‘Tis the season, I have been told. However, unlike the other 99% of TBK staff members, I am not dying of excitement. The ability to experience Christmas spirit vanished for me somewhere in my mid-twenties. Instead, I began to see Christmas as an overwhelming commercial event full of plastic, macabre Santa Clauses, stores filled with overwhelming, anxiety inducing amounts of people, and the suggestion that a person must spend the lifetime’s salary of a third world person on Christmas gifts. Yet, I go through the motions. I put up my artificial tree which irritates my skin and causes me to have hives. I decorate it with my children. Inevitably, I will end up chasing my sons away because they will make the tree unbalanced with heavy ornaments in the front. I wrap everyone’s gifts and hang stockings. I spend time with my sons every weekend and watch Christmas movies. And on Christmas Eve, we bake cookies to leave out for Santa. I do this because I want my children to have a good childhood. With every trip we take, movie we watch, game we play, my goal is to create happy memories for my two sons.
“The Elf on the Shelf” came out in 2005. My oldest son, Zeke was one year old at the time. I did not learn of them until Zeke was 5 years old. He came home from kindergarten and told me that his class had one. He explained that the elf watched over them during the day and then reported their behavior back to Santa at night. Blah, I thought. One more nonsensical, commercial Christmas ploy. The following year, he informed me that is first grade class also had an elf. He asked why we did not have one. Sighing, I weighed pros and cons. Did it make unnecessary work for me? Yes, absolutely. Would it create a happy memory for my children? Yes. So I gave in. I told Zeke and Eli that there was two ways to get their very own scout elf. They could ask Santa to send them one or we could go to the store and adopt one. They chose to ask Santa. A couple days later, we woke up to find our very own “Elf on the Shelf”. He was a male elf and he came with a book that explained that he was very special. He had magic that would allow him to return to the North Pole every night to report back to Santa. However, if he was touched by a child, his magic would disappear. He would become stranded. The book also told us that our elf’s name was Jensen. Yes, I know that the child(ren) is supposed to name the elf. I felt that if I had to participate in this “Elf on the Shelf” ordeal, the least I could do was name the thing.
Jensen was a lot of work. I had to wait until my sons were asleep. Then I would move Jensen to a new location so that it appeared that he had left during the night and then picked a new spot to observe from. Sometimes Jensen would be wearing new clothes or would play tricks like write on mirrors with dry erase markers. Other times Jensen would ride in our sleigh stocking holder or fly from the ceiling fan chain. Occasionally, he would bring gifts. My favorite thing was when Jensen left a “pot” of sugar and a tiny envelope with crystal sprinkle “seeds”. Zeke and Eli carefully planted the “seeds” and the next day lollipops grew from the sugar “soil”.
I have also learned along the way. Zeke and Eli were extremely unhappy when Jensen put their underwear on the Christmas tree. They were terribly embarrassed by that prank and took the underwear down as quickly as they could. I also learned not to put Jensen in their bathroom. Eli was very upset that Jensen was setting on the towel shelf. Eli came to me and asked if he could use my bathroom that day. He said that it made him uncomfortable that Jensen was watching him pee. I instructed Eli to tell Jensen to stay out of his bathroom in the future. To this day, Jensen has respected his wishes. Of course, there are always the times that I fall asleep without moving Jensen to a new location. My sons are quick to notice when that happens. Unfortunately, it happens fairly often. I always tell my boys that they must have stayed awake too long for Jensen to leave and make it back in time for morning. Nodding, they accept this explanation every time.
We have also had some issues with Jensen’s health over the years. He experienced two major illness in one year. The first was a physical injury that was kept secret from Zeke and Eli. Jensen had been resting on a branch in the Christmas tree. He must have fallen off at some point during the night. When I woke the next morning, I found a guilty dog with our elf in her mouth. She dropped Jensen as soon as she saw me. The hole in Jensen’s forehead was obvious. I hurriedly shoved Jensen into the tree face first so that my children would not be traumatized. After Zeke and Eli had been whisked to school, I sent my mom on an emergency mission to replace Jensen. She had to go to multiple stores to make sure she got one that had matching skin color, eye color, and hair color. By the time the boys had come home from school, new Jensen was back at his place in the tree (a little higher and more secure this time though).
The second health problem was of a magical nature. Zeke reported to me that Eli had touched Jensen and his magic was gone. Initially, Eli denied this. However, when Jensen did not move the next day, Eli tearfully admitted that he had touched Jensen. He was no longer able to return to the North Pole. Many days past until one morning Jensen was gone. With the help of a friend, I received a text message explaining that a rescue mission had been successful. Jensen had been picked up by fellow scout elves and he was recovering in the North Pole Infirmary. We even received a photo showing Jensen comfortably resting in a hospital gown. A few days past, then Jensen returned with his magic intact. I am happy to report we have not had any more magical mishaps since that time.
Two years ago, it occurred to me that this might be a tradition that my sons would want to continue with their children. Having only one elf would not suffice. I sneakily brought up the idea of a second elf to Zeke and Eli. I explained that some families have more than one elf. Sometimes they have one to watch each child. They became very excited and wanted to know more. I told them to tell Jensen to ask Santa to send us a second elf. The next morning we found a female elf waiting for us. Her book told us that her name was Lexi (one of my chosen baby girl names that I never got to use).
It has been 6 years, since our home invited in its first “Elf on the Shelf”. Every year our elves return around Thanksgiving for mischievous fun. They stay with us until catching a ride with Santa on Christmas Eve. At 12 years old, I am fairly certain that Zeke does not believe anymore but he continues to play along. Despite the work, the staying up late, and the constant search for new ideas, Jensen and Lexi are a part of the Christmas experience for my children. Even though I hate the commercial aspect of Christmas, I will continue to dress these little elves up and move them around my home. I will carry on with the tradition as long as it brings my sons Christmas joy and happy memories. Maybe one day Jensen or Lexi will find a new home with a future grandchild.