Thursday, December 24, 2015

Elf Power

Nobody gives much thought to Santa's elves. Santa and his reindeer get all the love and recognition while his elven workers tirelessly churn out toys for ungrateful little kids day after day up at the North Pole and we don't even know their names.

I know what it is like to be an elf, for I have walked in those pointy shoes.

I went to an after-school art program when I was in second grade in Mississippi. It was on the first floor of a creepy looking two story-house with a wrap-around porch. The house was surrounded by weeping magnolia trees and majestic oaks dripping with Spanish moss. The class was taught by Mizz Elizabeth, a kindly but gnarled old woman who loved children almost as much as she loved her snuff and cursing the Yankees.

OK, so I made all that up, except for the two-story house with the wrap-around porch. However, my internet class, New Southern Writing: Hush Your Mouth is accepting applications.

It was actually taught by a college student. There were about 15 of us in there, and I was the youngest. We were making paper mache heads for the Starkville Christmas Parade, which apparently still exists. I don't know what everyone else was making, but I was going to be an elf.

Some are born elves, some achieve elfness, and some have elfness thrust upon them. I can't remember if I chose to be an elf, or elfness was thrust upon me for being the youngest in the group. Either way, I was fine with it. Elves were an important part of Santa's village, and I was going to be representing them in the parade.

It took forever for the paper mache to dry. I remember we added layers and layers of the stuff every week, although I mostly remember getting Cokes from the old timey machine on the porch and wondering what was going to be our snack for the day.

I had a dentist appointment on the painting day. Well, sort of. It had gotten cancelled or something, so instead of painting my big elf head, I sat on the porch and waited for my parents. When the other kids came out of class, I jumped from behind a pillar and yelled "Boo" at them.

The teacher asked to see me. I thought this was a bit of an overreaction to a Booing, but she was actually upset that I had skipped class on the important painting day. That got me worried. Was I going to have an elf head that looked like it was mummified with the Starkeville Daily News? That was no way to represent elfdom.

She explained that she had actually painted my elf head, which of course turned out way better than anything my 7 year old hands could have done. This taught me a valuable Christmas lesson that has served me well in life. Forget about it, and someone else will always come along and fix it.

The night of the parade, I was dressed in my huge-ass elf head and the elf suit my mom made for me. I don't remember what everyone else in the class was, or where they were. Maybe they distributed everyone throughout the parade to ensure adorableness equality? All I knew was that I was a solo elf.

"Just follow the band," said my handler.

And I did. I followed the high school band all down the parade route. People were cheering and waving. I knew they didn't care about the band. They loved the elf. The guy that made their toys. The guy that put in the hours. The unsung worker toiling for Santa was finally getting his due.

I waved. I brandished a plastic hammer, demonstrating the old world craftsmanship one can only get from elves. I affixed a few people with a stare (I really couldn't do anything else, since my eyes were painted on), showing that it wasn't just Santa who knew who was naughty and nice. Little children were in awe of me. Working people identified with me. I was the hit of the parade.
I struggled to keep my apron on and my arm was getting tired with all my hammering. My feet hurt walking the parade route, but I was a trooper. I was Elf. 

After walking like what seemed like hours, the crowds started thinning out. "This part of town doesn't have much Christmas spirit," I thought, and I kept walking, following the band.

The band wasn't playing much anymore. I figured they were as tired as I was. I kept up my antics. I couldn't let down Christmas.

We reached the high school where the band members got into their parents' cars. I finally took my head off. I was alone. Someone asked who my parents were. I had terrible pronunciation back then, so when I said, "Charles and Marilyn Adams," they said, "Saws Adams?"

Finally, my parents walked up. Apparently I was supposed to have stopped walking about a half mile ago, but with my only direction being "follow the band," what else was I supposed to do?

Later I was able to see myself on TV. I was hammering up a storm, waving to children, and being the best damn little elf I could be. I had done it. I had achieved elfness.

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