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It’s Just A Decoration

A column about managing the intentions and expectations behind Christmas magic.

A few nights ago, I was running an errand when my teen daughter called me, “Where are the elves?” She asked without so much as a salutation. 

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“The what?” I responded. 

“The elves. I’m trying to find them. I may not be very nice to him all the time, but I don’t want his childhood ruined,” she stated emphatically about her desire to create magic for her 7-year-old brother.

The irony of her expedition to find the “magical” Christmas elves is rich.

When I was growing up, we had a little elf that sat on our tree, probably the design predecessor of the current ones. He just sat there. That’s it. He was as creepy as the present-day elves, but he didn’t watch us. He had no job to do – he was just a little piece of ephemera that attached itself to my family’s traditions of Christmas. 

I’ll never forget my excitement of succumbing to the commercialism of Elfdom. Given the story of my family having an elf, you can understand why I thought it was pretty cool to introduce our elf, except one with “meaning.” I bought the book that told the elf story, which included an elf, and made an evening of it. I used to do that, make evenings of things before my oldest grew up and I became haggard and tired.

Anywho, I unwrapped the book and began the story. When I begin reading children’s books, my drama is Tony-worthy, okay. I will transport you to places with dancing and singing. I do impersonations and accents. I don’t just READ the book, I BECOME the book. So, with hands swiping and eyes sparkling, I told the tale of Santa’s helper who’d come to watch and inspect, with specific instructions NOT to touch the elf or it would lose its magic. 

Quite satisfied with my production, I ended the tale and without missing a beat, my daughter child, a middle-aged CEO from birth, flicked the elf and said, “Mom, it’s just a DECORATION.” 

I don’t even know if she was four, but she smirked her mouth, cocked her head, cut those beautiful brown eyes, and dismissed me from the surface of the earth. 

In one blink of Rudolph’s nose, my Mom Magic burned to the ground and evaporated up Santa’s chimney. 

But the same genetics that created the little General created me. So, I pulled the invisible knife from my heart and proceeded with Elf Shenanigans. In the early years, I was a little more 1995 Martha Stewart while other years looked more like the 2004 version. IYKYK. 

Now, I just live in reality and do the best I can.

Which is exactly the message I want to pass on to you. Just do the best you can. Try to tune everything out and do the best that YOU can.

If you are a Mama and desperately want to make Christmas magic, know this: it doesn’t have to be expensive or over the top to be magical. It doesn’t have to look like the neighbors or be featured on TikTok. It doesn’t have to take anyone’s breath away or one-up last year. 

You don’t have to have matching pajamas and you don’t have to have the elf, either. 

But if you want a happy holiday, I do encourage you to start with this: intention and low expectations (and if you have a cranky, er quirky, family – a backbone of steel). 

If your family isn’t used to forced family fun, ask them to reserve a night on the calendar and some encouragement to have an open mind before you Clark Griswold them to Bellingrath Gardens.

If you know it will hurt your feelings to wake up to an empty Mom stocking on Christmas morning, fill it yourself with your favorite chocolate or a bottle of Ibuprofen. If there are teenagers or grown teenagers in the home, give them some items to choose from and let THEM fill your stocking. Then next year, after being shown how to do it, they MAY want to do it themselves. Or maybe they never do. It’s okay. 

And whatever you do, don’t redirect your fun because of the wild and woolly statements of a four-year-old CEO (or a forty-year-old one neither). If your plan is fun and harmless and requires nothing of anyone else (elf shenanigans) then go for it! 

You may think your little efforts don’t matter, but they do. Christmas magic is like spilled glitter, yes, it can get messy, but it eventually sticks to everyone and everything it touches. Not everyone likes it, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t its own kind of wonderful.