A few years ago, my husband had just undergone his second back surgery and despite his somewhat fragile condition, was determined to keep his commitment to bring to life a Hawaiian version of Santa for the ward Christmas party. I, on the other hand, was concerned about what having a ward full of children sit on his lap and crawl all over him could potentially do to his health. I knew he did not have the strength in his arms at that time to pick up a small child and hoist him or her onto his lap. I knew that just moving wrong or having to move quickly in reaction to something, like a little kid reaching for his glasses, for example, could put him in excruciating pain.
We came up with a unique solution, involving many members of our family. I drafted three of our sons as elves who were in charge of protecting Santa from overly exuberant children. I had my Mrs. Santa getup, as well. We determined that I would sit next to Santa, the elves would lift the children onto my lap, and they would tell the man in the red suit--or shirt and shorts in this case—about their Christmas wishes.
Santa was happy. The kids were happy. That photo represents one of my favorite Christmas memories, where we all worked together to provide happy holiday memories for the children of our ward.
The Christmas Elves
Now imagine that tough-looking security elf as a sweet little three-year-old, if you can. No beard. No scowl. Just a sweet little guy whose father had died when he was ten months old, and who was often the only comfort of a sad mommy. I did my best each year that we were alone to make the holidays fun and memorable, but it was difficult for me to avoid the depression that inevitably came with the season. I often thought during that time that grieving people should have a calendar with no holidays. Many people remembered me with a quick drop-off of treats, but when I would try and invite them in, they were short of the one thing I really needed—their time.
Then twelve days before Christmas, mysterious strangers started leaving little gifts each night. I told Scott it was the Christmas elves and that they were going to leave something for us every night until Christmas. Every day his anticipation grew and when the doorbell rang, he ran to the door to see what they had left. Many of the gifts were for him. I got caught up in the excitement as well. One evening as we retrieved the gift, he told me he had seen the tips of elf shoes poking out on the side of the house where the elves were hiding. Those elves and their gifts helped me to stave off the depression that year and truly made a magical Christmas for a little boy.
Years later, when Scott was a teen-ager, we did the Twelve Days of Christmas for a friend of mine whose husband had been given a wrong dose of anesthesia and had emerged from what should have been a routine medical procedure reduced to the mentality of a four-year-old. The hospital somehow managed to escape liability, and she was struggling both to support the family and take care of her husband, managing the apartment building where they lived. We ran into them once out shopping during the holidays, and this manchild was proudly wearing his light-up deer antlers, one of the gifts we had left, his face lit up as brightly as they were. It was a heart-warming moment for us, and I hope the gifts that we left made a difference in their lives, as well.
When Scott and I found ourselves again facing solitary Christmases when he was a teen-ager, we became the gathering place for four to six missionaries on Christmas morning. I fixed a big breakfast. The ward gifts for them were all delivered to our house. They got to have Christmas in somebody’s home instead of a dingy apartment. They had a “family” for the day. We had a “family” for the day.
One year that we had the missionaries over, Scott had admired a $600 replica of Yoda from The Sharper Image store complete with a beard of real goat hair. Of course, we both knew that was out of the question, but it was on his wish list nevertheless. At the toy store, I had found a collection of plastic inch-high figures from Star Wars, Yoda among them. I had hidden him the night before in a miniature cottage I had on my piano, where he appeared to be herding sheep. It was the perfect hiding place and I was very proud of myself for my cleverness. I had arranged a series of clues to lead Scott to Yoda, with the last one saying he had been shrunk down by Rebel forces. The missionaries were helping him with the clues. They were on about the third clue when he picked up the Star Wars theme and he said, “You know, when I went upstairs to bed last night, I could have sworn I looked down and saw a miniature Yoda on the piano, herding sheep.” I made him go through all the clues just the same. I still have a miniature Ewok herding the sheep as a reminder of that fun memory and that the cheap imposter still scored some points.
There is magic in every Christmas. The moments will happen. Last year I had given my little granddaughter, Lucy, a magic wand. She was waving it about and it made a magical noise. She asked me what I wanted. I said, “Make Grandma beautiful and skinny.”
She waved the wand over me, but it didn’t make the noise, and she said, “It’s not working.” We all had a good laugh over that.
When I was a child, it seemed to take forever for Christmas to get here. Now it seems to come all too quickly, with hardly enough time to decorate, bake and shop, much less fit in anything more than a drive-by service project. The list of things to do grows longer as the time grows shorter. I want to have my grandchildren learn the joy of being Christmas elves. I want to be the person who has time to stop and chat with the cookie drop-off if I sense that is what a person needs.
When I rush about trying to put together the perfect Christmas, I try to remember Christ’s humble beginnings and that it probably wasn’t Mary’s plan to give birth in a stable. Ultimately when Christmas comes, I want to be found on bended knee worshipping the Christ Child the best way I can, by being mindful of my fellow man, by giving of my means and of my spirit to those within the circle of my reach, by being the best example I can be of the things my Saviour taught and lived. If I can do that, there will always be magic in my Christmas.