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Cross-country antics bring family together

He jingles year-round, annoyingly. His goofy grin evokes visions of the Cheshire Cat; antlers standing at attention peak his fuzzy brown body. Two feet tall, weighing three pounds, you'd think he'd happily hang out with his stuffed animal friends. Yet Fred has crisscrossed the country more than some airline pilots.

And while no one admits to liking him except our sister Renie, he's become the family pet of cousins who jet him around in a crazy game of Hot Potato. Fred is the brother we four sisters never had, brought into the family by Renie, the family agitator.

Small in stature, irritating in nature, bearing a rack on his head and a battery in his innards, Fred, a singing moose, has become an integral part of the family because of Renie's insistence that we love him, despite our determined endeavors to prove otherwise.

She started bringing him to annual sisterly reunions, solely to aggravate us. Fred sings at the smack of a button. He has been detained in freezers, hung from rafters, hidden under beds and locked in trunks -- anything to worry the wart who invited him despite our pleas that he "stay home!"

It reached new peaks of ridiculousness when he came to family weddings. Here, our children snatched the reins from Aunt Renie's hands, throwing down the gauntlet of competition.

This inventive group, ranging in age from 40 to 17, put their heads together, greatly expanding the horizons of the little fella. Securing a key to Fred's hotel room, he was collected to join their revelry. This band of 20, including the bridal couple, stole him off for a group picture. They fed the beast a beer right behind Aunt Renie's back, then danced him in the Electric Slide. Pictures recorded his presence at the event, providing Renie's last visions of her pet. For after that fete, in Cleveland, Fred hit the road. He joined Ken and Jodi on their Caribbean honeymoon, then was mailed to Texas where cousins Mike and Lisa showed him the JFK shooting site.

Next, cousins Sally and Matt narrowly escaped arrest when police caught them taking Fred's picture at a busy Chicago interstate sign. Finding a toy store, they bought a lady moose and sent the new couple off to Ed and Karen in Atlanta. While these chaperones insist F&F had separate bedrooms, Buffalo's imaginative cousins Gary and Kris added little Enrico to the group, forever branding poor innocent Fredricka "the floozy."

When Courtney married Chris, in Buffalo, Fred donned a tuxedo. Siblings Jenna and Ryan escorted him to the reception amidst royal fanfare. Corralling the men's room, Ryan re-enacted his own youthful gift from the elder cousins, treating Fred to a swoosh. Sanitized droplets of water invoked the expected reaction from Renie, who enjoyed every second.

Carted off to Tennessee, Fred was introduced to skydiving. Cousin Adam, who claims 1,000 dives, treated Fred to a tandem jump, so proven by the photographic skills of fiance Adrienne, also floating high. Fred just smiled his silly smile all the way to terra firma.

Currently resting in his Buffalo home, Fred anticipates more fun when cousin Liz hoists him off to Pittsburgh, and Carolyn and Greg enact their Fred'scapade to North Carolina. It won't be over till everyone plays. For it's not just Fred that has fun. E-mails fly during these cross-country sojourns, Renie pleading for pictorial proof from his moose-nappers, while aunts and uncles toss suggestions.

It's become the tie that binds, all ages, all over the country. If the second cousins get involved, Fred might just go international.

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