I balance her on my hip and walk carefully down the steps. We are on a trek to find washcloths for bathtime which, surprisingly, are clean. But never quite made it out of the the laundry room.
As we make our way she spots him.
“He’s still here!” she points to Charlie, our shelf elf, still hanging from that day’s spot.
“Yep! He hasn’t left yet!”
“He’ll go when we’re sleeping.” she tells me.
“Yes, that’s right!” I assure her.
And I have to admit, I find the whole thing amazing.
Our Charlie, and all elves on shelves around the world right now, are nothing more than a bit of plastic and some felt. They are not particularly well made. It probably cost less to make him than any one of her toys.
And yet, she believes.
She believes that he is magic. To her, he is not a doll. He is not bit of plastic and felt sewn together. He is an elf. A magic elf. And every night, after she is asleep, he travels back to the North Pole. And every morning, before she wakes, he finds a new place to sit in our home. And he waits for her to find him.
She wishes him good mornings and good nights. She checks on him throughout the day. She plans to draw a picture for him to take back to Santa.
She believes the tale with all of her heart.
But I look at that elf and I just don’t get it. I don’t get how something so small and simple can hold all of that magic. I don’t get how she believes.
And then there is the rest. All year long, we strive to create magic for her. To create memories. To fill her heart with the joys of an amazing childhood. We work really hard at it. Planning elaborate trips and intricate parties. Finding involved crafts and recipes and projects. We work really hard.
And then December comes and brings Charlie with it. And for 24 days, we move this little guy from place to place and she is enchanted.
And I realize. The effort we put in all year long is not for nothing. The trips and parties and crafts – they are important and she gains from them.
But when I watch her search for Charlie, I realize. It doesn’t take much to engage her imagination. It doesn’t take much to create a sense of wonder so glorious that her eyes widen with delight and her feet can’t keep from bouncing her tiny body around the house. The pressure we put on ourselves to go crazy with plans is self inflicted. An afternoon with a cardboard box and some markers is enough. A few sways on the swing, when we pretend the swing is a rocket ship taking us to the moon, is enough. An afternoon cuddled on the couch reading book after book after book is enough. A little bit of felt and plastic in the shape of an elf is enough.
Creating magic and memories and a childhood of wonder for our children is so much easier than we make it out to be. And that is a certain kind of magic all on it’s own.
She looks at Charlie and believes he is magic. And when I look at him through her eyes, I believe it too.