think about Snoodles, how I was given him by my mother's very good friend, how mom enjoyed putting him on display even when other items no longer were put out, and how we lost him simply because that one year I didn't go home. He came into our lives by chance and left that way as well. But the fond memories remain. I raise a mental glass and say, "Here's to Snoodles" and the warmth he represented. Merry Christmas, Snoodles, wherever you are.

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