I’ve never set a stuffed animal on fire before, but there’s a first for everything. Technically, Alfie isn’t an “animal.” He’s a Christmas elf, actually a knock off of those expensive Elves on the Shelf. He’s an elf, who’d have to spend the next six months in a burn unit if he were human.
I admit that every December, I get overwhelmed and resentful about all the expectations topped with guilt and obligation heaped on us i
n the name of making Christmas fun and meaningful. When we still lived in California (where they haven’t heard of elf magic), I was able to get baking, shopping, wrapping, tree trimming, ornament exchange hosting, Christmas pageant volunteering and Christmas light viewing drives all crammed into a month where I was still expected to work, do laundry, help with homework and spend quality time with my husband.
Then we moved back to Georgia, where I learned about the Elf on the Shelf tradition.
SOME NAMELESS FRIEND: “Oh, Honey, what do you MEAN your boys don’t have elves? My kids’ elves are up to all kinds of shenanigans at night when little John Braydon and Laura Sarah Anna Grace are sleeping. They write Christmas messages on the bathroom mirrors in lipstick. They Sprinkle sugar all over the counter and write the kids’ names in it. One night they even moved the Christmas tree outside in the front yard and redecorated it with toys collected for the needy. The kids can’t wait to wake up every morning to see what they’ve done. The ELVES are the best part of our Christmas season.
ME: These elves, do they create havoc EVERY night?
FRIEND: Oh My Yes, Last night they hung all the freshly folded laundry on the living room ceiling fan.
ME: So, not to be an elf magic pooper, but you, yourself make these messes and you also clean them up. Am I correct?
FRIEND: Well, yes, But, it’s so much fun, though. It’s the kind of magic the holidays are about.
ME: Creating chaos and then having to clean it up. Yep, that’s what I want MY Christmas to be about.
FRIEND: Honey, go buy those boys a couple of elves. I think somebody could use a little Christmas cheer.
After noting the entire child population of Pine Forest Methodist Church and Northwest Laurens Elementary walking around with little green and red clad dolls, I caved and logged onto elf-magic.com to order two Magical elves.
“$29.99!!!!!!! You have GOT to be freakin’ kidding me!!!!!!”
“No! Way! Am I spending $70.00 including shipping for a bunch of yarn and felt scraps sewn together in a 10th grade Home Ec class, even if they do have birth certificates and issued names like Piper and Gumdrop.
Luckily, a day later, in a local gift shop I ran across “Sort of Magic Elves.” Sure their faces were much larger than the Elf Magic elves and their bodies were rounder with a slightly dwarfish quality, but, hey, they were dressed in red and green, wearing pointy hats and shoes and cost only $12.95. I bought two of them and spent eight seconds naming them Elfie and Alfie.
At home, the boys loved their knock off, discount elves, but refused to claim them in public. If they were younger siblings, Alfie and Elfie would have to walk 10 feet behind Andrew and Jack to school. “Mom, the kids in my class were laughing at my elf’s head. They say he’s stupid looking.”
“Oh yeah? Well, just tell their mothers that you’ve got an extra $18 in your college fund. Who’s stupid now?”
So the last three Christmas seasons have careened by with me haphazardly planning elf escapades about half the time, and the boys wondering the rest of the time why Elfie and Alfie are so lazy. I was sort of able to convince them that their elves are special ed elves with severe ADD which interferes with their productivity. It was a heartwarming lesson in acceptance and loving people (and elves) in spite of their limitations.
Even the activities I DID plan for our elves were never as elaborate as that kid down the street whose mom makes goody bags for EVERY holiday including flag day. In the morning I’d say “Look boys, what are Elfie and Alfie doing in the garbage can? Those capricious little buggars.” Or “Look! How did Elfie and Alfie get in the refrigerator?” You’ll have to hug them extra tight to warm them up.”
But this Christmas season was different. I was trying! The boys were really getting into it, just thrilled at what they’d find their elves doing every other morning. Even my husband James, who is the Grinch personified, was strategically placing Elfie and Alfie up on the mantle and yelling “Boys, guess where I found the elves.” We were doing well……until…
That is, until I decided that Elfie and Alfie would have a wonderful time swinging on the chandelier above the breakfast table. The word chandelier sounds so fussy and elegant. Technically it IS a chandelier, but a really functional, no frills kind with only a few rather stoic looking lights. Lights that get VERY hot apparently.
So, before going to bed last night, I grabbed the elves, positioning Elfie around the chandelier base, holding on rather tightly. (He was always the more cautious of the two) and Alfie leaning against one of the lights, which in retrospect was a very bad idea. Around midnight, proud of my creativity, I left the kitchen for the bedroom, forgetting to flip the lightswitch off. This is the error that became my undoing.
Apparently, Alfie’s face smoldered against the bulb for the next six hours, but things didn’t really start cooking until the smoke alarm went off at 6:29 AM, ironically one minute before my alarm clock. As the poem goes… I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Once in the kitchen I met a cloud of smoke hovering around the breakfast table. Just moments before Alfie ignited into a ball of flaming Christmas cheer, I grabbed him away from the bulb. His poor felt face was black and crusty…. like a nicely toasted marshmallow.
Just as I was concocting a story to tell the boys, I heard Jack’s voice “Mommy, you burned Alfie’s face off! How COULD YOU?”
Okay, it’s not his WHOLE face. It’s just his cheek. His whole cheek. I’ve removed all the debris and am looking for some peach colored felt to do a skin graft. Meanwhile, Andrew and Jack are REALLY working on accepting others no matter what their limitations. Now Alfie is special…. mentally AND physically.
Damn that elf magic.