Antonia read my blog. The Elf on the Shelf is out of the closet.
I was out walking the dogs and when I returned, there was my almost-nine-year-old daughter standing in the den with her hands on her hips, waiting for me to walk through the door. When I did, she glared at me, smirking.
“What?” I asked her.
“Mom…” she began in the tone of voice she uses when I catch her doing something she isn’t supposed to do. Then she paused, as if she didn’t know what to say next.
“What?” I asked again. “What did you do?”
“No, nothing,” she replied, hands still on her hips. I stood there in my ski jacket with the dog still on his leash.
“What’s going on?” I prompted her again, looking around the room for incriminating evidence.
“I just read My High-Maintenance Life,” Antonia informed me.
“Oh?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.
“Yeah,” she replied. “Turns out that YOU moved the elf!”
“What? No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did, Mom.”
“What did you read?” I asked.
“The dog biscuits,” said Antonia.
“Yeah, well, we just helped her,” I said in an attempt to keep the magic alive. “Before that, she moved on her own.”
“Mom,” Antonia said in her best you-can’t-fool-me voice, “I read your blog. She didn’t move on her own. And, you really tripped over the dog getting her out of my room?”
I laughed. “Yup. I really tripped over the dog.”
She laughed, too, then asked, “So, where did you put her when you told me Santa took her back to the North Pole?” She made air quotes around “Santa” as she said it.
I panicked. Do I admit the lie, or try to cover it up. Suddenly, our roles were reversed and I was dumbstruck. I felt a twinge of sadness (even though I really hate that stupid elf), because I felt like my sweet, little girl was suddenly getting older before my eyes.
Wasn’t it like a minute ago that she believed everything I told her about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the monsters in the closet, Jingles the Elf? And, if she knew the truth about Jingles, wouldn’t she – in her smart, little mind that works overtime connecting bits and pieces of information – figure out the truth about Santa, the Easter Bunny and all the other magical beings that cause so much stress in every parent’s late night, holy-cow-I-forgot-to-put-money-under-the-pillow hours?
And, if that’s the case, that she no longer believes in the magic, like next week she is going to be asking for the car keys and introducing me to her leather jacket-wearing, too-many-piercings boyfriend who says, “Yo. ‘Sup, Ms. S?” when he sees me and holds out his knuckles to fist pump. And I am totally not ready for that. Ever.
“She went back to the North Pole with Santa,” I said to Antonia, “just like I told you.”
“Mom,” she insisted, “no she didn’t. If you don’t tell me where she is, I’ll go read it!” She stared at me for a second, and when I didn’t reply, she marched back down the hall to her laptop. A few minutes later, she reappeared in the kitchen. “She’s in your closet behind a wicked basket!” she announced, loudly.*
I laughed out loud. “Wicker basket. She’s behind a wicker basket.”
“Well, go get her!” Antonia shouted.
“Later,” I said. “My hands are all wet. I’ll get her later.”
She went back down the hall and then I heard her little footsteps coming back to the kitchen. “Mom?”
“I don’t care that you moved the elf. I really just care that she moved. That’s all. It’s still fun.” My daughter smiled at me.
“Yes, it is,” I said smiling back at her.
“I have an idea, though, for next Christmas,” said Antonia.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Next year, Emma and I are going to hide the elf and let you and Albie find her!”
“That’s a great idea, Antonia,” I told my sweet, young daughter.
I went back to washing dishes, smiling to myself. Maybe the leather-jacketed boyfriend is still a few years away after all.
*Author’s Note: Antonia recounted this story to her dance teacher, informing her that, “My mom hid the elf behind a liquor bottle!” All the other moms looked at me and laughed out loud. I corrected the story and assured them it was a wicker basket. Although, I can see the confusion, as some of my wine bottles have wicker around them.