I am sure you have heard of the Elf on the Shelf, haven't you? I have, and have been avoiding him for years. I first heard of him from my sister in Atlanta - the book/concept was published in Georgia, I believe, a few years ago - it took that state by storm. I vaguely understood the concept - that there was a tiny elf that moved around in the middle of the night, occasionally causing mischief and mayhem ("The boys were so surprised to find cereal all over the floor! Underwear on the Christmas tree!"). He reported back to Santa about how the kids were behaving. Kids were not allowed to touch him, only adults, or the magic would be gone. I am sure I am partially murdering the concept, having not read the book myself. To me it sounded like one other thing to have to worry about doing during the Christmas season, as if there wasn't already enough.
Then, this fall, at the kids new school, the author of Elf on the Shelf paid a visit one day. I got advance notice in the kid's folders with an order form. They were so excited, I would have been Scrooge not to have gotten them each one ("There has to be one at Dad's house, too!"). So I buckled, bowing to the marketing genius of the mother-daughter traveling team.
I struggled the first few days of December, but the kids were enamored. "Let's call him Fisbee!" At first I just moved him around at night and the kids delighted in who could find him first in the morning. But they wondered about the mischief, so I concocted various ways to make him devilish in the middle of the night. He made a mess with the cat food. He sprinkled glitter on the dining room table and hung from the chandelier. Despite their enthusiasm, they became a little scared, I think. Ce-silly took to closing her bedroom door at night, citing her fear of Fisbee walking around in the night while she was sleeping. Jack worried that the elf would abscond with his favorite possession, his itouch. I reassured them both, and wondered aloud if I should send the elf back to the North Pole. "No, mom, he's scary but he's really cool." Jack started to invent mischief based on his morning observations - "Look, he broke an ornament!" I replied, "No, dear, I don't think he is mean, I think that was our cat, Katybell. It was an accident."
I think a lot of parents use the idea of the Elf on the Shelf in an Orwellian Big Brother fashion, but my parents never did this to us with Santa, and I was reluctant to do the same. I believe one should be good for the benefit of fellow mankind, not to appease someone in fear of retribution or punishment. Ce-Silly took to writing messages to our Fisbee at night, and I responded in early morning fog, feeling like I was becoming her best elf friend or on an elf date. "What is your favorite food? What is your favorite color? Do you have a girlfriend? Will you please be 'notty' every night - Don't worry, I won't let my mom get mad at you." I resisted the temptation to reply with broccoli and black soot, cheerily proclaiming peppermints and eggnog and bright red - answers I thought would be popular with the kids. I told her I was too young to have a girlfriend. I told her of course I knew her classroom elf Pinecone and her library elf Snowflake - we all went to elf school together, and she was delighted to tell her friends the next day.
My "notty" (Ce-silly's adorable spelling) ideas were fading fast, so I was delighted one day to get a text from a friend of an elf making a snow angel. That morning, I covered the breakfast table with flour and left Fisbee in the middle, making a beautiful flour angel. The kids were so excited they took pictures with their itouches. I think Jack took 50 while I was cooking breakfast. That's when I decided this was worth it. It was making our lives fun. That day, I googled Elf on the Shelf ideas and was flooded with pictures on the internet of elven antics, for which I was eternally grateful. Elves battling superhero figures with marshmallows over Lego forts. I think I botched that one a little - maybe it was because we are from the South and my kids don't know about snowball fights or maybe it was because I used a tissue box and a snowman decoration instead of Legos and action figures, but they still enjoyed eating morning marshmallows. There were also elves ditching the stockings and putting underwear on the hangers - they got a big kick out of that one. Thank goodness for the internet.
One early morning I was staging a scene I had seen online of an elf fishing out of the toilet with a candy cane, ribbon, and goldfish. I was sure the crackers would dissolve into an unrecognizable shape by the time the kids got up in a couple of hours, so I grabbed a plastic witch finger left over from Halloween and tied it to the ribbon instead, to float in the toilet. While I was staging my "notty" scene, the elf fell into the toilet. Suddenly I was reminded of that old Saturday Night Live skit - Mr. Bill. "Oh No!" Since then, I have been staging "notty" tragicomedies in my head for Mr. Elf - getting singed in the fireplace while roasting marshmallows, electrocuted while watering the Christmas tree, it is getting a little ridiculous, actually. And a little black for elementary school children, but perfect, I decided, for lulling sullen teenagers out of their self-absorbed miserable states. I've got a few years of scenario dreaming on my side for that one. In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all and I would love to hear any elf suggestions, G-rated for the present or otherwise for the future. Whether you partake in this madness or not, all comments are welcome.