Months before he made his first appearance the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the air was already crackling with anticipation of the Elf on a Shelf — that cute, mischievous figure clad in red who sits in absolute stillness in our house (on a shelf or poking his head out of a toy bin, or in the corner of the kitchen counter) until reappearing the next morning in another spot, where his paralysis has again taken hold.
Quinn was eagerly awaiting the elf’s re-appearance long before Christmas. Mainly because that means it’s almost time for gifts.
But there was another reason, I think. Quinn wanted a crack at figuring him out. He’s at the age when he asks tough questions, has started to call our bluffs, to see through fissures in logic. So an elf who just somehow appears in our house one day and mysteriously moves from one spot to another — always out of sight! — is not likely to get a free pass, no matter how festive he is supposed to be.
The elf, ‘Chippy,’ re-appeared on our mantle this year the day our Christmas tree arrived. When he first saw him, Quinn sat there, in front of the fireplace, rapt. The elf, unblinking as always, stared at him, and he stared right back, his eyes twinkling just as bright as the elf’s. He was staring, literally, into the eyes of magic.
Or was he?
Could that twinkle in Quinn’s eye actually have been the twinkle of inquiry, of problem-solving, of logic overcoming fantasy? Would this be the year he reaches up and grabs the elf, putting to the test the rule that, once he’s touched, the elf immediately flies back to the North Pole?
Finally, Quinn turned away and looked at me, as I looked at him.
‘His eyes are blue,’ he said, enamored of our new guest, who was perched as still as a statue above the newly hung stockings.
I relaxed, for the moment.
But, time is short, I’m sure. There are rumors about Santa at school, there are more questions about how, exactly, he fits down the chimney.
Possibly, this is Quinn’s last Christmas of Santa and elf rapture.
The pragmatist in me, the realist, the journalist, is not inclined to feel upset about Santa’s fade. But then, the joy Quinn feels when he wakes up each morning to look again for the elf’s new perch is just as real as his math homework and his book reports. And that’s something that even the staunchest realist in me can appreciate, and, once it’s gone, mourn.