I had two things in mind for December: we were NOT going to do the Elf on the Shelf, and – for the first time in a decade – I was going to put up a real Christmas tree.
December 1st draws closer, and the day before, Son2 starts talking excitedly about the Elf.
He knows it’s me. He even calls it the Elf/Mummy. But that doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm over the little fella’s arrival.
“Where do you think the Elf/Mummy will appear?” he asks, pinning me with an intent, knowing stare.
I can’t wriggle out of it. “I don’t know,” I say with a shrug. “Erm … You’ll find out in the morning.”
My certainty that this was the year I was NOT going to spend every night from 1-23 December moving a foot-tall plush doll around at midnight evaporated. (For those not in the festive loop, the Elf is sent by Santa Claus to check whether children are being “naughty or nice” – s/he flies off to the North Pole every night, and reappears every morning in a surprising new location in the house.)
“It’s okay,” I tell myself at midnight that night. “One more year of Elf/Mummy will be fun … Never mind that what starts out as a good idea quickly turns into a chore, especially when the Elves on the Shelves of 2017 can’t just alight on the toaster or on top of the fridge; kids expect them to be floating round the living room in a miniature hot-air balloon, or ziplining into the Christmas tree.
I suppose a bit of me thinks it’s cute that Son2 still wants to believe in the Elf/Mummy, and so I decide to go for it … But where the hell is the damn Elf? Where did I store him? Yawn. It’s 12.15am by now.
I look everywhere. I search all the cupboards upstairs, I practically crawl under the beds. I have a vague recollection of Son2 opening a drawer in July and coming face to face with the Elf, his eyes widening into saucers, the penny dropping. An image of the Elf being carried around in the dog’s mouth shortly after its discovery also springs to mind.
After a fruitless, late-night search, I give up. The Elf is missing, awol. And in the morning, Son2 is crushed with disappointment.
From then on, he asks every night about the Elf’s whereabouts. “Will he come tonight Mummy?” And, of course, after nearly two weeks of this, I buckle and order a new Elf online – only for the courier to knock at the door and hand over a box that Son2 rips open.
“Mum, the Elf’s here,” he calls out gleefully. “Souq.com [the UAE’s wannabe-Amazon] has delivered …” His voice tails off as I rush in and swipe the box away from under his nose.
Not quite how I’d planned Elf/Mummy’s first appearance.
In the meantime, I’ve got my hands on a real Christmas tree. It’s an extravagantly tall, shapely fir and it fills the Christmas-tree space by the patio doors perfectly. It’s shedding needles already, but it emits the most wonderful sharp, dark green, pine scent, and has springy branches with ample hanging space for baubles, tinsel and lights. I’ve ingeniously used green string to tie the trunk to a curtain hook on the wall, so our kitten (Cookie) can’t topple its six-foot splendour.
But Cookie has other ideas, of course. She scales the foliage like a monkey, causing every needle to quiver and a hundred more to drop to the floor, where there’s a dry, brittle carpet of green collecting. In collusion with the dog, she’s learnt how to bat the shiny baubles off, and then chases each ornament around the house, until the dog eats them. With just two days to go before Christmas, the bottom third of the tree is now in a rather sorry, naked state.
Christmas calamity #3 came yesterday, when I really felt like something sweet and discovered the boys had eaten all the chocolates from the tree, but had left the wrappers dangling from the branches (they were Lindt chocolates, too, the little blighters!). Then, today, we got home from a trip to see Paddington 2 to find the dog had opened all the presents.
Merry Christmas everyone!