It was more of a one-way conversation, but a productive one nonetheless. In fact, it may have been my son's preferred form of discourse. Michael loves to run his mouth, and while I make my best effort to listen to every word, even I cannot maintain the stamina required to keep up with the constant torrent issuing from his lips.
So last night when Michael spotted a kind and loving face, a generous and patient soul, a captive and attentive audience, I was relieved he had someone else to turn to, someone who wouldn't (mostly because he couldn't) turn away.
This weekend our resident elf, Fred, made his appearance. Fred of Elf on the Shelf notoriety has been making his annual visits for years, and while my daughter at 12 is now a bit too astute for the little guy, my 9-year-old son, I doubt, ever will be.
Last night as Michael was readying himself for bed, he got into quite a lengthy discussion with Fred. Well, monologue I suppose would be more apt. My husband and I were reclining in the family room, my daughter already asleep in bed, when I heard a soft, uninterrupted murmur coming from the other room. As the conversation continued, my husband and I began to wonder.
"What's he doing?" my husband asked in a semi-conscious state. "Talking to the elf?"
"I don't know," I replied, tip toeing over to the doorway, holding my ear in the direction of the sound, and straining to listen. This is what I heard.
"Even though you can't talk, I know you listen to every word I say. That's what I like about you." A momentary pause, and then: "I'm just so happy and joyful. I love all the Christmas decorations and listening to Christmas music. I'm full of the Christmas spirit."
Michael's voice was soft and ernest. Given his usual energy levels, he had a surprisingly tranquil, soothing tone. It was one I'd never heard in his voice before.
"We have six people in our family, but two of them are cats. The cats share a Christmas stocking. That's why there are only five stockings. So let Santa know."
By this point, the conversation had been underway for at least 15 minutes, and still, Michael was going strong. "It must be fun being an elf, flying all over our house and visiting us every year."
Another brief pause.
"I wish you could answer me because I'm just so curious about the North Pole. I bet it's a wonderful place. I bet Santa and Mrs. Clause are nice. And all the elves, too. I think Mrs. Clause bakes lots of cookies and treats. I bet she's a cooker, too. I'm sure Santa also cooks a little."
I leaned into the room just enough so that I could catch a glimpse of Michael. I saw he was standing on the arm of the chair opposite Fred, who was resting comfortably on the curtain rod high above the couch. Michael was getting as close to Fred as he could while still being able to see his little elfin face clearly. As I hovered in the doorway, I realized Michael had been exceptionally quiet. He hadn't moved or fidgeted or raised his voice above the new, low, serious timbre. He must have been balancing on the chair with his arm outstretched, hand propped against the wall the whole time.
For a good 10 minutes more, I listened.
"What I really, really want for Christmas is The Batman Lego Nintendo DS game. The first one. I don't know about the second or third or any others, but the first one is the one I want the most. My aunt or grandma might get it for me, but I guess Santa will know that."
He talked to the Elf for nearly a half hour, and in all that time that's all he asked for. One thing. But for safe measure he added, "I'm always good." And, mostly, he is.
Then he mentioned it was getting late, and he probably had to get to bed soon. Before ending, though, he said, "Tell Santa and Mrs. Clause I said, 'Hi.' And one more thing. Be careful."
He wished the elf a good night.
And it was.