Monday, December 22, 2014

Just can’t elf my shelf

“Dear Sparkles, I am so very sorry that my sisster touched you,” the letter began, and I realized that I did not understand the rules at all.

“I will apolougey because she will not apolougey to anybody and I mean anybody.  I don’t want you to go to the elf hospital.  Love, Emily.  P.S. Jordan touched you, not me.”

If you are a practitioner of Elf on the Shelf, then this letter probably makes perfect sense to you.  The first rule of Elf on the Shelf, besides “Everyone must pay $29.95 for Elf on the Shelf,” is that you do not touch the elf, lest it lose its Christmas magic.

A high school acquaintance posted a photo of this letter, written by her daughter, to Facebook.  It prompted me to look up Elf on the Shelf, a phenomenon of which I was aware but did not completely understand, which describes my relationship with most phenomena.  

Apparently, some families have an elf that lives in their house through the month of December, sitting on a shelf and watching the proceedings, returning to the North Pole each night to squeal on the kids, and also to have a good laugh with Santa about how much people are willing to spend on a little elf doll.

“Ho ho ho!  Tell me again!” Santa says.

“$29.95!  For like two dollars’ worth of stuff!” the elf sputters out, and Santa’s belly shakes like a bowlful of jelly.

Actually, for that $29.95, you also get a cute little book, written by first-time children’s book author, the National Security Agency, which understands the importance of getting kids used to living in a surveillance state as early as possible.

When the elf returns back to your house from the North Pole, it chooses a different place to sit, so that each morning, your kids wander around the house until they locate the elf, so they know which room not to misbehave in.   

“The squealer’s sitting on the coffee maker, so we have to be good in the kitchen today.  Let’s go to my room and light roman candles out the window,” your kids will say.

Prior to Elf on the Shelf, I thought Santa had the surveillance thing under control all by himself.  If he can’t keep an eye on things without the help of the elf, I’m worried that some misdeeds might slip by unnoticed, like the scene in my car last week.   

“Where goin’?” my two-year-old son Zack asked from the backseat.

“To pick up your brother from school,” I said.

“Why?” he asked. 

“Because if we don’t do it, Child Protective Services might instead,” I said.

“No pick up brother.  Ice cream,” Zack said.

“Wait.  You want to stop and get ice cream instead of picking up your brother?” I asked.

“Yeah.  Ice cream,” he said.

 “Dude, we have to pick up your brother.  If you eat a good dinner, we can talk about dessert later,” I said.  Zack’s response was to scream for several minutes as he wondered why I couldn’t just be reasonable.  Perhaps it couldn’t hurt to have one of Santa’s goons around to scare him straight.

We probably won’t invite an elf to come live in our house, though, because I worry we might get an elf who forgets to travel back to the North Pole each night, on account of his already-too-hectic schedule.  That elf probably doesn’t need one more thing in his life to worry about.   

Incidentally, for the letter that sparked my interest in the first place, I changed the kids’ names rather than send a creepy message to a high school acquaintance asking for permission to reproduce the letter.  Facebook’s mission remains intact: To connect people who will never actually talk to each other again. 

I did leave Sparkles’ name unchanged, though, in the hopes that he might be encouraged to offer clemency.

You can keep an eye on Mike Todd at

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