It was dark, finally, and Elfwina was able to relax and explore the house at will.
It was Christmas Eve and the children had fought a lot that day, and she’d heard herself invoked several times:
“Madison, if you don’t stop fighting with Jaspar, Elfwina will have to tell Santa on you!”
“Jasper, stop picking on Maddy or you will be getting a report to Santa!”
“BOTH OF YOU, STOP IT RIGHT NOW…ELFWINA…”
Elfwina sighed. It made her sick inside to hear what the adults would say about her. Being used as a threat made her sadder than any normal sibling squabble over whether to watch the “Phineas and Ferb Christmas Special” or the 58th version of “Dora Saves Christmas” or who got one extra marshmallow on their cocoa.
Like one month out of the year made that big of a difference.
As if the big guy actually cared about that sort of BS anyway.
That was the trick of it—no one cared. Shape up or no shape up, kids still got toys. Santa tried actually leaving coal one year and got months of complaints, even though technically the market value was probably higher than the knick knacks in a typical stocking. The same parents who would scream “REMEMBER THE ELF” at the top of their lungs for every little thing were horrified when their precious babies woke up on Christmas morning to nothing but fossilized carbon in their pretty felted stockings. You would have thought he had felled entire forests for all the the complaints about empty trees, devoid of presents.
That was one of Santa’s biggest secrets—there was no naughty list.
Sure, there was the “this kid’s parents don’t have enough money to support this toy habit” list, and the “this family will not tolerate non-branded merchandise” list, and the increasingly popular “no heavily gendered sexualized fashion dolls welcome” list. But all of them got presents of some sort, according to what the parents wanted their kids to have, not any mystical Santa 8-ball.
It wasn’t that she didn’t get it—she watched the kids in “her” house just 24 days out of the year, so she didn’t have a whole lot of comparison, but she could see how with each passing day and week, counting down to Christmas, they got more and more antsy and wild and excited. She could see how parents would want something to help keep that chaos under control. Plus, she did a damn good job, if she said so herself. Every single day Elfwina found some sort of fun way to show the kids she was real, even if it did make a bit of a mess. Without the giggles of the kids, the entire thing was pointless. Plus, it was great fun to sneak onto one of the family iPhones and check out what her colleagues were doing via Pinterest.
Elfwina had heard some really horrible stories about some families back at the Workshop—kids who were mean and terribly behaved, but the adults too, overwhelmed by the pressure to create a perfect Christmas, or just life in general, and acting out. The elves saw all, which some parents seemed to forget.
It was enough to make an Elf want to retire. Or worse.
Speaking of which, the big man would be here soon, with presents, of course, regardless of the contents of her reports. Since she’d stopped bothering with that part (to Santa’s mutual relief, it must be noted), she’d had a lot more time to case, er, snoop around the house. She knew where the goods were—the bottles of pills, the stash of cash, the forgotten electronics—whatever the Big Guy could subtly cage to fund the operation through the next year.
You didn’t think Santa did all this out of the kindness of his heart, did you?
Featured image by Flickr user Michael Kappel.