I simply had no idea. I just didn't fully understand and appreciate a child's openness to wonder. I didn't get it. Now I do.

All week we've been telling the kids that we had a surprise for them this Sunday night. We gave them hints, but they just couldn't figure out what it could possibly be. So, as you can imagine, this afternoon after we got home from the church they were totally wired up with the anticipation of it all and could not wait. Greg and I were sitting by the Christmas tree reading and they were running around playing. We had all been right by the Christmas tree the entire time. There was nothing under our tree.

And then there was.

A wrapped present suddenly appeared under our tree! The kids found it and brought it to me and on the tag was a message: “Special Delivery from the North Pole. To: Elijah and Grace. Please take this wrapped package with you to your surprise tonight.” We talked about who could have possibly brought it and how they could have done it with us all sitting right there. The kids finally decided that it must have been there the whole time and we just didn't see it. So, Santa must have came to our house while we were at church. But just after deciding that must be it, Grace said under her breath, “But I really didn't see anything under there…” We all just shrugged our shoulders and decided maybe we would find out at the surprise.

About an hour later we packed up the mystery present and got in the car to go to the surprise. We drove into town, all the while fielding guesses about where we might be going. We parked the car, bundled up with our coats and scarves, and walked to the square in downtown Springfield.


Now they thought they knew – we were coming to see the giant Christmas tree!


After taking a few pictures we told them that they still hadn't quite figured out what the surprise was and we began walking over to the corner of the square. About that time they noticed the giant white carriage with the beautiful black horses, and riding in the carriage was…SANTA! Now they knew!

Once we were all settled in the carriage, we pulled out the present and told Santa that we didn't know what it was, but it had appeared under our tree this afternoon and the note said to bring it with us. Then we asked him if he had any ideas. Well, he did. He said that he had snuck in when no one was looking and left it, then he asked if they would like to open it. Of course, they said yes! Just like Grace had been asking for, it was an Elf on the Shelf! Santa then explained how every night the elf would be coming to see him and telling him if they had been naughty or nice that day, so to be sure and be nice! It was perfect!

Elijah appears to be thinking of ways to circumvent the elf, here…

After the carriage ride we went to eat and we read the story of our elf. Grace filled us in on some of the crazy things her friends' elves had been doing, grinning ear to ear the entire time. Then came the process of picking out a name: Pinkie, Gerald, Cha Cha, TreePack(?), but finally they settled on Sunny. Soon, we were back in the car and on our way home.

Before we were halfway home, they were both sound asleep.


When we got home, Greg and I unloaded the car, including the elf, and then brought the kids in. Grace woke up enough for me to show her Sunny sitting up on our mantle all ready for his nightly trip. I wasn't exactly prepared for the reaction.


When Grace saw Sunny sitting on the mantle, she woke up completely and exclaimed, “How did he get up there?!? So, when you opened the box, he wasn't there? And you found him here?!?!?”

To which I, wide-eyed, stammered my reply of, “YES….uh, yes, that is exactly what happened, Grace. I went to open the box and couldn't find him, but then I looked over at the mantle and there he was!” Well, she could hardly contain herself! Soon enough she had Elijah up to come see that their silly elf had already started doing the crazy things she was talking about earlier.

Finally things settled down and everyone got tucked into bed, still buzzing a bit with excitement, but ready to sleep. I went in to wash my face and also get ready to settle for the evening. But then, all of a sudden Grace comes running into the room, “MOM, Sunny, he MOVED!” Then giggling, she ran back to the living room, “Come see, Mom! Daddy, come see! ELIJAH!!!”

And THAT is when I realized their capacity for wonder and their ability to believe. Because this is what had happened that had absolutely solidified Sonny's realness as a magical elf. He had went from the position you saw earlier to….THIS!

And I looked from that elf, to my children, and back to that elf in total awe and wonder as well. Grace and Elijah thought I was just as amazed as they were by the elf's antics. At first I really thought they were kidding. I mean, the elf tipped over. Surely they knew that the elf had just tipped over…

But no, they did not. Then I saw what they saw, just for a moment. I saw that silly elf playing jokes with them already! Laying down – in the same silly position that he had been sitting earlier. “Mommy, see? He is LAYING DOWN NOW!!” And I let it wash all of my sadness away for a moment. I just basked in their purity, their faith, their wonder, their capacity for magical thinking. Their whimsy, their delight, and their joy. It's amazing.

It was a gift. A reminder that the world IS a magical place and there is beauty to be found in the most mundane circumstances. They helped me to laugh, with pure delight, at their joy.

And for that I thank our little elf. He may be keeping track of how well behaved the kids are, but he will also be reminding me to set aside my concerns and just believe in the wonder of it all…

 

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