Christmastime is my favorite. I love it so, so much. Though, when I was growing up, my mom insisted that we wait until Thanksgiving was finished before beginning Christmas festivities in any fashion, I have trouble waiting until the trick-or-treaters go home before I crank up the Christmas music. I decorate my house with a zillion lights and like to have both my Christmas tree and outdoor lights up before Thanksgiving (so it gives us more time to enjoy them— sometimes there is less than a month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, after all, and I swear those weeks go faster than all the other ones in the year, with the possible exception of the last few weeks of summer).
A handful of years ago a new tradition entered our purview— the Elf on the Shelf. In an impressively short span of time, one family’s tradition of having an elf visit their home and fly back to report to Santa each night seemed to take over just about family I knew. It was one more thing to think about during an already packed time of the year, but it was fun and helped explain how Santa could possibly know everything he does, so it caught on like wildfire.
After Thanksgiving, the elf would show up at our house and be found in a new spot each day (ostensibly because he or she was flying home to the North Pole each night to report back to Santa). The kids would have fun racing around the house each morning to locate him (or, in our case, them, because we ended up with both a male and female elf).
There were people who went beyond this. There were mothers (I think it was mostly mothers) who would not only remembered to move the elf each night, but who would also choreograph an incredible array of scenarios for the elves to find themselves in. Messes they would make, for instance; movies they would act out. I could scarcely believe the effort put in to these marvels, and decided that that was a step further than I was willing to go for Christmas. Even I have limits, it turns out.
Because now I have a serious problem. I have two kids who still believe in Santa (which I love— I remember being devastated when I found out around age 6 or 7 that my parents had been lying to me), but their faith now hinges on me remembering to move these elves every night, and I seem to suck at that.
By the time my kids are asleep, I am basically exhausted and have trouble remembering the few more things I need to do before I succumb to sleep myself. Much less remember that I need to give the elves a new location, and preferably one they haven’t already inhabited this season.
I was out with friends a few weeks ago when the alarm on my phone started ringing. Loud. I turned my phone over. “Move Chippy,” the alarm message commanded.
I had set an alarm on my phone to remind me to move the elves. But now I was out and nowhere near the elves. And I would still need to remember to move them when I got home.
So I hit the snooze button.
Ten minutes later the alarm went off again, and I tried to be inconspicuous as I hit the snooze button again. This couldn’t be what was intended when that family invented this tradition, could it? I bet that mom didn’t need to set alarms to remind herself to move her elves. She probably didn’t have buzzers going off at fancy restaurants because she couldn’t remember the one thing those elves required.
But who knows? The problem with the elves is that they are just One. More. Thing. At a time of year when mothers tend to have a trillion and one things on their plates. Cards, and cookies, and gifts for teachers, and attempts to get an equal number of gifts for each child, and on and on.
The other day I saw another mother post a meme on Facebook of Wonder Woman spinning from regular clothes into her fabulous Wonder Woman outfit. Next to the picture it said, “Every mother at Christmastime.” I laughed in recognition and watched Wonder Woman spin into her superhero costume a few more times before I moved on to the next thing. It was so true.
So I hit the snooze button again, left my alarm on, and continued to laugh with my friends.
I’m pretty sure I remembered to move the elves when I got home. But I can’t remember. There have been a few nights even the alarm didn’t help me.
But I’m doing the best I can. And I think that’s about all the elves, or anyone else for that matter, can expect at this time of year.