Our elf didn’t stand a chance. He was given to me by a friend so he didn’t come with the box that had the instructions. Being a vintage elf, he has the most expressive rosy cheeked smile and special light in his eyes, but being vintage, his arms are connected and he doesn’t sit that straight. With my instinctual procrastination, the Christmas boxes weren’t cracked until the third of December. The advent calendars were filled late. We barely had enough time to grab the Santa hats before it was the annual town Christmas parade, and then it happened. I was opening one of the Christmas tins that hold ornaments and such in the off season and cookies and things in the season, and I unwrapped our elf with the kids less than ten feet away. With my bent understanding of elf of a shelf, having learned everything from looking at the box on the shelf and hearing snippets of rumors that he did this or he went there, I knew that the kids weren’t supposed to see me take him out of the Christmas boxes. I swear my daughter looked up at me and saw him, but without a skip in my heart, I turned around and lackadaisically put him up on the mantle between some of my husband’s big shiny trophies. With a wonder in my head, I turned back around and picked up an ornament from a tin to give to my daughter for the tree. Like so much of parenting, it was just like magic.
That night after dinner, when my daughter looked up and said, “What’s that?” pointing to the smiling little Christmas cherub, fantastical stories gripped me. With flourish I told the kids about the Christmas elf who is their direct line to Santa. Santa is always watching, as we know by the song, but this elf is the extra security to make sure both good and bad behavior is reported. The questions from the kids started coming and, like balls flying at the best World Series, my husband and I kept batting ‘em into the stars. This elf flew to Santa every night, faster than a blink of an eye, but he always waited until you’re sleeping. He moves to a new place in our house after he comes back from telling Santa and that’s how the kids will know that Santa knows. Pure clueless gold! Who needed to know the official rules of the elf on a shelf? Surely not our house!
We had to name the little guy and anyone who has small children in the house knows what “great” names come up. I was wondering with small dread what hideous name this great face would have to be called for the rest of his life. Buddy first came up, Chalmers was a friend’s elf’s name and then my daughter shouts out, “Zippy!” The appropriateness of it settles over us since he does have to be quite fast. She lets out one of her infamous guffawing laughs and blurts, “Zippy Wippy!” and melts into peals of joy. So Zippy’s stories began.
Starting simple, I moved him around without much outside influence. On top of the bookshelf, on the shelves of the bookcase, on a tree branch up by the angel, on a boat decoration on the tree, up on the kitchen cupboards and once inside the KitchenAid bowl as if waiting for the next batch of Christmas cookies. He got quite brazen when he slipped inside my daughter’s stocking on her birthday. There were a couple of times the kids pointed out that Zippy may not have reported to Santa because he didn’t move overnight, but I reminded them that Zippy also had to make sure they were on their toes doing their duty and watching out for him. There was a notable uptick in their behavior on a few occasions when it suited one or the other well and put the other in a bad light, so that worked out well in the parental arena. I saw crazy pictures of other elves videoing Barbie and her friends as they soaked sink side, making number two in the form of kisses on those peanut butter shortbread kiss cookies and one deplorable elf passed out with a straw in hand after making a coke line disappear! Oh, to the detriment of the season, and you better believe I never showed the kids such behavior.
Now that the new year has rounded the corner and the Christmas decorations are still up, Zippy has stopped moving and was in what appeared to be his favorite spot up by the angel on the tree. Tonight he fell off of his branch. I picked him up so gingerly and brought him down so they kids could ooh and aah over him. Then they told me to put him back up in the first place they found him- up by Daddy’s big shiny trophies on the mantle. Christmas magic is clearly still hard at work, though the wrapping paper and tags have been thrown away. For this upcoming Christmas, I may actually research a few scenarios for our adventuresome elf on a shelf.