Different families have various traditions for this time of year. My family always goes to a certain Christmas display in the area. We have gone since I was a teeny EarthBabe. In my own home, we celebrate Hanukkah, St. Nicolas Day, Yule and Christmas and there are lights, foods, crafts, treats, decorations, prayers and traditions that go along with those four. One newly manufactured and super trendy tradition that I have been avoiding for the past few years is anything involving that mother-fucking Elf on the mother-fucking Shelf. It's true - I have not been a fan. My eyes have rolled numerous times reading status updates from mothers worried that their Elf on the Shelf won't be in as cool a location as their neighbor's Elf on the fucking Shelf. Deep sighs escape my throat as I see one more Pinterest photo of some creative ways to stuff your Elf into precarious situations around the house. My head has hit the desk on more than one occasion as yet another terribly over-saturated Instagram photo with too much blue filter shows an Elf getting into all sorts of silly hijinks. The mother-fucking Elf on the mother-fucking Shelf with his little prissy sideways eyeroll and unfortunate case of rosacea (or is it? I personally think he drinks too much) was not going to be welcomed into my home. I am comfortable being judgmental about the damn Elf as I sit at my computer, in my Christmas penguin fleece pajama bottoms while sipping my iced coffee from a wine glass. I even made fun of the thing on my Facebook page:
"Got one of those Elf on the Shelf dolls. I set him up in a kitchen cabinet last night. Woke up to find him with a dead hooker and a bag of blow. Decided he was in no position to judge my kid and make reports to Santa and sent him to Blitzen's Home For Wayward Holiday Helpers. Hope he makes a good recovery." - Me
That was as close to my home that any Elf on the MF Shelf was going to get - a fake scenario in a status update.
Until I went to Target with my son.
We arrived at our local Target with the simple task of getting a present for a birthday party. That was all. I had a coupon for $3.00 of my purchase. It was going to be an easy and happy and cheap trip. Of course, I can't just walk into Target and go to my targeted (giggle) aisle and pick out the one thing I needed. Noooooo. I have to walk to perimeter of the whole store. If I don't, the world will spin off it's axis and things will suck. True story. I wheeled my cart through the store, with my 6 year old laying on the very bottom rack of the cart and my 15 month old standing in the part where little kids should be sitting - pretty much everything that the warnings on the cart tell you not to do - and passed display after display of crap I don't need. I saw a display of the mother-fucking Elf on the motherfucking Shelf ('twas only one plush Elf left, surrounded by EOTS books, CDs and other overpriced elven do-dads) and proceeded to smugly walk right by it, happily glowing with my sense of pride that we don't do that. The squeaking of the cart wheels was met with another high-pitched noise - my little boy shrieking, "Mama! Stop! Stop!" I, of course, have a heart attack and immediately think this is what I get for being that bad mom who lets her kids ride on carts in unsafe ways. I thought I must have run over his hand, or his nose or something. No. He continued, "It's the ELF! Oh my God! It's really the ELF! They come alive at night and run around your house while your sleeping! Oh my God! I never thought I would ever see one!" He jumped up and grabbed that last little Elf and asked, "Mama, please, can I have him? Please? I've never had a real Elf before!" His gorgeous brown-green-brown eyes were lit up like the finale of the Wanamaker's light display in downtown Philadelphia. He was glowing - actually glowing - with excitement. You know how they talk about the Christmas Spirit and all that magic? You know, the magic that we have forgotten as we grew up and stopped believing? It was right there - emanating in all of it's red and green glory from my son.
This is the part where I could have educated him about our culture of consumption. I could have lectured him on advertising and it's sinister effect on children like him. I could have made a grand speech about how he didn't need to have an Elf of his own just because other kids have one - be yourself, kid. Stand out in the crowd! I could have told him that the Elf isn't real.
Or course, I said, "Wow! I think this little Elf was waiting here just for you." More light and sparkle in his eyes. "What shall we name your Elf?"
"Golly!" he said. (pronounced like "jolly") This is not the typical EOTS. It's plush and it has a kinder gaze, not that sarcastic sideways creepy killer clown look. It comes with a removable skirt, so your Elf can conform to gender roles and be either a boy or a girl. I asked my son if Golly was a boy or girl. "A boy!" he said. I pointed out that we could take the skirt off when we got home. "Why would I want to take his skirt off? That's his skirt. He needs it and you can tell he likes it." Well played, little man.
And he was a happy little boy. And I was a happy little mom. I couldn't take that moment of magic away from him - even if I don't believe (or do I?). It was a beautiful moment and I think I may have even heard an angel sing....until I heard more shrieking. This time, it was from the little baby girl in my cart who was trying to furiously rip the Elf from my son's hands. "No! No! He's for BOTH of us, but he wants ME to carry him. You stay in the cart." Cue crying from the little girl. Ahhh...the beautiful sounds of the season.
Bonus: the Elf was on sale. We did not get the book. My son does not seem to know the "official" story. To him, this elf is a magical little dude who just shows up in different places when he wakes up in the morning. We do not say the Elf is spying and making reports back to the North Pol-ice. There is no pressure to "be good" in front of the Elf. The Elf simply finds a new place to plop his little skirted ass each night. There is no pressure for mama, either. I have a few tricks up my sleeve for Golly's nightly maneuvers, but I don't worry about being Pinterest perfect. When my son wakes up each morning and sees that Golly has moved and may or may not being doing something silly or helpful (we found him with a screwdriver and my son's new Ikea chair fully assembled), he laughs and is happy and excited. He lets his child imagination take over and basks in that wonder of the Christmas season that so many of us secretly wish we could get back.
Here's to Christmas magic and compromise - and to the hope that the little Elf really will do something magical, such as organize my pantry or put the laundry away.