Alternate Title: The Elf Has Landed
Elf on the Shelf. I have resisted for a long time because I felt like it was a tradition being forced upon families, and that traditions are organic things, not something you purchase. I guess I felt that we should be able to come up with our own holiday traditions. Well, guess again. I caved on the elf thing. Both kids keep asking why we are the only people on earth (or so it seems) who have not been graced by an elf’s presence. Since I feel like my seven-year-old Josie was doubting Santa, I bought one recently. Yes…if I process that sentence and my previous iterations, I see contradictions. This is not lost on me. But, at the end of the day, the joy of Santa is a short, magical time in one’s life, and if I recognize the magic of Santa, then why can’t I see something similar in this stuffed elf? Especially if it restores a bit of magic for a little girl who sometimes seems so much older than her seven years.
Until last week, I was one of those anti-elf people. I pretty much jumped down my husband Josh’s throat last year when he simply wondered if we should get an elf for our kids. I believe I uttered things like “creepy” and “dead eyes” and “manipulative” and “tradition shouldn’t cost $30.” Oh, how the sanctimonious do fall.
When Josie and Jake asked for the 50th time why they were the only kids without an elf, I did not have an answer. Broken, I entered Barnes and Noble and picked up the first elf I saw. I did not know that there are FOUR “STYLES.” Boy or girl, obviously. And you may choose a corresponding complexion for your elf. You have the pale, Irish style or the “dark complexioned” (as the Barnes and Noble lady put it) elf. I was like “Oh. Well, what did I get?” She said “Uhm, it looks like you have a boy and he is dark complexioned.” Well. This light complexioned person then had the weirdest out-loud existential moment in which I apparently engaged in some sort of inexplicable debate over the complexion of a stuffed doll. “Oh. Well… Should I get a different kind? No. What does it matter? Why would I get the pale one? Why on earth would I do that? I like this one. Why would I make such a choice? Fine. Yeah. This guy. The dark complexioned guy elf.”
So, I went home with the elf, telling myself that we would keep this very low key. . .
As I pulled into the neighborhood, I noticed Josie’s bike in front of her friend’s house. Immediately, I left low key in the dust. I parked the car in the driveway, removed the elf and the accompanying explanatory children’s book from the box that provides parents with explicit directions on starting your own elf tradition. I stumbled down the street holding elf and book behind my back. It was subtle. I dumped the elf and the book in her bike basket. A little later, I was sitting on the couch when I looked out the window and saw her riding her bike home with the widest smile on her face! That elf melted my cold heart right there. Josie was so genuinely surprised (which is hard to accomplish with little miss grounded in reality). She. Thinks the elf fell out of the sky. We examined him in the basket (you can’t touch him, the suggested rules state, or the magic won’t happen). Her one comment was “why is our elf so tan?” His dark complexion seems to suggest that he might have a liver condition, for the tone is not one generally found on humans. So, with his dark complexion and his pinkish/yellowish eyes, our elf is weak and sickly. We must be careful around him. Josie and Jake, in a rare moment of unity, agreed upon the name Elfie. Night one with Elfie went well. He went off, reported to Santa and came back in relocated himself in a fairly obvious location, on top of our bathroom window. The kids’ commented that he was covered in dust… I said that he should hide no higher than five feet five inches if he hopes to escape the dust.
My brother informed me that my nephew composes missives to their elf and that his elf responds in a tiny script crafted late at night by my sister-in-law. Yesterday I made a mental note to tell the 2Js that Elfie was illiterate. Well, guess who just went right ahead and fell down the elf on the shelf elfhole? Last night, Josie was being horrible at bedtime. Later that night, I wrote a tiny note (taking my inspiration directly from my sister-in-law) and rolled it up and wrote on the outside in a weird medieval script, “Read Me Josie. For Josie only.” I looked to Alice in Wonderland for that little bit of inspiration. I left the .75-inch scrolled note on her dresser. It’s a tiny missive about staying in her bed at night and giving her parents a break. I wrote that she was not to share the note with anyone, that this would be her Christmas gift to Mom and Dad. It was to be a secret, but she could tell everyone on Christmas Day. I know! When I snap, I snap. I was in deep. Too deep.
Of course as soon as Josie found the tiny note, following an apocalyptic fight with Jake over who found Elfie the Tan first, she blabbed to us (and, indirectly, to little pitcher ears Jake). Then she started reading and realized it was supposed to be a secret note, so she told us it was a secret note, and then freaked out because she can’t keep a secret (but she did not disclose the contents). Then Jake huffed off to his room to look for his note. He began howling like a crazed seagull which caused me to panicwhispershriek to Josh “go downstairs and right that kid a note. NOW.” Which he did. In the meantime, though, Josie informed Jake that the note was not such a good thing anyway. Ha!
Josh planted the note in Jake’s room and then pretended to discover it. Josie was all over it, but I was freaking out because I had gone to such pains to write in a Carolingian miniscule on an unusual paper and here was Josh’s note…just written on the back of our Snoopy grocery list and clearly in his own handwriting style (just much smaller than usual). Josie was making grabs for it and I knew the gig would be up if she had time to analyze it so I start yelling at her about being late for school (which she was by this point). Then somehow she threw Jake’s note and they both thought it had magically disappeared. I was like “how can a note just MAGICALLY disappear?! Oh. . . “
Now I feel like Elfie the Tan has to write another tiny note telling them not to expect any more notes until Christmas.
THIS is exactly the reason I knew I should avoid this thing like the plague.