Live Oak —
I consider myself a fairly well informed person on such subjects as international relations, domestic governmental affairs and economic issues. I do a lot of reading on those subjects.
Pop Culture? That’s a whole different ballgame! So, it shouldn’t be a great surprise to you when I admit that I only became aware of the entire “Elf on the Shelf” phenomena this fall.
I am guessing that there are others out there as ignorant as I was about the shelf elf thing, so let me quickly summarize the concept. Parents with little ones pay nearly thirty-bucks for a little, Santa-like elf doll - probably made in China for a nickel — which they then put on prominent display in their homes. These parents then tell their little ones that they had damn well better be good or that elf will report their transgressions directly to old Saint Nick.
When I first heard the story, I was fascinated. “How typically American,” I thought. Parents by the thousands convinced to shell-out hard-earned cash for an overpriced novelty all in the name of intimidating their kids into behaving! And in the process, they generate a fortune for the three-women who came up with the elf scam.
My second thought was, “Darn, why didn’t I think of that!”
My third thought was of my own encounter with one of Santa’s elves nearly seven decades ago.
I was just a tyke and like most tykes, I was a slob. My mind set was the same as today’s little ones. Play with it; drop it! Wear it; toss it! It drove my mother nuts, just as I am sure it does many of today’s moms.
As it is in a child’s nature to discard and disregard when interest wanes, it is in a mother’s nature to threaten and punish, all in the name of neatness. Yet as any mom will admit, neither time spent in the corner - nor even a swat on the behind - seems to have any lasting impact.
It was the dilemma my mama faced, probably in the fall of 1948 or 1949, when we lived in a tiny, single-story house, whose only unique feature, at least by Live Oak’s standards, was a basement where the laundry was done every Monday. It was in those poorly lit, underground surroundings where mama issued me, what would be her last ultimatum on picking up my room.
“Jimmy, Santa’s elves are watching and when they find a child who doesn’t take care of his toys or clothes, they take them back to the North Pole and give them to other kids who will.”
Well, this was news to me! So I thought it might be wise to do a quick elf check - just to be on the safe side. I climbed the steep basement stairs and headed toward my bedroom, only to encounter the sound of gentle but persistent tapping from within!
“HOLY SMOKE,” I thought. “THEY’RE HERE.” In a panic, with tears flowing by the gallon, I raced back to the basement to tell my mother of the elf invasion and plead for her intervention on my behalf.
Her advice was brief, but sage. “Well, you had better go back upstairs and pick up…right now!”
I did and in the process became somewhat of a life-long neat-nick.
It was only years later that my mother confessed that the noise I had heard was her tapping a broom handle on the basement ceiling, just below my bedroom.
So what’s the purpose of this old coot’s rambling? Simple. I’d be happy to sell you a duplicate of my mother’s old broom for just $29.99, plus shipping and handling. When you call the toll-free number, 1-800-FOOLEDU, just ask for the “Holmes Christmas Broom.” Operators are standing by.
Of course, you will need to provide your own basement.
Oh, and one more thing; Merry Christmas everyone!
Jim lives in Live Oak.