My sweet and sassy Annabelle turned eleven this past fall and in many ways is wise beyond her years, so I guess I shouldn’t have been at all surprised by her recent instigation of The Talk. I had sensed for some time that she was wondering about The Facts, but she had never really come right out and asked me until a few weeks ago, the day after Thanksgiving.
We were standing in the kitchen. I had been awake for a few hours, doing the things around the house that moms do before the other human inhabitants get out of bed and start demanding that they do other things. I sipped a cup of coffee and stroked Annabelle’s blond hair when she wandered in.
“Did you see the elf got here?” I asked.
The annual Day-After-Thanksgiving arrival of Sparkles the Elf is a much-anticipated day in our household. Batman had been asking for weeks exactly when she would arrive, and was so excited that he had made a huge welcome poster, printing images off the internet of other elves to inspire her, and even leaving a few questions for her to answer.
It was sort of dark when I took the photo of the poster, so it may be hard to read, but you might be able to see on the lower right-hand corner that there is a question that says “Do you like all these elves?”, with a “yes” and “no” box below. You may be wondering what that question means (or maybe not, but I’ll tell you anyhow).
To start with, Batman has a bit of an obsessive-compulsive personality (which he got from his father, by the way), and when he gets his mind on something he Does Not Let It Go. One of his forever loves, and a really big focus of this past year, is his adoration-of-all-things-Christmas. In August when we cleaned out his Uncle Mike’s storage unit, one of the things we brought back to our house was Mike’s artificial Christmas tree, along with several boxes of holiday decorations.
Batman immediately dragged the heavy boxes downstairs and single-handedly set up and decorated the tree (and his entire room), incorporating everything from multiple light strings and standard Christmas tree bulbs to the hand-made ornaments that his uncle had kept over the years from he and DH’s grandmother, Sugar Foot. Batman kept that tree up for two or three months, sleeping in near-daylight conditions from all the glowing lights, then ironically taking the whole thing down just when it would have been Almost Acceptable for it to be described as an early celebration of the season.
But even before the tree was presented as a catalyst, Batman had been planning all year long for this Christmas season. I think it was around two Christmases ago when he asked for a “toy” elf that he could play with, since as everyone knows one cannot touch, let alone play with, a “real” elf or he/she will lose their magic. This single elf purchase or gift or however it came to be, turned into a full-on mission for Batman, who was immediately obsessed with obtaining more and more elves.
By the time Sparkles was due to arrive back at our house last month Batman had grown his family of elves to no less than 9 assorted elfin figures, who spent their off-season snuggled in the cubby of Batman’s headboard near his pillow. (Yes, you read that right, nine. Niner. Ten-minus-one or eight-plus-one. I am not at all sure how it happened, but it is probably a similar phenomenon to that which has turned us into a family with four dogs, three cats and seven (yes, that’s right, seven, don’t make me do the math) horses.)
So anyway, back to where I was with the story about Annabelle. She looked at the poster where Sparkles had answered Batman’s questions, and at the cookies that Sparkles had brought with her (which were chocolate-covered oreos, my favorite incidentally) and then she looked at me.
“Mom, you have to tell me The Truth. (uh-oh) Does Sparkles really do all this stuff by herself? Is she really real?”
I launched into my standard version of The Truth, which was “Of course she is real! Can’t you see her sitting right there?” “No mom. Stop. Just stop,” my normally polite fifth-grader interrupted me. “I mean, how does she do all the stuff she does? Remember the year she gift-wrapped our bunk-beds? And how does she carry all the stuff she brings to us anyway?”
I felt a small nervous smile take over my face. Time for the Back-Up Truth. “Well, honey, if you believe she is real then she is real…….”. Once again I was interrupted.
“No mom. Just tell me. Is Sparkles real or do you do all this stuff?” Now she had a nervous smile on her face. I volleyed with a few more platitudes, but my smart pre-teen kept at me. I resisted, trying several different variations of The Truth to convince her to end the conversation, until she stopped me in my tracks with this.
“Mom! I TOTALLY don’t care if she isn’t real. I really don’t. I just want to know The Truth.”
I tried a last-ditch effort. “Well honey, Sparkles is real, but I do help her out from time to time.” “Help her out? What do you mean help her out? So she is real, and she comes from Santa, but you have to help her out? That doesn’t make sense!”
I had a huge lump in my throat, and tears threatened my eyes. It was all I could do to squeak out “Are you sure you want the truth?” “Yes, mom. Yes! Yes! Yes! Tell me the truth!”
So I did.
My little girl stood motionless for a few seconds, letting it all sink in. “So it was you?! All this time?! You?!!” (this was said with no small amount of incredulity and brought to mind an occasion a couple of years back where Sparkles had really out-done herself in some way and Batman said “Now I totally know the elf is real…..mom would have been waaaaaay too lazy to do all this!” Quickly adding “No offense mom! You’re just really busy.” And I wasn’t offended. It did look like a lot of work.)
“Yes, honey,” I told her. “It was me.” She giggled nervously for a few seconds, her mouth open in shock. Then a look of consternation mixed with a budding cognizance came over her face. “But Mom! If Sparkles isn’t real WHAT DOES THAT MEAN ABOUT SANTA??!”
Oh, how I had hoped she wouldn’t go there.
“What do you think honey?” I asked miserably. Now it was her turn to giggle again, more nervously this time. Like a wave the understanding came over her face. “You are Santa too?” her voice trailing off a little toward the end.
At this point Desperate Hubby, who had been lurking around the corner listening to the entire conversation and probably rolling on the floor with laughter, popped his head around the doorway. Apparently he just couldn’t help himself. “Oh no, Annabelle! Santa is real. Of COURSE he’s real!! A fat man rides a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer with enough presents for every kid on earth and makes it all the way around the world in one night. How could you doubt that?!”
I punched DH hard in the arm, regained my composure, and answered my daughter.
“Yes, honey. Dad and I are Santa too.”
I admit I was more than a little devastated. I had not been mentally prepared for The Talk, and certainly was not ready to admit to The Truth, but Annabelle seemed fine. In fact, she took one look at my face and hugged me. “It’s OK mom! I’m totally fine with it. I really am.” I hugged her back for as long as she would let me, then she pulled away.
“Wait! Wait……so what happens now? Do I still get presents?”
I explained that nothing would change. Everything would stay exactly the same, with one caveat: “YOU CAN NEVER TELL YOUR BROTHER!! I mean it Annabelle! No matter how mad you get at him you cannot ruin his joy in Christmas!”
Annabelle laughed. “Don’t worry mom. I won’t tell him. WAIT! Can I get extra presents if I don’t tell him?” I narrowed my eyes at her and she smiled. “Just kidding. I promise I won’t say a word.”
And so far she hasn’t.
Sparkles and her crew of nine have happily carried on. I inwardly laugh to myself when a friend complains about managing the antics of a single scout elf. Try directing the craziness expected of a party of ten!
For the first 24 hours after The Talk I had extra help. Annabelle was very excited to help support the capers of our herd of elves. The very first night she re-created one of her favorite scenes from the early years of Sparkles.
She got a little extra messy with the snow, sprinkling it all over the top of the elves instead of just underneath them. When I asked her to stop adding
flour snow to the scene and explained how hard it was to get the snow off of the elf clothes she sighed heavily and said she didn’t really want to help anymore.
The elves have kept at though, and recreated some other favorites from the past.
TP-ing the tree is always a hit.
Bringing a new board game is appreciated in a more quiet way.
The obligatory game of pool……
…..with a new feature this year: Christmas strobe lights for added effect.
They’ve painted a bit.
And crepe papered the entry. Good thing they can fly because it would be totally dangerous to stand on a kitchen chair and put that stuff up there with masking tape.
Zach has steadfastly delighted in their efforts, and with his finely honed computer skills (thank you so much Kuna Public School System), he has also undertaken quite a cycle of communication with Sparkles, Santa and company. Nearly every night he writes a letter on my computer and prints it and leaves it with Sparkles to take to Santa.
Most letters ask for something to be delivered or for an action of some sort. For a couple of weeks he was obsessed with having Sparkles bring her elf pets (a St. Bernard and a reindeer) with her to our house. How he knew that she had said pets is beyond me.
It took a couple of weeks for the elf pets to arrive. Blitzed the St. Bernard (don’t judge me) came first, after a delay because he had the sniffles and was at the North Pole Veterinary Hospital, and Randy the reindeer arrived about ten days after that. Randy was detained for quite a while because
Target was sold out of them he was in training to be a backup reindeer in case Rudolph couldn’t fly for some reason on Christmas Eve.
The progressive nature of the arrival of the pets necessitated a string of communications between Santa, Sparkles and Batman, which Batman eagerly read and bought into, hook, line and sinker. Even when one day, early on in the Pet Transfer Plan, Sparkles delivered a note that called her pet reindeer by the name of “Rudy” rather than his afore-stated name of “Randy”, Batman was merely puzzled, not suspicious. When later that same day she sent a note saying that Rudolph had gotten on her tablet and changed the name because he was wishing that HE was coming to our house, Batman blithely accepted that as a hilarious truth. (Coincidentally, that same day DH made a smart alec crack about how much wine Sparkles must have been drinking when she wrote the first note, which I’m sure she did not appreciate.)
As for now, Batman continues to greet every antic of the Elf Family with delight and acceptance. He relishes his direct-line communication with Santa and bounds up the stairs every morning to see what mischief his tiny friends have wrought.
It has been commented that these complicated shenanigans must be a lot of work for Sparkles, and that perhaps she is overdoing it and maybe even making other elves look bad, and that may all be true. All I can say is that around here we continue to enjoy the Magic of Christmas, and as long as Batman keeps believing, so shall I.
I am certainly in no rush to have The Talk about The Truth again any time soon.