A Real-Life Elf On The Shelf Timeline

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 

At the end of our phone call a few years ago, my mother casually said, “Oh, by the way, I’ve sent you something in the mail. You should get it later this week. Have you heard of the Elf on the Shelf? All the kids in my preschool class are buzzing about their elves.”

Because my mother taught preschool, she often knew of the latest Christmas toys or trends well before my sleep-deprived self did. And when she knew a hot toy was about to hit the market or a movie was opening that the kids would love, she was always kind enough to either take the kids to see the movie or send me a care package that would make me look like the best mom ever. It was much appreciated.


But in the case of Herbie Ralph, The Elf on The Shelf who came to live with us five years ago, I am still bitter. I blame his elfin hijinks and my descent into hell each December on my mother. Sorry, not sorry, Mom.

I fucking hate that little red felt menace.

And every year, as the holidays approach, I cringe because I know I have 24 days of having to move that little felt asshat all over my house in an effort to fool my kids into thinking the bastard with the creepy-ass smile has been back and forth to the North Pole in a single night.

Seriously, my kids really are that gullible, and I know yours are too. They buy the ruse hook, line, and sinker, and it boggles my mind. When one of them inevitably says, “I wonder when Herbie will be back?” as soon as the leaves start to turn, I shudder because I know I’m going to have to start coming up with ways to make that little red shit look like he’s up to playful, Yuletide mischief.

Fuck you, Herbie Ralph, and the sleigh you rode in on, OK?

Admittedly, I start with the best of intentions, because, let’s face it: My kids absolutely adore coming downstairs to find Herbie being held hostage by Lego figures or having a snowball fight with snowman ornaments from our tree with marshmallow “snowballs.” (Shut up. You’ve done worse, admit it.) And, the time in which they believe in Santa is so short-lived that I want to capture as much of that magic as I can because I know my ovaries will cry heaving tears on Christmas morning when they no longer believe.

It’s a metric fuckton of work, making this little elfin shithead believable, I tell you.

Because I know I can’t be alone, I will give you a glimpse into my month with Herbie, a Captain’s log, if you will, of my slow spiral into the Elf on the Shelf hell fires.

November 29

Shit. Where did I hide that red asshole again?

December 1

Herbie arrived with much fanfare. Note from Santa brought much jubilation and rejoicing. Kids behaving because Herbie is watching with his plastic, creepy smile.

December 2

Herbie was found playing Legos with a stuffed Rudolph. Children pleased.

December 3

Herbie located making an igloo out of cotton balls. Shout out to Pinterest for saving my ass.

December 4

Herbie is a rascal, indeed. His “snow angels” in flour on the counter was a hit. Note to self: Flour is a fucking mess to clean up, and Herbie is on notice.

December 5

Herbie is in the Christmas tree. Doesn’t he look cute next to all the ornaments?

December 6 to 8

Herbie is still in the tree. Suck it, kids.

December 11

Wine consumed. Herbie forgotten. There’s always tomorrow.

December 12

Wails of injustice from children as Herbie forgot yet again to travel back and forth to the North Pole. Children are greatly displeased. Herbie continues to smile creepily.

December 13

Herbie found in basket by fireplace. Is not a coincidence that he’s suspiciously close to the open fire. Burn, you red felt fucker, burn.

December 16

Word received that Sally’s elf has brought tickets to Disney World on her latest trip back from the North Pole. Note to self: Twat punch Sally’s mom at next PTA meeting.

December 17

Kids shocked to discover Herbie under wheel of minivan. No explanation given. He deserves to be flattened, dammit. Morale is low.

December 18

Herbie is in the Christmas tree. Again. Anyone who complains is losing a Christmas present.

December 19

Word received that Jack’s elf brought plane tickets to Caribbean island for surprise trip on Christmas Eve. Children greatly displeased with Herbie’s delivery of candy canes. Note to self: Burn down Jack’s house while they are gone.

December 21

Herbie must die. Today. Plan: Blame it on the dog.

December 23

Drunk from too much egg nog at Hubby’s holiday party. Considered tossing Herbie into trash.

December 25

Hurray! Santa came! Collapsed into heap on floor amidst wrapping paper and toys that are a bitch to take out of packaging. Herbie is looking at me. It’s creepy.

December 26

Return Felt Menace From Hell to North Pole where he belongs. Offer up prayer that next year will be year kids no longer expect this red little fucker to grace our house.

As much as I hate pretending that a creeper elf has the capability to travel back and forth to the North Pole with nothing more than a little magic and elfin GPS, I’m just biding my time. Because, someday, I’ll get to say during a phone call to one of my kids, “Hey, by the way, I sent you something in the mail. It’ll be there Friday.” And revenge will be mine.

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