As we walked up the red brick sidewalk to Elf Hall, I asked Birdie, my elf in charge of Scout Elves, “This meeting is just for the Scout Elves, and the Jolly Assistants To Santa (J.A.T.S.) Corps is tomorrow, right?”
“That’s right, Santa. They are very excited to be returning to the children soon,” she responded. “They feel like they are part of the families, and love seeing how much the children grow each year.”
As we approached the door, the noise from inside grew louder and louder. Grabbing the door’s handle, I looked at Birdie and began, “I sure hope the elves are not . . .”
Opening the door, the noise from inside made my words disappear. Birdie rushed inside, ran up to the stage, and banged a large gong.
Only then did things begin to settle down. Walking up to join Birdie on the stage, I saw several elves pointing at me with one hand, and placing a finger over their lips with their other one.
“I see, or should I say, I hear you are ready to be with the children,” I remarked loudly. “Now that Halloween is over and Thanksgiving will be here soon, the families want to prepare for the return of their Elf on the Shelf, or what we call, Scout Elves.”
“I’m ready now, Santa,” Snickers yelled, followed by cheers.
“I know you are, and I appreciate your enthusiasm, yet there are some things we must go over, especially since we have many new Scout Elves this year. Birdie will go over the rules, once we quiet down.”
“Thank you, Santa.” Walking to the center of the stage, she put a sign on the easel that read, RULE #1: REMAIN SILENT. She continued, “Anytime there are people awake in the house, you must not move or talk, and listen to what’s being said around the house.”
“What are we listening for,” Scarfy asked.
“Good question. Santa needs to know what the children want for Christmas. He then checks the list he gets from the children, against what you hear, to make sure he delivers the right toys.”
With the elves nodding in agreement, she placed another sign on top of the first one that read, RULE #2: OBSERVE BEHAVIOR.
“This is really important,” Birdie said in a firm voice. “All of you know Santa cannot be everywhere, and our J.A.T.S. Corps can only help watch so many children, so I need you to listen and watch for things that the children are doing that will help Santa decide which list they should be on.”
“Aren’t children always good?” Peppermint asked, as she fidgeted in her chair.
“Most of them are, but it seems they go through periods where they can be a little naughty. Santa usually forgives them when he sees that they are learning from their mistakes. There is the rare occasion, however, when they don’t learn, don’t listen to their parents, and then he has no choice but to put them on the Naughty List.”
All the elves began grumbling over the thought of anyone being put on the Naughty List. Then Elfie, the oldest Scout Elf, spoke up, “That is why he checks his list twice and sometimes even more, right Santa?”
Leaning forward in my chair, I responded, “You are right. I take that list very seriously. I check my notes, your notes, as well as my J.A.T.S. notes, before I put anyone on the Naughty list.”
Giving a nod to Birdie, she continued, “These first two rules are the most important. Does anyone have any questions?”
The elves were giving a thumbs up in agreement, and another sign was set up. This one read RULE #3: REPORT NIGHTLY. “In order to process this information quickly, you will need to return to the North Pole each night with your report on the children you watch. A crew of elves will help you write what the children want in the Wish Book, as well as how they have been behaving in the Behavior Book,” Birdie instructed.
“Then we get to go back to the same house?” Syrup asked.
“Yes, but you should pick a different place in the house. Moving around allows you to watch them doing different things in different rooms.”
“When do we get to explore?” Jellybean, one of the new elves asked.
“I explore all night, until the family wakes up in the morning,” Ruby a veteran of the Scout Elves explained. I love roaming the house to see all the rooms and notice the small things I can’t see when everyone is awake.”
Feeling uncomfortable about the comments, Birdie said, “I understand you want to play and explore while you are there, but you must clean up after yourself.”
Ruby responded, “But sometimes they wake up before I get things cleaned up. Last year I found a bag of those tiny marshmallows and accidentally spilled them all over the kitchen counter. I had just started putting them back in the bag when they all woke up. I didn’t have time to clean them all up.”
Skippy added, “I was using the toilet paper to measure how tall their tree was. I was about half way up the tree when they came out of their rooms, and all I could do was freeze where I was on the tree.”
Standing up, I remarked, “You all need to understand that the children tell me what you are doing when they visit with me. So, I hope I only hear about how you got caught doing something good or fun before you could clean up. If I hear how you have done something bad, you could end up on the Naughty List.”
Birdie was quick to add, “If you are bad, you could also lose your privilege of being a Scout Elf. So please be on your best behavior.”
The next sign, placed on top of the others, read, RULE #4: AVOID BEING TOUCHED. Mumbling began filling the hall when Birdie continued, “This last rule is for your benefit. If you are a new Scout Elf, be sure to listen very closely. Children are naturally curious. Once they know they can touch you and nothing happens, they will then start playing with you. That’s when it becomes a problem.”
Some of the new Scout Elves began giggling when Elfie stood and shouted, “It’s not funny! You will not be allowed to return to the home, and have to stay at the North Pole!” As the giggling died down, she continued. “This happened to me twice my first year. I didn’t like having to leave, but I could not do my job. Santa depends on us, and if you can’t do your job because the children are playing with you, then you might as well not be there.”
As Elfie sat back in her chair, Birdie added, “She’s right. You need to be sure to pick a place out of reach of the children. Let’s all help Santa make this a great Christmas for the children. I think that covers everything. Does anyone have any questions?”
Snickers jumped up and asked, “So we can head down to our families now?”
Birdie looked toward me and with a nod of my head, the elves began cheering. Then Birdie held up her hand one last time to quiet the room. “I think all of you know that before leaving, Bernard must be satisfied that you have all your chores here at the North Pole completed, and then you must have Ms. Claus check your room.”
“Why is Ms. Claus checking our rooms?” asked Jellybean.
“Just like parents expect their children to clean their rooms, you must also clean yours before you leave. After all, keeping your room clean and neat will help you understand what the children are learning.”
As all the Scout Elves filed out of Elf Hall, singing and laughing, I looked at Birdie and said, “Don’t tell anyone, but all the stories about the Scout Elves I hear from the children actually make me smile.”
“What? I thought you just told them to behave.”
“Oh, indeed I did. Keeping them in line is part of my job. Seeing and talking to the children gives me a good feeling inside, and that gives me an understanding of how the Scout Elves feel. Everyone needs to be a little silly sometimes. After all, it is the season to be Jolly!”
Note from Santa: Looking to get Great pictures for your Christmas cards? I have two photo sessions coming up in November. Make your appointment today at one of the Santa In Toyland sessions.
I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next week . . .
Illustration by FireMane Studio