Indentured Elves

Yesterday, Hugo started telling me about the letter to Santa he wrote in school. I was folding clothes, only half listening to him ramble on about video games, when he said something about asking to borrow an elf so he could have new toys year round.

“Okay. That’s pretty smart,” I said, “but that’s slave labor.”

“No, Mom. I would pay Santa for him, and I would pay him too.”

“With what money? Do you have some secret hoard that I don’t know about?”

“No, but he wouldn’t need much anyway. And once I run out of money, I’ll give him back to Santa.”

“So he’ll be Santa’s slave again?”

“It’s okay,” said Hugo. “He likes working for Santa. The North Pole is way better than where he’s from.”

I probably should have stopped asking questions at this point, but I was starting to think this might become a teaching moment. Slavery is not just an American History topic; there are still people being sold for all sorts of reasons throughout the world, not to mention those people who work for so little income they mine as well be slaves. I don’t want my son thinking any of that is okay.

“Where do elves come from?”

“The H-E-double-L place I’m not supposed to say.”

“The ‘H-E-double-L place.'”

“Yes,” said Hugo. “You know: the Underworld.”

“So that makes it okay for them to become slaves?”

“Well, the Underworld elves are evil. They build evil robots that kill people. Santa saves them and turns them good.”

The teaching moment has disappeared. Now, I’m just interested in the story and where he’ll take it next.

“Santa magically turns the elves nice,” I ask. “How does he do that?”

“He’s so jolly. They just can’t help it.”

“So…Santa’s jolliness saves the world from homicidal robots built by evil elves in Hell?”

“Yes.”

“That is so much better than The Night Before Christmas.

“I know, right!”

Oh Captain, My Captain!

My final year of college, I took a course on Charles Dickens. The class quickly became one of my all time favorites, and the professor became one of my favorite people, as well as a good friend. As an experiment about halfway through the semester, she started dropping hints about her military career. She had everyone in the class convinced she was retired Army. She eventually admitted to me that it was a joke, but I never told any of my classmates.

My class consisted of about twenty-five women and one man. They were mostly English Education majors who were sitting for the required Authors credit. I became increasingly afraid for the future of high school English every day that I had to listen to their stories about the local bar scene and various dating dramas. Some of the things they contributed to the class were also incredibly ignorant, and I’m fairly sure my son, who was three at the time, could have corrected their grammar. (I did name him after a fictional linguist.)

Dickens was not an easy course. The Captain (as I called my professor) was a tough grader. If papers were not well thought out — if they did not present a new idea and defend that idea to the point of convincing her — then you were lucky to get a C. I only managed one A for the entire semester, and I was her best student. There was no curve. It was the greatest challenge I had in college, and also one of the most enjoyable experiences I had while earning my degree. I still have that A paper — a Biblical reading of Great Expectations — and look at it sometimes when I need to smile.

My favorite book from that class was Bleak House, but I’ve read a few since graduating: Dombey and Son, Martin Chuzzlewit, and David Copperfield. I have the complete works of Charles Dickens on my phone, yet I can’t read him that often; I need to be in the right mood. I’ve tried to read The Old Curiosity Shop three times and have failed. Perhaps I’ll try again in 2015, or maybe in December. I’m not worried about reaching my goal anymore; my son and I finished Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident last night: that was book number sixty for me.

With all the love I have for Mr. Dickens, there is one book I cannot enjoy. I first read A Christmas Carol in sixth grade. It was interesting back then; I was ten and familiar with The Muppets version. However, I read it again just a few years ago (also since graduating), and it made me angry.

My upset is not that commercialism continues to alter and abuse the story every holiday season (although that irritates me too); it’s because of Scrooge. I love Ebenezer Scrooge right up until the end; Dickens destroys his character. There is nothing wrong with disliking Christmas; Ebenezer has every right to be bitter and to be left alone with that bitterness. Yes, he is an ass hole, but at least he’s honest and true to himself. Then a few spirits scare him, and he’s suddenly drenched in love and kindness.

Excuse me while I vomit…

This year is bothering me. I can’t get into the spirit of Christmas. That’s a big problem where I work; it’s a month-long celebration: every department decorates a tree, has Secret Santa, and encourages everyone to dress like elves. Right now, it looks like Rudolph took a magical glowing shit around my desk, and, with all the grunting I’m hearing, I’m sure he’s not done yet. The cubicle walls aren’t high enough; my eyes are being assaulted by festivity. It’s depressing.

I’m not trying to be a “fun sucker,” I just don’t like holidays. The more flamboyant my surroundings, the less cheerful I feel. The bright lights hurt my eyes. The jingle bells hurt my ears. And why are there so many snowmen? There’s a reason I moved to a place where it doesn’t snow. Why does everyone thinks it’s okay to put those creepy things everywhere!

Winter is a nightmare land.

We also have a company Christmas party. We all get to leave for a couple of hours in the middle of the day on the condition that we go to the party, eat free food, and listen to spiritual music. This year, I’m boycotting. Every song praises Jesus, and the big event is prayer.

Sometimes, I want to scream I don’t believe what you believe! But that wouldn’t be wise: the owners are Christian, the executives are Christian, and my boss views me as a project — someone to convert to his denomination. Just mentioning that I don’t go to church nearly lost me a good friend.

I’m not an Atheist, but my friends and coworkers wouldn’t understand that. If I told them my reasons for staying away from religion, they would try to convince me that those are the very reasons I should believe. I prefer to be like Ebenezer before he conformed to society’s holiday cheer.