“The Elf on the Shelf” is a wonderful invention.
It’s so wonderful, in fact, that I own two. And it’d be even more wonderful if I could find them both.
EACH YEAR FOR THE PAST FOUR, my daughter’s Elf on the Shelf has spent the month or so before Christmas adorning shelves, little-used counters, Christmas stockings and other places it can “watch” Kalista.
That’s the story: the 7-inch felt-wearing elf with malleable legs flies in from the North Pole each night and camps somewhere in the house it can observe the child(ren) before flying back to Santa’s place, whereupon the elf gives the child’s or children’s behavior report to the big guy. Kalista named hers “Frankie.”
Last year, I forgot to make sure Frankie returned to the North Pole for the 11 months after Christmas. I’m ashamed to admit this, but the ploy is so effective that I decided to milk it for all it was worth. I got about a week’s worth of good behavior from my daughter as a reward for being resourceful.
Anyway, I thought I’d find Frankie tucked in the box in which he was purchased, kept in a seldom-used kitchen cupboard above the fridge (actually, it’s never used). I learned I was incorrect the day after Thanksgiving.
I LOOKED EVERYWHERE in the house. I checked drawers, cupboards, top shelves of hidden closets and seasonal decoration bins I keep in the shed behind the garage. After a couple days, I gave up and resorted to assuming Kalista forgot about it, since she outgrows something from her childhood on a daily basis.
“Daddy,” she said one day after school. “Everyone’s elf is already back.
“Do you know when Frankie is coming back?”
She sounded like a violin in a sad song. It was pitiful.
“Are you sure he isn’t back yet?” I said, not wanting to make her think I had anything to do with Frankie’s arrival or departure at the end of the season.
“She still believes it!” I thought, ecstatic.
I watched her go from room to room throughout the house, checking shelves, countertops and other places Frankie’s perched. Of course, her search came up empty.
“You know what?” I said after a few minutes of mutual torture. “Frankie showed up on Dec. 1 last year.
“Maybe he’ll come on Dec. 1 this year.”
That bought me a couple of days to resume and revamp my search-and-rescue effort.
When Dec. 1 came with no sign of Frankie, I knew it was time to buy another Elf on the Shelf. So I searched the little town in which we live. I checked Walmart, Kmart, Walgreens, CVS and several stores at the mall. Then I Googled “Elf on the Shelf” on my smartphone and learned this town doesn’t have any of the stores that carry the thing.
I posted a desperate cry for help on facebook. It turned out at least one of the locally-owned bookstores have the elves, but they were all closed by about 5 p.m. and definitely weren’t going to open on a Sunday (it’s the Bible Belt here).
So I did the next best thing. I bought an Elf on the Shelf knockoff at an overstock store in the mall. Then I told Kalista when it “appeared” on the shelf at her grandparents’ that Frankie must have sent this elf – a “female” she named “Susie” – on his behalf.
The next day, a friend shopping in a larger town nearby asked if I’d like her to pick up another Frankie.
“Do you want just the elf or the book that comes with it too?” she asked on the phone.
“Just the elf.”
“It looks like they have other elves this year. Does it have to be the original? You can’t buy it by itself. It’s $30.”
That’s a hefty chunk of change for a book we already have and an elf that’ll probably make three once the third turns up randomly in July. But I didn’t hesitate … and I received the elf the next day.
THERE SEEMS TO BE BUT A SMALL margin for error lately when it comes to preserving my 7-year-old’s childhood traditions. After a play rehearsal last week, she told me another child said Santa isn’t real.
The day will come when she agrees.
Sometimes she’ll walk into a room I’m in and look like a young woman. She’s tall, articulate and less awkward than before. She only calls me “Daddy” instead of “Dad” because I asked after a few days of the latter variation.
Sometimes I hate school for doing this to her.
Sometimes I hate time for making her have to go to school.
Sometimes I hate my job for making me miss a second of her life.
Sometimes I hate her extracurricular activities for giving her something to do other than play checkers with me.
Sometimes I hate the rhythm of life and the way it will not stop.
At least, that’s what I think I think. I don’t know what I hate. I don’t even know if I should use a verb as powerful as “hate.” I don’t know anything sometimes.
But I know all of the time I’ll never forget reading “The Grouchy Ladybug” to her every night, riding her in a child’s seat on my mountain bike to the farmer’s market on Saturdays or the way she used to look up as she handed me pretty leaves or rocks or flower petals on a walk in the park.
I know her time as a baby is long gone, period as a toddler has passed and her stage as a child is showing signs of nearing an end. I know; I know; I know.