December 20, 2013
By Ekta R. Garg
For years now I’ve wanted to buy an Elf on the Shelf for the girls and introduce that whole fun tradition to them during the holiday season. I always balked at the price, though. Admittedly $30 seems like a lot of money to spend on a doll and a book. But this year a friend of mine from high school began posting every day on Facebook the new location of their elf. So I decided to bite the bullet and bought an elf for our house too.
I skimmed the book before choosing a high book shelf as the first location for our new holiday friend. The story in the book, told in rhyme, instructs the child(ren) of the house to name the elf and to behave around her. She wouldn’t talk to them, the book said, but the kid(s) could talk to her all they wanted. The only stipulation was that they couldn’t touch her.
When I picked the kids up from school last week, I told them that when I got back from grocery shopping earlier in the day I saw the elf sitting on the shelf and got the surprise of my life. When they heard about the elf, if I had run out of gas at that moment the excitement that exploded in the car could have propelled us forward.
We got home, and the kids ran into the house to find the elf. They approached her with a sense of wonderment and began talking to her. I told the girls that the book the elf had brought sat on their bed upstairs, and they raced up to read it and find out more about her.
Within a few minutes Five came back downstairs. She doesn’t usually have her sister’s patience to get through a whole book in one sitting. Even with the books she loves, she usually reads a few pages and then walks around holding the book and sharing with people what she’s learned. But Seven read the entire book and came down and announced that she and Five had to name the elf.
After some conjecture they decided to call her Sarah (and specified that it had to be Sarah with an “h.”) Immediately they went through another introduction session with Sarah, this time telling her what they named her and how much they looked forward to spending time with her. The girls’ excitement level stayed high as later that evening they wondered where Sarah would be the next morning.
That night I positioned her in the chandelier that hangs above our dining table. I thought the kids would get a kick out of seeing her sitting primly among the bulbs and metal loops. I also considered it a minor victory that I had found a way to get the elf to sit without falling out of the chandelier.
The next morning when Seven found Sarah in the chandelier she got the chance to look at the elf more closely.
“Why does she have a tag?” Seven asked.
I admit, I didn’t see that one coming at all. When she followed it with, “And she has a seam down her back like other dolls do,” I almost felt like throwing in the towel and admitting my complicity in bringing the elf to the house. But I decided after a few moments to see how far I could play this thing out. With a shrug and a “I don’t know” I tried to change the topic as fast as possible.
Seven must have mulled over the whole elf thing during school. I’m sure part of her brain was working on the idea throughout the day. Later when she came home she floated the idea to me that maybe I had moved Sarah.
How could I, I asked. Everyone knew that if we touched the elf she would lose her powers and she wouldn’t be able to fly back to the North Pole to talk to Santa every night. I wasn’t even home when she got here the first time, I reminded Seven.
Seven kept thinking it over. That night at bedtime when I went upstairs to say good night, she asked me again, “Are you sure you didn’t move Sarah?”
“No, I didn’t,” I said, trying to use the tone of my voice to let her know that we didn’t need to talk about it anymore.
The next morning Sarah waited in the guest room for the kids, and they found her and chatted with her amiably before getting ready for school. Seven chuckled as we talked.
“I didn’t know she would be there,” Seven said. “I thought she might be hanging from the chandelier.”
She pointed to the chandelier in the foyer, which is easy to reach from the top of the stairs. I laughed and then turned around and had a private “OMG” moment, because I had planned to put Sarah there one day. How could Seven have figured that out?
Having a child whose personality matches your own so much can sometimes work out as a disadvantage.
A little while later when I drove the kids to school, Seven and I talked after we dropped off Five at her school. Seven once again brought up the issue of Sarah and how she moves around the house.
“I think maybe she could move to the top of the fridge next,” Seven said knowingly. “If you move her, I mean.”
“Well, I don’t,” I said, trying to make it sound casual but not really able to make it firm. I hoped she didn’t catch on to that part.
“You know, some of my friends tell me that Santa isn’t real,” she said a few minutes later. “They said their parents told them he isn’t real.”
“Really? What do you think?” I asked.
“I think he’s real, but I’m not sure. But I think he is.”
I told her it was good and that some parents thought different things. Once again I redirected the conversation, but in the back of my own mind I began to consider what this means.
Seven has come to the point where she can start reasoning on her own about whether these hallmarks of childhood—those will-o’-the-wisps and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, princesses and sprites—she stands on the cusp between “little kid” and “young girl.” A little kid blindly believes in the magic of fairy dust. A young girl questions whether that dust truly comes from fairies or from a jar of glitter.
I keep saying that when Seven turns eight next summer, I don’t know whether I’ll be able to handle it. With a seven-year-old I can still pretend that I have a child resembling a baby, despite the fact that she’s now tall enough to touch my forehead standing flat footed in front of me. But an eight-year-old…all of a sudden my daughter will be a young girl, and I won’t have a baby at all.
Since then Seven hasn’t questioned the issue of whether Sarah moves on her own or I move her around. I think she’s just having too much fun looking for her every day. And while my husband still gives me a little bit of a hard time about spending so much money on, essentially, a doll, I think the price to see Seven and Five smile every morning is worth it. Seven occasionally still looks at me with that thoughtful look when she talks about Sarah, and I know she’s still thinking about it. But I’m glad she’s made the choice, for now at least, to enjoy being a little kid.