Monday, December 08, 2014

Second Monday of Advent: Wonder

Last year was the first time we had an Elf on a Shelf. Coffeeson saw him in Target, and Coffeewife apparently didn't put up much of a counter-argument when he asked if we could get one.

If you aren't familiar with Elf on a Shelf, here's the short version: you stick this elf doll on a shelf somewhere in your home--perhaps in your son or daughter's room or near wherever you've set up your tree--and the elf "watches" to make sure said child behaves. Every night the elf leaves to report to Santa, and then returns in a different spot the next morning. Parents get assumed creativity points for setting up the doll in silly or original poses or situations. Last year, for instance, our doll was found post-cereal binge, complete with torn-open box. On another morning, he was playing a board game with several other stuffed animals.

So basically, it's another way some company has found to profit off of the Santa myth, and kind of helps with behavioral control, too.

Coffeeson named his elf doll Linus. Every morning featured a search for where Linus may be hiding and an evaluation of whatever predicament in which he'd been placed. It wasn't the presents or the tree but Linus the Elf that for him turned out to be the highlight of Christmas. This was made clear when we went to put him away, and Coffeeson started weeping and wailing that he had to say goodbye, so we kept Linus out for a few extra days.

I am not exaggerating when I share that Coffeeson has been talking about Linus' return all year. During Easter, over the summer, and through Halloween, we were reminded that we were getting ever closer to Linus once again sitting on his shelf, surveying the room, there for Coffeeson to look at and talk to all through December, and maybe a little longer than his parents thought necessary. These mentions in March and July and October were at times met with groans or eye-rolls from Coffeewife and me, which would draw accurate accusations that we don't really seem to appreciate Linus as much as Coffeeson does.

One of my favorite podcasts is Sound Opinions, a music show hosted by Chicago-based critics Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot. They have a yearly tradition of inviting Andy Cirzan to create and share a medley of strange and obscure Christmas music from his vast collection. I once heard him explain why he is such an avid seeker and collector of Christmas music, the main reason being that it's his way of holding onto or reclaiming the wonder of his childhood. Christmas is quite different for us when we're children, and we seem to lose it as we get older and the season turns from something magical into something with obligations and financial burdens and reminders of days past.

I've been thinking about Cerzan's explanation this year, particularly as it relates to our elf friend Linus. It is clear that this doll is one of the ways that helps Coffeeson experience the wonder and magic that Christmas is all about for children. He looked forward to Linus all year, and was predictably ecstatic when we finally dug him out and put him in his proper place.

After all the eye-rolling I've done at the mention of Linus all year, it has finally occurred to me that maybe I should be encouraging Coffeeson to hold onto that wonder for as long as he can instead. Most adults, particularly parents, are ever chasing after wonder when Christmas comes around; some of us are able to capture it and for others it's beyond capturing anymore.

The infatuation with Linus will only last for a few years, but maybe that's something to lament more than celebrate. After all, we aren't children forever.