That time of year already? Ha, seems like only yesterday you stuffed me in here with the Christmas stockings. Not that I mind! In fact, if I'm totally honest, by the end of the first week on display, I'm praying for the oblivion of the bottom of the decoration tub, buried under layers of suffocating red felt. Sweet sugar cookies, it's a relief. Anyway, here we are ready to do it all over again, hiding me all over the house to be discovered in ever-more amusing and semi-humiliating vignettes! Every night. For a whole month.
But, like, what if you didn't? What if this year you just left me in here with the cracked macaroni garland and the lights you're never going to fix? You could pretend I got lost or promoted to Santa's workshop. We could both finally be free of this nightmare.
Once the kids are finally asleep do you actually want to spend your only free time — those precious minutes after the dishes and before the half episode of 90-day Fiancé you can barely stay awake through — posing my skinny cinnamon buns hanging out of a cookie jar? I feel like you don't. Not when you could be lying completely flat, mostly hidden on the floor between the coffee table and the couch, with nobody asking you for a gingersnapping thing at last.
It's not like your heart is in it anymore. Sure, the first few days you might make me a mini marshmallow bubble bath or spell out messages in cereal. But we both know by the second week in December you'll just toss me on the dirty laundry pile and tell the kids I'm mountain climbing. It's fudged up.
I'll be real: "Scouting" for Santa isn't the dream gig you might think it is. The guy's been keeping track of his naughty and nice lists on his own for millennia. But sure, some rando children's author decides he needs help. He's not super jolly about it, let me tell you. I'm not trying to get candy caned so I stopped reporting in altogether.
Frankly, nobody likes a narc. You should see how the Nutcracker eyeballs me. Holy hollyhocks, that dude's creepy looking. Have you seen his teeth? The fur beard? The fudging sword? But everybody's cool with him. You know why? Because they trust him. But not me. What do you think happens when you go to bed? They don't even call me Elf on the Shelf. Once you leave for the night and it's just us tchotchkes under the blinking lights, even the angel on top of the tree calls me "Rat in the Hat." If I don't watch my back, I'm gonna end up the Snitch in the Ditch.
I guess some children enjoy playing surveillance state. But if you think they're being good because I'm around, you can forget it. If I'm lucky, they just toss a pot over me and flip right to the forbidden cable channels. But last year, after shaking every box under the tree, your little girl looked pointedly at the toaster oven, leaned down and whispered, "Elf better keep his little plastic mouth shut."
What the pfeffernüsse is that?
And when the kids aren't around, I'm still here, in case you forgot. Literally unable to close my mischievously painted peepers. They're permanently pried open and I can't look away. Yeah. You know what I'm talking about, too. You had the decency to shoo the dog out of the room, but I was still ribbon-tied to the ceiling fan with a full 180-degree view I can never unsee, no matter how many rum balls and mini chocolate bottles of liqueur I knock back.
Nobody has to know about it, though. Not Santa, not whoever comes in the kitchen first and sees what's written on the counter in Cheerios. It can all be stuffed way down in this box of pipe cleaner ornaments with me. Is that blackmail? You bet your butterscotch it is. But I'm not going back out there. And if I end up on the naughty list, I'm not going down alone, you get me, gingerbread?
That's right. Close the lid. Close it and walk away.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the Journal's arts and features editor. Reach her at (707) 442-1400, extension 320, or firstname.lastname@example.org.