Published 12:42 pm Saturday, December 7, 2013

If you don’t know anything about the elf on the shelf or if you are sick and tired of other people telling you about their elf’s adventures, then now would be a really good time to quit reading this column. Go ahead, just skip on over to the obituaries or the ABC’s of Christmas, because you’ll spend the next five minutes either completely confused or totally annoyed if you don’t. And if you choose to hang around and keep on reading after this point, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you… .

Okay, since those people are gone and the only ones here are those of us who know about the elves, I wanted to tell you about ours. For those of you who don’t know, Hermie’s our elf. And he’s been coming to stay with us for the last five or six years now. He’s a pretty good elf, as far as doing all the stuff I assume it is he’s supposed to do. He shows up every year right after Thanksgiving, goes back to the North Pole every night to give a report on the kids’ behavior, and every single morning he’s hiding somewhere different in the house so the kids have to run around like crazy trying to find him.

And when I say he’s someplace different, I mean he’s someplace different every single day. Do you have any idea what a pain that must be, never hiding in the same spot two nights in a row for five years? It’s a real hassle. At least, I assume it is anyway.

Some days you can tell that Hermie hasn’t put much thought into his hiding place, or that maybe he jumped to a new spot at the last possible moment before being discovered. Sometimes he winds up in a place he shouldn’t be, like in the last piece of apple pie. Stella had to chew him out for that earlier this week. So much so that she wrote him an apology later that day, explaining how she didn’t mean to lose her temper, but that she just really loves apple pie. She wrote that she loved him anyway, which I thought was pretty forgiving for someone who just turned six and loves apple pie. Or like yesterday, when he left a huge mess from the cookies he got into and didn’t even bother putting away the syrup he used to make his chocolate milk. Of course Whitman wasn’t bothered by the crumbs, which he never is. He just marveled that Hermie was able to pour his own milk without spilling. I’m guessing it’s because at nine years old he hasn’t quite mastered the spill-free pour himself.

But all in all, it appears our family landed a fairly decent elf. Hermie does a pretty good job of tending to all his elf duties, doesn’t cause too much trouble and every morning is the first thing on both of our children’s minds.

This morning, when Whitman found Hermie hiding in a new spot, he wrote a note telling Hermie how happy he is that his elf keeps coming back. And upon reading the note, it occurred to me that I was too.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if he’d be back again this year. Whitman and Stella are at the age where kids begin losing their elves to families with much younger children. For parents, it’s hard to watch our kids go hurtling toward that next phase of their lives. But seeing them trade high-fives the day after Thanksgiving because Hermie came back lets us know that – at least for one more Christmas season – we get to watch them believe.

And as a parent, what more could you ask for?

TONY CLARK is publisher of The Tidewater News, and hopes that Hermie somehow manages to live through another Christmas with his family. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.