Here lies The Elf on the Shelf. He left us too early. His life was just beginning.
I mean his life with us was just beginning. According to the elf's companion book, it seems as if he and his clones have been kickin' it with St. Nicholas since before the Dark Ages. Yet after one December with me, he is deceased. That's worse than my track record for murdering houseplants. Rest in peace, little fella.
I'm not off to a good start.
Parenting over the holidays has its challenges, one of which is cultivating an atmosphere worthy of memory-making.
This was the first Christmas that my son, age 2 1/2, would have a chance at remembering. I wanted to make it great. I wanted to build toward something epic. The whole month of December was to be glistening with excitement and spiced with magic. And there is no better way to begin the countdown to Santa's big arrival than with The Elf on the Shelf.
I was recently introduced to this new holiday season phenomenon. The red-clad elf, complete with shelf fetish, comes with a book intended to be read nightly by parents throughout the month of December. The book — an autobiography, if you will — whimsically explains the purpose of The Elf on the Shelf. Sure, he may look like a toy, but he is actually one of Santa's helpers. And every night, while the babes are sleeping, he flies back to the North Pole to share juicy gossip with Big Red.
Parents are supposed to enhance the story by moving the elf to a new location, thus indicating that the elf traveled overnight and returned to a new perch from which to stalk, er, observe.
The morning after our first Elf on the Shelf bedtime story, my son spent 10 minutes looking for where the elf had moved. He excitedly jumped up and down after locating the tiny tattletale, proof that the elf was alive and had truly made the nightly trek to report to Santa on whether my son had been naughty or nice.
Suffice it to say, George Orwell would not have owned an Elf on the Shelf. But for those of us who didn't read "1984" in high school, it's a cute concept — if you don't overthink it.
And I didn't overthink it. In fact, I didn't think of it at all. Because the following morning, my son found his precious elf in the exact same spot he had the day before. As he did the next day. And so on.
A week later, my son pointed up to the elf on the same old shelf and said, "What's that?"
"That's The Elf on the Shelf."
"Why no move?"
Oops. With the family coming to visit, the cookie baking and tree decorating, I had simply forgotten.
I went to move the elf, when my son yelled out, "No touch!" The book forbids touching the elf; it would cause a bad report to Santa. So I didn't.
And I forgot about him. Again.
On Christmas Eve, I came into the living room and saw my son looking up at the now-slouched-over Elf on the Shelf, his face planted into the decorative boomerang that shared his shelf space. The elf hadn't moved since the first night. My son was saying, "What's wrong, elf? You OK? Mama, look! What's wrong?"
I had killed The Elf on the Shelf.
Eager to deflect, I told my son the elf was simply sleeping off the eggnog and asked him whether he was excited for Santa to come that night. My son looked over at my visiting father, an old hippie with a white beard and ponytail. Then he looked back to the elf, back to me and back to my dad again and said, "Santa is Pop."
I. Am. A. Failure.
This is the last Christmas that my son, at 2 1/2, has zero chance at remembering. Right? Right?
All I want for Christmas is one of those fancy memory-erasing pens from "Men in Black." Whom can I talk to about getting one of those? CIA? KGB? Scientologists seem to have a direct phone line to aliens; maybe I should start there.
Here's to getting it right in 2015. Santa Claus and The Elf on the Shelf may be no more, but I can always welcome in Hanukkah Harry and his spy, The Mensch on a Bench.
Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. Check out her column at http://didionsbible.com. To find out more about Katiedid Langrock and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.