I hid an Elf before it was cool.




DISCLAIMER:I don't normally do this, but I'm about to don my wayfarers and a slouch beanie paired with a checked scarf and go all Hipster on you all. There, I've said it, so that automatically makes me NOT a hipster. Right?

In any case, I have a story that involves Elves. More particularly the little red kind that sits hugging its knees and grinning impishly as it hides around the house. Today's kids (and parents) know him as the Elf on the Shelf, found in a gift box set along with a book at your local Hallmark gift store. These days he is used as a behavioral control tool, watching the kids in his house and reporting back to Santa every night, showing up in a new location every morning. Parents have come up with some pretty creative and cute scenarios for the Elf to be found in each day as a quick search on the internet (Pinterest!) will show you. I'm not trying to take away from the traditions built and memories made by these young families.
But... once upon a time, my family hid an elf before it was cool to do so.
My grandmother (on my mom's side) had a little red felt, knee-hugging elf ornament--a remnant from the 50's I believe--that she would hide in the house during the Christmas season before any grandchildren came over, but when we arrived it was an ongoing game of Huckle-Buckle-Beanstalk (is my mother the only one who ever called it that?) till it was found. The lucky kid who found it got to hide it again. Sometimes he was on top of the set of Encyclopaedia Britannica that lived on the bookshelves over the fireplace, others he might be on the knick knack shelf, or perched atop the barometer (or at least that's what I remember.) He might have become a point of contention among the cousins sometimes, disputing who got to hide him next, but there's nothing like a little healthy fighting to forge cousinly affections. 

Slowly, we all began to grow up. My family moved away from the family stomping grounds of upstate New York to north Florida. Then my grandparents moved to South Carolina, where there was no need to snow blow a driveway. When the old colonial on Buttercup Lane was packed up and broken down, grandma did some down-sizing. With no grandchildren coming over all the time at Christmas, the Elf needed to find a new home where he would be used. My mother is the youngest of three. Her brother lives in Ohio, her sister in New York. Her siblings have all older children now, not much older than myself, but we have the most, and the youngest age range of kids--the youngest being four this year--thus, WE got the Elf. Since moving to our house the jolly little tyke has taken on a new vitality. I came home from school on break to spy him perched in the curve of a wreath in the dining room, and only this morning as I was curling my hair for church, fifth-brother Michael ran past proclaiming that he had found him from his last hiding spot. I've yet to find him again, as the boys forget that it's necessary to make him somewhat visible when hiding him. They'll catch on eventually. 

A couple of years ago, when Elf on the Shelf first came out, my grandmother saw him in the store and recognized him as our little tradition. She bought the set for our family and so there's a fresh, shiny elf hidden somewhere in the house along with the vintage one. I was aghast when I first saw him, feeling a little hurt that someone had stolen and capitalized upon OUR family tradition. But we'll leave the naughty or nice decision to Santa this Christmas season, the marketers meant well, I suppose, and I'm glad to see so many of my young family friends create such a fun tradition with their kids. My childhood shouldn't be the only one that was happy. 
But still. 
I hid an Elf before it was cool.

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