I am the second oldest of five children from a, for the most part, average Midwestern family. Even with the nonstop “must do’s” that come with managing five kids, my mom still found a way to make most days magical. Christmas was her annual showcase, and she put endless thought into making the season memorable for all of us. My brothers, sister and I each have our favorite recollections that we now bring to life by revealing them to our own families. Having a bit of an independent streak in me, I like to add a little twist to my traditions. Here’s one such variation:
Sometimes finding a treasure can bring back a cascade of memories. I am certain my mother knew this because she saved all kinds of little jewels for us to find after she and my dad passed away. While cleaning out my dad’s garage a few years ago, I found a couple of gems; two felt elves. They were part of a collection of elves my mother carefully placed around the bookcases in our living room each Christmas. They had bendable arms and legs so that they could be placed in different poses. My mom’s childlike imagination had them engaged in all kinds of elfin activities from climbing shelves to somersaulting. Those little guys were my favorite Christmas decorations! They must have been favorites of others too, because their ears and noses had little chew marks on them, most likely from one of the dogs or one of my brothers. One elf was missing a hat, but he still looked cute forty-something years later. These old friends did not go in the “Goodwill box” but rather home with me to start a new life.
Coincidentally, that same year, Hallmark also decided it was time for the elves to make a comeback. They offered a gift set that included one felt elf with a book that explained the story of the “elf on the shelf”. This little elf was Santa’s helper and kept an eye on the children in the house to see who was naughty and who was nice. Because he did his work at night, the elf would be found in a different spot in the house each morning. Even though my daughter, Elizabeth was now 12, I thought it might be fun to combine the elf on the shelf story with my mother’s imaginative elf display. And thus it began . . . the elf contest.
I began that night by putting the elves on Elizabeth’s night stand, so she would see them first thing in the morning. The next night was Elizabeth’s turn. Having my mother’s imagination, she put them in the kitchen, hanging out of the flour canister, with cookie baking supplies scattered around them. The next night, I had them putting ornaments on the tree. The following night, Elizabeth had them brushing their teeth with a human sized toothbrush. The contest continued until we mutually decided that a winner had been declared, when one of the elves was found taped to the toilet seat. Ok, maybe we went off the deep end with that one, but the laughter it induced definitely put the “merry” in our Merry Christmas.
Traditions will always be a part of Christmas, but I think we keep them alive best, when we put a little bit of our unique selves into them. New versions of my mother’s childlike imagination seem to pop up from time to time, just like her other little hidden treasures.
Merry Christmas, Ginny!