Dear Jack: The Elf on the Shelf is Your Newest Stuffed Animal

5 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack: The Elf on the Shelf is Your Newest Stuffed Animal

Dear Jack,

A year ago, Mommy bought a slightly smaller version of the Elf on the Shelf, on clearance after Christmas.

She unboxed it this past weekend and…. the next day he suddenly appeared in a different place.

That was the last time the Elf on the Shelf demonstrated his magic, because since then, you have been carrying him around with you everywhere: to school, to dinner, to bed…

In other words, you saw the Elf on the Shelf as an opportunity to adopt another stuffed animal.

This weekend when Nonna is in town, I’m going to have you and her count exactly how many stuffed animals you have now. I won’t be surprised if that number is very close to 100.

In fact, let me put in my official estimate. How about 83? I could be way under, but I think you have at least 83 stuffed animals.

As people have been seeing you in public, walking around with who you have named “Elfie,” some of them have looked at us in a state of surprise, as if it was taboo to carry about an Elf on the Shelf.

I’ve recently learned that legend says if you touch the elf, he loses his magic.

That theory checks out, as he hasn’t disappeared since the day you started carrying him around.

Granted, Mommy told me that this slightly smaller version is specifically designed to be held, as she read on the packaging.

However, people don’t know that when they see you holding him. Your friends at school and church were so shocked.

It makes no difference to you. He’s another stuffed animal and you managed to once again outsmart the system.

You let the rest of the world play their reindeer games with the Elf on the Shelf. Meanwhile, you just got away with a new toy before Christmas.



Dr. Deja Vu: Before and After

There is something magic, mysterious, and forgiving about the past. Like a black hole it just absorbs our former stupidity and ignorance. As long as others can see we’ve put enough time between the present and the past, then much can be dismissed. Learning from the past is the respectable thing to do. It’s current and constant immaturity that people have a problem with.

In 1989 in 3rd grade the snack my mom always packed for me for the designated “snack time” was a Kudos bar. If I opened the healthy candy bar a certain way, the wrapper would stay intact so that it looked like there was still the Kudos bar inside. So everyday, I would offer an empty Kudos wrapper to one of my friends. They would anxiously grab the bait, and it was funny to both the giver and receiver every time.

After a few months I had done this trick to literally the entire class, so I tried it out on the teacher, but with a twist: After she realized there was no Kudos bar inside, I would actually give her the Kudos. (I carefully took it out of the wrapper and placed the bar inside my cold metal desk.) She laughed when I pranked her. Then I reached into my desk, pulled out the naked Kudos bar, and said, “I’m just joking. Here it is.”

The look on her face said enough. But she simply just said, “Oh no, you keep it. I’ve already got a snack. Thank you though.”

Who wants to eat a chocolate covered granola bar that an 8 year-old boy touched and sat in his desk that hasn’t been cleaned out in six months? I realized it was a faux pas right away. It was awkward and I hoped she would forget about it as soon as possible.

By the time I got to 4th grade, I was able to say to myself, “Okay, that Kudos bar incident was a year ago. It’s a new year, you’re a new person, time to prove you’re not immature anymore.” But year after year I would do things that embarrassed myself, and each time, I would hope that the next year I would finally “get mature”. But 20 years since the Kudos incident, I still haven’t reached that perfection I’m looking for.

And in the last 20 years, I’ve buried not only socially awkward events, but also personal offenses. Times when I’ve insulted and hurt people I care about. Of course I didn’t mean to. But I did the crime, each time. And after the sincere apology, and the sincere forgiveness, there’s still the sincere “let enough time go by so that hopefully both of us pretty much have forgotten about it” issue. Easier to forgive than to forget, no doubt about it.

We know that time is a healer, but how much time?

To the familiar proverb, “we hurt those we love the most” I add “and embarrass ourselves in front of those we don’t know as well”. I’ve tried, and I just can’t embarrass myself in front of those who really know me. Because they really know me. They’ve seen me do enough goofy stuff that it’s no big deal anymore.

But it’s interesting that it takes love being mishandled or abused to cause real hurt. And also that part of growing up and becoming mature is learning from mistakes involving hurting those I really care about. Whether it’s training for the norm of social behavior, or whether it’s learning “how to love” another person, it takes spilling the milk and cracking a few eggs.

Making mistakes and not learning from them reveals a fool. But turning around in a new direction shows repentance and maturity.

The irony is that while it takes someone that I love to truly hurt them, it’s their returned love that helps heal the wound faster, the way a Band-Aid and Neosporin do. I can insult a stranger or acquaintance, but I can’t truly deeply hurt them. So there is no love needed to heal a wound in that case.

Weird how that works.

“I can’t wait to figure out what’s wrong with me, so I can say this is the way that I used to be- there’s no substitute for time.” –John Mayer (“Split Screen Sadness”)