Last year was the first Christmas my family spent without my mom, and it sucked. It sucked in a way that would make Alanis Morissette want to add lyrics to that stupid “Ironic” song. All I wanted for Christmas last year was for it to end. My mother had always said that this time of year was only a happy time for those with family and money. Otherwise, it is a season filled with worry and pain. I don’t think Mom was all that wrong when it came to this subject. After my Grandma died, Mom just stopped caring about Christmas. Sure she went through the motions: The Christmas tree was always lovely, the table looked fantastic, and the house was full of gifts, but I am pretty sure that all Mom really wanted was to lay in her bed and watch Golden Girls reruns. I loved my mom to no end, and think about her almost every minute of the day, but hearing her say, “I’m just not in the mood for Christmas this year,” just about drove me insane.
Flash forward to last year. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I would have been perfectly content to lie in bed and watch Sex and the City reruns. Lie in my bed and pretend that life didn’t have to go on without Mom there. However, life did have to go on. There was a tree to put up, stockings to hang, and my three daughters who needed to have a good Christmas. I rolled myself and my busted elastic pajama pants out of bed and faked as much joy as I could. It was about this time that Trey heard about Elf on the Shelf and bought us one at the unholy store that is Books-a-Million. He read the story to Saidee and they named the elf Elwood P. That night we got busy hiding the elf.
Elwood is not the kind of elf that caused mischief. This is strictly because I am a lazy ass parent who refuses to clean up after a felt and plastic elf when I already clean up after a husband, two dogs, and three kids. Our elf just lands in funny places and quietly watches us watch television. He perches on the back of Darth Vader and Saidee says, “That is funny, Momma, because Darth Vader is a bad guy.” Almost immediately a reply comes out of the kitchen, “Darth Vader is not a bad guy; he is misunderstood.” Elwood P. lands in the lighting fixture and is a small reminder that I should really look up more when I dust. For every time we mention to Saidee that Elwood is watching, there are three times that Saidee says, “Elwood, Momma cussed again.” I enjoy watching her race through the house in the morning trying to find out where he has landed. That silly elf is a personal reminder that I can’t retreat from my life. I have to be an active participant in the holidays even if it sucks beyond all measure.
There is an odd competition factor involved with some people. They set up elaborate scenes for the elf and post them on all forms of social media. Not so shockingly, I have an opinion on this too. My husband and I work and live in an area that has substantial socio-economic problems. A great number of children are living in less than desirable situations. Some have been farmed out to relatives, friends, coaches, or foster families. I know that we have personally supplied food and gifts for numerous kids in Trey’s school system. I wish these kids had parents who fretted and worried about moving the elf around. I wish these kids had parents that were in competition with others to be “the best parent.” Some of these kids are dealing with the threat of deportation. Others are dealing with Grandma selling crack out of a dresser drawer. Oh, how I wish an overly Orwellian elf was the biggest problem these kids were dealing with. I understand the critic’s point. It is a fabricated tradition and totally consumer based, but really most holidays are anymore.
So, tonight when Saidee goes to bed, we will place the elf next to Jabba the Hut and laugh about how silly it looks. In the morning she will streak through the house to find Elwood. She will be resplendent and I will be reminded that whimsy (even store bought whimsy) is a fantastic part of childhood.
Cut the damn elf some slack, please.