So, many years ago, when my son was smallish, my sister in law brought back an Elf On The Shelf from Bronner’s, in Frankenmuth, Michigan after going up there to visit relatives. Now, I’d never heard of the thing and it wasn’t nearly as popular as it is these days. There are whole Pinterest pages dedicated to Elf On the Shelf adventures and how to surgically alter your elf to add wire to his legs and arms or maybe magnets to his hands so he can stick to stuff. I didn’t even know you were allowed to DO that..I felt bad just cutting the one strand of thread that held his hands together so I could move his hands apart. The very idea of trying to undo seams to add doll wire kinda makes me nervous.
Heck, just picking a name was fraught with peril. When we first got him, I knew exactly what I wanted to call him–Gerald, after my husband’s grandfather who passed away when my son was two years old. I wasn’t doing it to be an ass. I was doing it in honor of his memory because he was a wee little elf of a man with a wicked sense of humor in life. I’m not so sure my mother and father in law felt the same way, but they didn’t say anything to me if they thought it was disrespectful or whatever.
So every year, on Thanksgiving night, after my son is in bed, I drag ol’ Gerald’s box down from the shelf where I keep him the rest of the year and pose him in some fashion somewhere in the house. And I have to get creative, because my son will call me on it if he’s not moved every night. I hate having to come up with excuses as to why Gerald didn’t move overnight.
“Um..yeah. He didn’t feel like moving. Or maybe he was just tired after he came back from the North Pole. Or..something.”
My son is eleven now and I’m still not entirely sure he knows that Gerald (and Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and the rest) is fake. Because of his autism, his sense of what is real and what is fantasy can be a little bit skewed. I’m tempted to ask him if he knows the truth, but I kinda don’t want to because I want him to be able to hold onto that just a little bit longer if he really does believe it’s real. Growing up, I think I always knew that Santa wasn’t real because there wasn’t a lot of room for make believe in my life. And now that I’m a grown up I find that kind of sad. So I want him to hold onto this innocent belief as long as possible because at least he HAS that belief where I never did. Maybe some day I’ll tell him that Gerald is just a toy…but not today.