I hopped out of the car with stealthy ninja skills and slipped into the Hallmark store. I was on a secret mission. In reality, my clumsy push through the door and tripping over the entryway carpet sounded my arrival.

“Do you have, the, um, ‘Elf on the Shelf’?” I inquired in a hushed tone in the event a ‘believing child’ was in earshot; expecting I’d be led to a back room where the elf exchanges take place.

“Yes, right over here.” A store clerk replied leading me to the front of the store.

On the way back to the register I flooded her with questions. How do I introduce him? Can they see the box? Where should I put him? How does this work? She handed me the box double bagged, said ‘read the book’, and wished me a nice evening.

When I got into the car Mae said, “What’s in the bag?”
“Um, a present for your Uncle C.” I said.
“What is it?” She naturally fired back.
“A surprise.” I said.

Her questions fed my skepticism, how is a child this curious going to believe the story of the elf?

As I suspected, when they found him the next morning Mae declared, “He’s not real.”

All I could think was ‘You’re right.’ We read the book and hoped that our elf, Johnny, would do the rest.

They gave suspicious glances at Johnny and grilled us. I was frustrated, but I understood that an elf showing up in the house was a tough sell. Maybe, they were picking up on my feelings?

Then, it happened, I overheard Mae talking to Johnny about her Christmas wishes. Soon after, Haze declared it was his birthday, they were fully invested, and Johnny was a part of our family.

Watching Mae and Haze talk to, draw pictures for, and enjoy Johnny exemplifies the innocence and trust that children have. It reminds me that my cynical worldview is not theirs, and perhaps, I could stand to learn something from their innocence. Especially during this special time of the year.