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I’m aware of Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen, Mr. Autry. But Rudolph, I know. He showed me that my power rests in my uniqueness, and that others feel different, too.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the now-classic holiday stop-motion animation Christmas special Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He arrived on the scene a long time before I did, but it’s not how long you’ve known this little guy that matters. It’s a gift to know him at all.
Imagine being the weird kid with her nose always buried in a book, the religion representative to the school for her sixth grade class, and the one who reads Shakespeare on Sundays for fun. No, I’m not talking about me. What would make you think that? (By the way, I wore the religion rep badge proudly, further solidifying my weirdness.)
Now imagine that person, in moments when her “weirdness” made her feel separate from her peers, remembering the story about a reindeer that everyone teases for his red nose — when it turns out his nose is the only thing that can save Christmas!
The weird, the not-so-weird, and the definitely weird
I don’t remember my first Rudolph viewing. I do know I’ve watched it every year that I can remember. Each year, I proudly display my Rudolph’s Christmas Village (one of those monthly collectible clubs offering buildings and characters in hand-painted resin), including Santa’s Workshop, Mr. and Mrs. Claus’s house, the Reindeer Flight Camp (complete with a red- and green-lighted runway), and Hermey’s Dentist Office.
Hermey, you may recall, became best buds with Rudolph on the way to the Island of Misfit Toys (where defective and unwanted toys are sent). Hermey, too, was a weirdo. He didn’t want to make toys like the other elves; he wanted to pull and drill teeth. O.K., that is weird; but I support elves’ rights to be whatever they want to be.
Spotting Rudolph in the wild
As a Philly kid, I loved seeing the light show every year at Wanamaker’s…Lord & Taylor…Macy’s, mostly because Rudolph is featured prominently. And this year, imagine my shouting out with glee when the United States Postal Service issued stamps honoring the show’s anniversary. The cutest stamps ever feature the main characters and the Bumble, the abominable snow monster who literally loses his bite (courtesy of Hermey) revealing his true self — a big ol’ softie. They’ll look so cool on my Rudolph Christmas cards.
I have and do all this because Rudolph is awesome. He’s gone down in history because most people can relate. Who hasn’t felt, at one time or another, invisible, alone, weird, or like a misfit? It’s pretty cool that what’s essentially a kid's show can tell a truly human story (via a reindeer) that resonates with all ages.
I’ll watch the show’s 50th anniversary airing next week. I know it by heart, but it’s not officially the holidays until the nose glows and Rudolph and I sing some tunes together, including “We’re a Couple of Misfits.” He sings with Hermey, but I always imagine it’s me:
We may be different from the rest
Who decides the test of what is really best?...
What’s the matter with misfits?
That’s where we fit in!
Thankfully, I found ways to fit in, with my writing and other talents, as I grew up. But I was (and sometimes still am) a misfit. And Rudolph made that O.K. Seems he had other gifts besides his glowing nose.
What, When, Where
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Directed by Larry Roemer; written by Romeo Muller, story by Robert May. Airing Tuesday, December 9 and Saturday, December 13, 8pm, on CBS.
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