For anyone who hasn’t heard of me, my name is Ginger. I’m a dude, but my owner named me when she was only 4 years-old, so please cut me some slack for having a less than masculine name. You may have heard of my kind from the famous “Elf on the Shelf” series of books, meant to cause more unnecessary Holiday stress for already overwhelmed parents. My marketing team was absolutely, brilliant when they first introduced elves as a MUST HAVE item for children everywhere. You had hoped that owning me was avoidable until you heard the dreaded …. ”But Mommyyyyyyy, Susie has one! Why don’t I? Doesn’t anyone love me?” The excellent marketing ploys continued the following year when my creators strategized (in almost Machiavellian fashion) to develop an entire series of movies, friends and accessories meant to empty the pockets of parents everywhere. New cries would be heard of “But Mommmmyyyyyy, my elf NEEDS his own personal reindeer, or he will get lonely.”  Did you hear that in 2020 an elf baby was added to the repertoire? Better go buy one before you disappoint those impressionable children. You wouldn’t want them in therapy years from now, lamenting on how their childhoods always felt incomplete because they were the only kids on the block without an elf baby.

In the month of December, you are already tapped out: attending multiple school Holiday concerts; creating gluten free, non-allergenic, wholesome, baked goods from scratch for the school’s largest yearly fundraiser (who am I kidding…..I buy that); baking (buying) dozens of cookies for the neighbor’s annual cookie party; and attending work parties. You also will be flustered at having to attend pre-Holiday family events, that are meant to be joyous family bonding experiences but leave you stressed out and missing an entire weekend of Holiday shopping and God-forbid….rest. Don’t forget you are also usually the sole individual responsible for buying and wrapping EVERY. SINGLE. PRESENT. Maybe even throw in a few large school projects that need completion leading into holiday vacation. Because who doesn’t love having to fight mall traffic and hordes of last-minute shoppers and long lines just to buy some poster board that your child forgot to mention until the night before? You don’t have time to assist in your child’s education when you need to be locked in the closet, crying with a straw and bottle of wine, while trying to wrap presents undetected.

The clock is ticking. It must all get done. You are the solo shopper for family, friends, teachers, bus drivers, babysitters, and the children. You must then organize and  hide the presents and continually check that the amounts given will appear equal so that the middle child doesn’t feel slighted. Hint: that middle child will ALWAYS feel slighted. You do all the “heavy lifting,”  while a fictional, fat man in a red suit gets all the credit. So…sure, why not also add the staging of nightly, Pinterest-worthy antics involving a freakish looking, spy elf to your list?

Well….enter the arrival of a worldwide pandemic. Momma, you have been relieved of all those Holiday activities that you once foolishly and selfishly deemed as overwhelming nuisances and burdens. You finally got the peace and quiet that you THOUGHT you wanted; kind of sucks now…doesn’t it? Be careful what you wish for.  Covid rules and you are stuck at home with no excuse but to up the ante and make those nightly elfin visits stellar. You have zero excuse for making my shenanigans in any way subpar. You are home. You have zero social obligations to attend. AND…..while I have your attention,  let me tell you another thing. You think YOUR life dealing with ME has been rough? Oh, BOO HOO… fell asleep and forgot to move me! Poor thing. You are out of ideas…WAHHH, WAHHH! Tough Boogers. Now it is time to sit back and listen to MY horror story.

First off, you keep me in a claustrophobic storage container for 11 out of 12 months every year. Last year my head was shoved up a Nutcracker’s butt for eleven months. No Bueno. At least you could put me back into my original box where I can comfortably nestle in my plastic compartment and rest up in between gigs. You made me do a lot of ridiculous, embarrassing and tiring antics for an entire month. I need my beauty rest. Anyway……didn’t your mother always teach you to keep collectibles in their original boxes? Valerie would be very, very, disappointed in you.

Now I will proceed to tell you more about the tiring antics that you force me to endure. Do you know how difficult it is to hold my position for 16 plus hours, on a thin piece of twine, so that I can look like I am ziplining across your dining room ceiling? I really am not an outdoorsy, adventurous type.  I prefer more gentle pursuits like theater, fine wines and dining al fresco. Don’t judge. I am a man of refinement. I also didn’t appreciate having Cheerios thrown at me by the youngest child while I was attempting to portray my dutiful (though not personally chosen) role as a ziplining elf. Please tell him to control his mischievous little self. It is tough to keep my concentration whilst being pelted with breakfast cereal.

This year’s “Kissing Booth” scenario was a nice one and I must thank your oldest daughter for that opportunity. Willow the elf is pretty, hot! Could you please hook me up with more sweet scenarios like that? I know that Willow only came our way because you couldn’t take any more arguments between the kids over whom I belonged to, but it is nice to have a friend, so I will remain silent on how you should have put your foot down and insisted that the kids just share me. Thank you also, for not threatening them to get along better by saying that I will fly to Santa and tell him that they are being bad. I do not like being portrayed as the bad guy. I also do not like being alluded to as a creepy, spy who is ALWAYS WATCHING. I am just a well-meaning dude who would like to bring joy to children with my silly antics. I am aware that my shit eating grin makes me appear super creepy, but I really am a good guy. I am just perpetually misunderstood. I have often been accused of having R.E.F., otherwise known as RESTING ELF FACE.

Bathroom humor may always be amusing with the preschool set, but you must realize that when you place me on a dollhouse potty in the bathroom I am prone to many unfortunate scenarios; scenarios  that I would rather not be subjected to. The Hershey’s Kisses were an amusing touch, but I really didn’t appreciate being put in such a delicate situation. Do you even know what happened to me when that handyman BLEW UP your bathroom……AFTER what appeared to be a burrito lunch? I SAW things that I cannot unsee. I SMELLED things that burned my nasal passages. I have been forever sullied. I will never be the same. PLEASE….. I  beg of you…. just leave the bathroom out of my “performance space” from now on.

And another thing……..PLEASE remind people that I am only supposed to make my first appearance on December 1st………… AND NOT BEFORE! What do you think this gig pays? I do not make overtime. I will not suffer financially due to some other overachieving parental units that you foolishly feel a need to keep up with. I need to save for my retirement too ya’ know. I cannot do this gig forever. My joints ache and I am not getting any younger. Hanging me upside down from the chandelier for 20 hours ain’t exactly easy on the joints, lady. You did it this year too. Do not deny it! I had FIVE more whole days to appear and I was enjoying that beauty sleep I spoke of earlier. Why did you feel the need to wake me early and dress me in a turkey suit this year? It was absolutely humiliating. The dogs were staring at me all night licking their lips too and I was absolutely, TERRIFIED. That younger bulldog of yours is HUGE for a baby and her jowls could easily hold about a dozen elves. I still have nightmares from that unfortunate……and very, long evening.

One more thing that I would like to discuss. Bringing presents prior to Christmastime is NOT in  my contract! I repeat…….NOT in my contract! This tomfoolery was a myth created by (once again) those overachieving parental units who peruse Pinterest for hours nightly trying to find my next humiliating act for the evening; the one mind-blowing idea that will put Mary’s Mom to shame. Just be yourself and keep it simple. Your kids love you no matter how simple my antics may be and don’t think I am unaware of those gifts you planned to give on the 16th.  I saw those Minecraft blind bags….AND the mini Squishmallow! You cannot hide it. Remember that I know Santa and I know EVERYTHING. I know the extra gift buying started when the littlest girl came home claiming that “Sally’s elf brings gifts! Why doesn’t mine bring gifts? Am I not loved?” You contemplated angrily stating “because your elf sucks and so does Sally’s Mom!” I know you thought it. Remember….elf knows…ALL! Fine. Just go and add one more thing to your list now, thanks to overachieving Sally’s Mom. (Stop. Sally’s Mom. Just. Please. STOP!)

Despite the above-mentioned complaints, I must say to every Momma out there that you are all doing a great job making Holiday memories for the kiddos. Just breathe. Just relax. Just enjoy those kiddos. I thoroughly have been enjoying the children’s laughter at my elf antics….no matter how sidelined or embarrassing they have become. My most cherished time is Christmas morning when I “fly” into the tree to watch you all open presents, before retiring for 11 months. The outside world will be on pause and only family togetherness, smiles and laughter will be felt. (And maybe some parental exhaustion – I will tell the big guy to add some coffee to your stocking)

Xoxo – Ginger the Elf

P.S. Please put me back into my box this year though  –  Just say ”No” to  Nutcracker butt

Jenn Miele Leslie lives in Woodbridge, CT with her husband, three kids ages 8, 10 and 15 and two bulldogs who likes to fart and snore. Originally from Long Island, N.Y. (yes, that IS how you say it – if you’re from there you just understand) she misses being able to find a decent bagel or breakfast sandwich. Once an Art Therapist specializing in working with adults with various developmental disabilities, Jenn now spends her time shuttling her minions to: school; playdates; dance classes and competitions; occupational therapy; coding classes; and what feels like a million additional places, on a daily basis. In her occasional down time, Jenn enjoys photography, painting and an iTunes playlist that boasts way too many 90’s alternative songs.

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