They have names like Sparkle, Frostbite, and Glitter. You can buy entire wardrobes for them, and purchase coordinating pets and accessories. There are dozens of Pinterest pages dedicated to their shenaningans.
Elves on the Shelves are sweet-looking dolls that reappear after Thanksgiving. But don’t be fooled by those innocent little faces: the elves are holiday informants with a mission to complete. They fly to the North Pole every night in December to report your child’s successes and failures to Santa, then land in a new location each day for your kids to discover.
Good elves are wholesome – you will find them drinking hot chocolate. Bad ones get Barbie into compromising positions, then take Polaroids. Smug overachievers stage elaborate holiday vignettes for Instagram. Those showboats annoy those of us with slacker elves that forget to move.
The excitement of racing through the house to see where the elves settled is supposed to be a sweet, charming part of a child’s Christmas. But for me, it’s 30 days of being held hostage at 6 a.m. by these tiny tattlers in Santa hats. Our elves “magically” reappeared after my 8-year-old daughter, Karolina, came home from school crying because every third grader’s elves had arrived but hers.
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That night Elfina and Snowflake Golik were liberated from a box in the garage. Or maybe they flew back from the North Pole. I’m not sure.
The next morning, Karolina discovered one elf straddling a bottle of merlot, and the other sprawled facedown in a potted plant. I think they were surprised to hear little girl footsteps unexpectedly coming into the kitchen and landed wherever they threw themselves. Or were thrown.
Either way, my daughter went to school proud to tell everyone that our elves had arrived. And that Elfina was drinking wine and Snowflake fell asleep in an orchid.
As December progressed, these elves have been challenged to find creative places to land after their exhausting nightly flights to the North Pole. That trip is so tiring that they couldn’t move for two consecutive days. Alarmed at their inertia, Karolina urgently wrote them a note, “I am so worried that you haven’t moved! PLEASE write me back to tell me why.”
Unable to pen a response because perhaps her handwriting looks so much like mine, Snowflake instead folded that note into a little tricorn hat. It was dangling precariously off her head like a lampshade when we discovered her the next morning sitting on a Lumberjack nutcracker’s lap.
I think Snowflake is a troublemaker. And I can only imagine what Karolina told the other third graders.
But I’m pleased that Elfina and Snowflake have gotten their act together, and moved every day the last two weeks. They’ve parked in Barbie’s pink car under the Christmas tree. One morning they were in the dining room, reading “The Night Before Christmas.” They even surprised my daughter with a set of tiny nutcracker ornaments.
I’ve been proud of our elves for bringing their A game, and making good, wholesome decisions.
I’m always up early to find Snowflake and Elfina. Since elves relocate in the morning hours, mothers have to be awake before their children to “check” and make sure they moved. But Saturday, I slept late.
Worried about another elf failure, I found my husband sitting on the couch with our smiling daughter wearing her Christmas pajamas. I glanced at the coffee table where the elves had been the night before.
“Are you looking for the elves, Mommy?”
My husband owns a fragile antique German cuckoo clock. Beautifully hand-carved with forest creatures, it’s hung on a wall so high that I can’t reach it. It’s treasured, and nobody touches it except him. But while I was sleeping, the elves somehow climbed up on it.
Karolina laughed and pointed at them, their arms carefully wrapped around the delicate horns of the stag at the top of Daddy’s old, special clock. And as my happy daughter talked about how great those elves were and how they had never landed in that spot before, those drinking, nutcracker-chasing little informants watched us.
Christmas is almost here. Elfina and Snowflake will head back to the North Pole soon. Or get boxed up to spend another Fresno summer in our garage. But for at least one more December, they brought their holiday magic for my sweet little girl. And when they flew off the clock, headed to the North Pole that night to file another report about us, I hope Santa was happy with what they had to say.
Dawn Golik lives in Fresno with her husband and their two daughters. You can email her at email@example.com, and follow her on Twitter (@DawnGolik) or on Instagram (@mommygolik).