Before she was born, big brother Nathan (only 3 at the time) named his little sister Reindeer Song. Soon after her birth, her family realized that her song would be unlike any song they had heard before. Her song resonates as it touches lives and heart. It is filled with love and community support, challenge and need.
This time of year, right before reindeer begin to grace so many mantles and front yard displays, I invite you to pause from your busy life and listen to the song this beautiful Reindeer sings.
Meet Ellie, Ms. Reindeer Song herself:
Ellie is on a ventilator. She is connected to the ventilator through the breathing tube that you see in many of the images. The ventilator helps her breathe. It helps her lungs expand and contact. If the tube need to cleaned or suctioned, Ellie doesn't get a full breath. She has both a traveling ventilator and a home ventilator that is much larger than the compact, on-the-go version.
Ellie eats through a feeding tube. Her mom, a dietitian, lovingly experiments with recipes and blends so her daughter can eat the kinds of whole and healthy foods that will help her body grow.
If you felt like your baby did not come with an instruction book, image what it would have been like to tube feed your baby. When Ellie arrived, there were no manuals, no instructions guides, and no recipe books to turn to. Because of this, part of the song this little girl sings is the gift of a feeding tube cookbook currently being created by her loving mom.
When Ellie, little Reindeer Song, and her family arrived for their session, the doors opened on the mini-van and a child-sized wheel chair was taken out. The ventilator was set up on the wheelchair and everything was arranged. Ellie's nurse came along to help because as Ellie's mom explained, it takes at least two adults to tend to the needs of her daughter.
As soon as Ellie was in her wheelchair, I suddenly realized that although I had walked the sidewalks outside of my studio hundreds of time, I had no idea where to find the ramp off of the elevated sidewalk.
I felt embarrassed that I had taken it for granted all these years. As a mom pushing my own kids in a stroller, I simply "bumped" the stroller off the end of the sidewalk and into the parking lot.
Thankful that the front doors of the office open double wide (I did know this before we pushed the wheel chair through), we brought Ellie and her family into the office and started getting everything ready for portraits.
Ellie needed to be dressed, changed, reconnected, hooked up, and wiped down. She needed her full-body brace and a special chair that helps her sit up.
While all of this was happening, I got to meet Nathan, Big Brother extraordinaire. He laughed. He played. He jumped up and down. He told me all about his upcoming birthday. We talked about dinosaurs, his dogs, and the super cool bugs on his shirt.
"Almost done!!" their mom said in an cheerful voice. What happened next caught me by surprise. I was able to witness the beautiful way Nathan and Ellie spend time together.
Nathan snuggled right up to his sister, rubbing his face on hers. He made silly faces so she would smile. He hugged her because he loves her and accepts her just the way she is.
Nathan never stopped being himself. He did not pull away, shy away, or turn away. He looked his sister in the eyes, and his smile let her know that she is loved.
A bright light, there is no question in my mind that this little boy walks the earth with an understanding of love that most of us do not experience by the time we are adults.
I know it can be overwhelming, but it is also beautiful.
I am telling Ellie's story because this is an opportunity to connect deeply. It's a chance for us to be more like Nathan.
Instead of turning away, you can help sing the Song of the Reindeer. Don't be afraid to look, and don't be afraid to be seen. We can be the light together.
What can you do?
Share Her Story
Share the Reindeer's Song with your children. Show them the images. Let them know that it is okay to be different, and it's okay to be yourself.
Let your children ask questions. Answer the questions the best you can. Tell your kids that if they see a family with a special needs child or adult, make eye contact and smile. It's okay to ask the family for permission to ask questions. The family may say no if they are more private family. They may say yes because they are happy to share. Either way, by connecting with the family, you are affirming that you see them, and you are telling them in your eyes they matter.
My own 8 year old daughter asked about Ellie's breathing tube. She noticed when Ellie is upside down, it looks like the tube is connected to Ellie's arm. She took it in, smiled and then said, "She's really cute. I love babies." Just like that, in the eyes of my daughter, Ellie was a baby with her own story, her own needs, and her own intrinsic worth.
SEND A CARD
Draw a picture for Ellie, Nathan, and/or their mom and dad. Send them a card. It doesn't matter what kind of picture you draw or what kind of card you send. Just fill it with love and get it in the mail. This small gesture would bring light and recognition to a family that works so hard to make the world a better place.
Cards can be sent to:
Reindeer Song c/o MMB Imagery 311 Weiser Way Chelsea, MI 48118
Make A Donation
With the help of a nonprofit, Ellie's family is raising money for an elevator for their home- a way to get Ellie and her ventilator up and down the stairs. They need an Ellie-vator!
You can join the studio for holiday sessions and donate at the same time. MMB Imagery will donate the session fees of all sessions that take place between November 28 and December 17 to Ellie's elevator fund. If you were already thinking about portraits for gift giving, this is a way to share love in many ways through the gift of photography.
You can use the form below to let us know you are interested. We will send you our current holiday promotion including pricing information and available dates.
(PS- the form is slow. Click it once and the give it minute before clicking it again. You will receive a notification when it has went through.)
You can also make a donation by sending a check made out to MMB Imagery with Reindeer Song in the subject line. It can be mailed to the same address as cards. If you would like to make a donation by credit credit, please notify the studio and we will send an invoice that will be routed to Ellie's fund.
Thank you for caring. Thank you for sharing. If you look for the light in dark places, you will be amazed at the beauty you discover.