Lovely thoughts of Christmases long gone fill my mind. Pierogi and fried lake perch. Snowballs and kolachy.  Midnight Mass.  Big family dinners at grandma’s house.

Then.

We’d walk across the alley back to our house, all excited for Santa to come. Dad would get his gun out and start teasing that he was going to shoot Rudolph. He was a deer hunter and he needed more freezer meat.  “I’m gonna have my gun ready for the first click, click, click up on the housetop. St. Nick better not land here!”

And we thought he was joking. Teasing. He wouldn’t really shoot Rudolph.

Bullets in. Coat on. Boots on. Door open. Door slam.

“Mommy is he really going to shoot Rudolph?”

‘Noooo.”

Faces pressed to the picture window. His body just out of site. Gun barrel raised.

BOOM!

BOOM!

Ears covered. Tears streaming down hopeful little cheeks. A mama’s heart broken. Kid’s hearts torn to bits. Blown up.

Every Christmas Eve, falling asleep crying.

One Christmas, though, I woke to go to the bathroom and saw mom putting the Atari under the tree.  My heart raced, ran to my brother, woke him, brought him in the hallway.

Dad saw us. Mad. Yelled, “Get back to bed!!”

Finally.

No more killing Rudolph.