DOOLEY, IN –
For 338 days a year, a stuffed reindeer named Gustav sits quietly in a box staring at a point of light no bigger than a pin, waging a desperate battle to maintain his sanity as the minutes turn to hours, then days, and finally months of ghastly agony.
So, it was with great relief when his owner, Marjorie Bertelson, opened the box and freed him from his living nightmare, placing him on a sofa near the fireplace.
Gustav, who describes the intervening months between holiday seasons as “a frightful, unspeakable and unrelenting horror,” was grateful to be part of the hustle and bustle of the Bertelson holiday preparations.
“It begins with the top of the cardboard box being folded down, blotting out the light,” he said. “Then, there are the muffled cries of the other decorations as the full enormity of what is happening becomes palpable.”
“Over the succeeding weeks there are intermittent screams of terror, but slowly they fade away. And then comes the mind-numbing silence.”
Festive Holiday Atmosphere
Among the many happy events in the Bertelson household during the month of December, there are a few that hold a special place in their hearts: the traditional visit from the Hoyer family; exchanging “elephants gifts” with the neighbors; and baking Christmas cookies.
And, of course, there is the Christmas day celebration with all the uncles, aunts and cousins gathered to enjoy a delicious turkey dinner. It is a joyful time, full of all the magic the holiday season can bring.
Utter Despair, Followed By… Nothingness
But for Gustav, the dark emptiness of the box is never far from his thoughts.
“It’s nice to see the happiness in the children’s faces. And hear the sounds of laughter,” he said. But then comes the next morning, and the dread begins again.
“First is the picking up of loose paper, which is placed in a plastic bag.”
“Next, the straightening of furniture. Living room, then dining room.”
“The vacuuming follows.”
“And the shaking out of rugs.”
“And then, slowly, inevitably, it happens.” Gustav paused. “The boxes come out.”
Purchased At A Craft Fair In 2003
Mrs. Bertelson purchased the reindeer from a local seamstress who sells them every year at an art fair in the High School gymnasium. “I thought he was such a cute little guy. Just smiley and happy to be here,” she said, describing the moment she saw him. “He was seven dollars, I think. A pretty good deal.”
“The first couple years I had him on the mantle, but then I tried him on the sofa and he just seemed to fit right in. I’ve had him there ever since.”
Maybe A Snowman
However, Mrs. Bertelson thinks the reindeer is getting a little worn. “Probably will toss him after this year. Sad to see him go,” she said, “but they have some great after-Christmas sales at the gift store downtown, so I’m sure I can find something else – maybe a snowman.”
Mrs. Bertelson picked up the reindeer and smiled, as if perhaps reconsidering. “Actually, we can get a little more use out of him. I’ll give him to our dog, Max.”
“He just loves to drag these things around the yard and bury them.”
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