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The Talking Christmas Tree and Other Fakes

In the 1960s in Peoria, IL there was a talking Christmas tree in the toy department of the Bergner’s Department Store. His eyes searched the toy department for children to question about their behavior. Were they on Santa’s nice or naughty list? What did they want for Christmas? If it weren’t for the magic of Christmas that clung to the toy department, he would have frightened anyone under the age of thirteen.

Bergners’ Department Store was mystical at any time of year because it had magic doors that opened for you as you approached the store entrance, but at Christmas time their toy department was the next best thing to the North Pole itself. Santa, his elves, and even his reindeer took up residence at Bergners’ during the Christmas season. My only disappointment was that they left Rudolph at the North Pole. I would search for Rudolph every year because he had nose problems just like I did. His was red; mine was flat. I was convinced we were kindred spirits.

One year I dragged my three-year-old sister, Laurie, up to the talking Christmas tree. She was reluctant but fascinated.

“Hello little girl!” the Christmas tree’s eyes rolled around and his mouth moved up and down in what seemed more like an eerie grimace than a smile.

Laurie nodded and said nothing.

“What is your name?” the tree persisted. (Apparently he didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to ask children personal information, but Laurie knew not to give her name and address to a stranger, even if the stranger was a tree.)

“My name is Miss Mini Midget,” my sister gave her stage name. She and our mom drank tea and sang a ritual song about her being a “Mini Midget” every morning while the rest of us went off to school.

The tree laughed. It seemed that all of his ornaments were about to fall off when he shook. “Well, Miss Mini Midget, where do you live?” the tree continued his questions that no child should answer to a stranger.

“I live in the ’don’t go in it’ street,” my sister answered matter-of-factly.

The tree and all of the watching parents laughed hysterically, and Laurie smirked. Nobody, not even a magical tree, would get personal information out of her. Laurie figured that if this tree was related to the “real” Santa....he should already known her name and address...cuz Laurie knew her name was on Santa’s nice list. Besides, my skeptical sister later confided, she had pulled on Santa’s beard, and it had come off!

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