I see you giving me that knowing smile that says you think it’s just because I’m one of those people who rejects anything Christmasy that doesn’t have to do with Christ. Well, you would be wrong. It took me a while, but I realized that I can’t mess Christmas up, even if I include you. No, I have other beefs with you, Mr. Elf.
You’re expensive. I was introduced to you innocently enough. You appeared in my “Recommended for You” list on Amazon. I was drawn in by your five-star rating and didn’t balk at the $20+ price tag because I figured I was missing out on something fantastic! Without any idea of what you were, I bought you with one click.
When you arrived, I read the book to the kids and started hiding you around the house so you could report on their behavior to Santa. The kids really seemed to think it was fun, so I did, too. I remember thinking how it would spoil the fun if the kids found you tucked among the Christmas decorations the following year, instead of at the North Pole with Santa. So I hid you really, really well. I hid you so well that I couldn’t find you the next year. I looked everywhere. By the time I admitted that I wasn’t going to find you, Amazon was out of stock. How on earth would I explain to my kids that the elf wouldn’t be visiting that year?
I searched for a local bookstore that carried the Elf on the Shelf and still had a Caucasian one in stock. I suppose I could have concocted a story about why our elf’s skin color had changed, but not one that would have explained why it had changed permanently. I could imagine my kids talking, “Remember when our elf used to be light-skinned?” When I arrived at the store, I found you among many elf brothers. I sighed with relief that I wouldn’t have to explain you were a fake…until I realized I was spending another $20+ for you. Now, not only would I be hiding you from my kids, but my husband, too. He wouldn’t have approved of the extra expense. Even though my mother taught me lying was okay at Christmas, I was starting not to like you.
You provoke comparisons. That first year, my kids thought you were so fun, they told their neighbor friends. Their mother told me she had felt compelled to buy you, too. She is the organized type who would never lose you, so I didn’t feel too guilty about that.
What I wasn’t happy about, though, was the year the kids said you’d already visited the neighbors’ house, but not ours. And why was that exactly, they wanted to know? I didn’t say what I really thought, which was that the neighbor had just two kids and a white couch. White! And it’s stayed white. Of course, her elf had arrived right on time, whenever that was. When my daughter asked when you would start coming this year, I didn’t know. When she asked if it would be December 1st, I said, “Absolutely!” and hoped that’s when my neighbor would retrieve you from your perfect, dust-free storage spot.
The comparisons you provoked between me and my neighbor were bad enough. But then came Pinterest. These women not only found you every year, but found time to build a new creative setting for you each day. Instead of just sitting or hanging around like you do at my house, in these Martha Stewart-inspired fantasies, you can be found fishing and cooking and more with elf-sized equipment. Check out this pin, for example.
I wonder if these women even have kids! How on earth do they find time to come up with the ideas, buy the supplies they need, and assemble the scenes when the kids weren’t around (and take pictures of the whole thing) when I struggle to get dinner on the table? And I’m at home all day! Whenever I feel like a Pinterest craft failure, I’ve consoled myself with the idea that I’m fairly funny. Apparently, I’m not. I could never come up with something like this:
It used to be that I’d be irritated by pictures of perfectly-proportioned women on SHAPE Magazine. Now I’m annoyed when I see pictures of you, grinning from ear to ear, in your Better Homes decorated respites and your comical situations. I wonder what’s wrong with me that I can’t create Elf pictures worthy of entry into my local paper’s contest.
You have to be moved. On Christmas Eve, when I’m exhausted from laying out gifts for six kids, a husband, and a dog, I have to remember to move you to storage, because you are supposedly at the North Pole. I’ve already learned not to hide you too well, so I’ve taken to hiding you in my underwear drawer. The kids never dig around in there and there’s no chance I’ll forget where you are. That’s the only reason I keep you there. Seriously. As annoyed as I am by how expensive you’ve been and the comparisons you’ve provoked, I’m really irked that during the Christmas season, you have to be moved every single day. And without the kids seeing, of course. My kids are night owls which means that I have to get up early and remember to move you.
My children have wanted to know on more than one occasion why you haven’t moved. I didn’t tell them the truth that I forgot because I was tired, because I overslept, because I was thinking of all the other things I had to get done that day, because I’m not the neighbor with a clean white couch or any of those Elf-crazy pinners. Instead, I distracted them. “Hey kids, should we watch a Christmas movie tonight?” Or I said that you stayed in one place because they were being particularly naughty there. I don’t even remember what I said, honestly. I just know that I really, really didn’t like you at those times.
I have tried to dish off the responsibility for you to my husband. In fact, last night as I knew he would be getting up before me, I asked him to be sure to move you. He grunted in response. This morning when he started to leave the room, I panicked and said, “Remember the elf.” He just laughed. When I came downstairs after unsuccessfully trying to get back to sleep, he was gone, but you were in the same spot. You’re still smiling. Do you think that’s funny?
You have to be believed. I can see you think I should just tell the kids you’re not real if I’m not happy. We both know that won’t work. My friend had me feeling so guilty one year for “lying” to my children about Santa, that when my son said, “There’s no Santa. It’s you and Dad,” I said, “Yes, you’re right.” He was shocked and crying and furious that I had taken that sense of wonder away from him. Now I live in fear of my adult children commiserating, “Remember when Mom told us the elf wasn’t real?” I just can’t do it. Not to mention that my mother told me it was okay not to believe in Santa. I just wouldn’t get any gifts from him then. So I still believe. Promise, Mom!
I have this terrifying vision of me waking up early for the next ten years to hide you before my youngest, now 8, gets up. Or more likely, forgetting to hide you before the youngest gets up and him rolling his eyes. I won’t know if it’s because he wonders why I can’t remember to move you to a new place for a month or why I’m still playing with a felt and plastic doll so many years after the neighbor quit.
Okay, I’m going to tell the truth, even though it’s Christmas. I know I will be sad when there’s no one here to hide you for–when you’re sitting in dust-covered storage in plain sight, year after year. But I have another vision of the future that thrills me. The first child that has a baby shower will be receiving you all wrapped up in pastel paper.
I still don’t like you, but I will thoroughly enjoy moving you to my child’s house. Believe it.