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That darn elf

Things were so much simpler when I was a child in the 1980s.

Elves on Shelves didn’t exist, or at least they hadn’t made their presence known yet.

My biggest worry was that Grandpa would make good on his promise to catch Santa Claus and nail him to the garage door. That sounds so morbid now, but things weren’t as sensitive back then and Grandpa loved to tease. I just wanted Grandpa to catch him so I could bombard him with questions, and possibly beg a ride in his sleigh. I never could stay awake long enough to catch him myself. For some odd reason, I was also convinced he came through our dryer (we didn’t have a fireplace).

Anyway, back to present (ha, get it?) day. We have an Elf on the Shelf and his name is Freddy. He appears somewhere in our house the day after Thanksgiving, to monitor the kids’ behavior for Santa. He makes reports back to the Jolly Old Elf.

Our particular elf loves to eat and is constantly getting into food and making messes. Last year he had cheese spread smeared on his cheeks. He devoured an entire can of Pringles (or was that Dad?) Thank God he’s never touched my coffee. I’m just waiting to stumble out to the kitchen one morning and find his pointy red legs sticking out of my Folger’s can. It would be a catastrophe and here is why: The main rule for this magical elf is that you CANNOT TOUCH HIM or he will lose his magic. This was very hard for our now 12-yearold, who just has to test those boundaries. He “accidentally” touched Freddy once, who disappeared for two days. When he returned, he had a very scolding note from Santa himself to LEAVE THE ELF ALONE and let him do his job.

Last year, Uncle Derek came to Christmas and Freddy had propped himself in the Christmas tree, probably to witness the carnage of wrapping paper, candy canes and chaos. When Uncle Derek moved a sled, Freddy toppled out of the tree, to the kids’ horror. Oh dear! Freddy can’t be touched, so he’d have to be left on the floor! What if our old dog, Momo (who loved to eat everything) thought he was lunch?

Imagine their utter shock and terror when Uncle Derek reached down, grabbed Freddy and made him dance and chase them around. They ran shrieking from him, begging him to put down the elf. Uncle Derek, who is also an 80s baby, didn’t understand what the big deal was. Why couldn’t he touch this stuffed little elf?

When he finally released Freddy and put him back in the tree, the kids explained his grievous error to him. He was properly mortified, and begged Freddy’s forgiveness. Freddy disappeared sometime overnight, never to return that holiday season. The kids prayed he wasn’t mad, or that Uncle Derek hadn’t stolen his magic. What if he didn’t make it back to the North Pole? Oh dear, oh dear.

As you may have guessed, we move Freddy every night to contribute to the kids’ Christmas magic. After Uncle Derek’s transgression, I swiftly whisked Freddy off the tree and stuffed him in a stir fry pan in my cupboard. I promptly forgot about the little elf until Carolina, helping me cook one hot, July day, screamed in horror and delight that Freddy was in the stir fry pan!!

“He must have limped into the cupboard to recover,” I said.

“But it’s July! Is he dead?” Lincoln cried. “No, he’s just resting. Uncle Derek did a number on his magic, so he’s recuperating. It takes months to regain your magic once it’s stolen.”

They bought this story, but alas, no stir fry for dinner. It was Freddy’s convalescent bed. That dang elf was haunting me.

When the children were nestled all snug in their beds, I grabbed Freddy and stuffed him in my underwear drawer, where he continued his recovery. This season, he’s back and better than ever. The challenge is to make sure I remember to move him every night!

BY SARAH NIGBOR

December 7, 2021