I was finishing up a phone interview when my 8-year-old daughter burst out of her room like she’d found a nest of evil clowns living under her bed.
"Dad-e-e-e-e-e-e-e!" Jellybean bellowed, wrapped in her rainbow unicorn bathrobe, hair wet from a recent shower. "Is Dio a boy elf or a girl elf?"
Wishing there actually had been a nest of evil clowns under my daughter’s bed, I cautiously answered, "Well, I guess it’s a boy."
Jellybean turned from embarrassed pink to furious red.
"Great," she said, actually stomping on the ground. "I’ve been walking around my room this whole time naked. So a boy has seen me naked."
I do hope that’s the last time I ever hear that sentence, but I know it’ll be the only time I laugh out loud.
Dio is Jellybean’s Elf on a Shelf, the creepy little doll that’s sent from the North Pole to usher in the magic of Christmas. According to Pinterest and Facebook, many of Dio’s brethren like to play it cool — chillin’ in a Crock-Pot filled with marshmallows with Bikini Barbie, or flying down a zip line with Buzz Lightyear.
Dio is no such elf. He’s messier than a box full of Gremlins with a bucket of KFC. He likes to play tricks and seems to prey on my daughter’s need for order and my need to not have to clean syrup off the countertops before my first cup of coffee.
Dio is why shared custody is a good thing. Jellybean and I only have to weather his hijinks a few days a week. On the other hand, The Lovely Mother of My Children has Cindy, a far more playful elf who generally keeps her tableaux to the kitchen counter, while Dio once duct-taped a menagerie of stuffed animals to the ceiling and made snow angels using a pound of flour.
But Jellybean sure loves him.
Had I, at the relatively innocent age of 8, been told that a tiny red doll with rosy cheeks, mischievous eyes and no hands or feet came to life in the middle of the night, scurried around my house and played with my other toys, leaving me to clean up the next morning like a freshman pledge in a fraternity house, I might have boycotted Christmas all together.
I remember having nightmares as a kid because I thought Santa Claus was watching me through my bedroom window to check when I was sleeping and when I was awake, and I was pretty sure that was illegal.
Jellybean treats every Dio morning like it was Christmas morning, bursting out of bed with an odd mixture of excitement and dread, scaring the bejesus out of me in the process.
Thus far, Dio has been busted cross-dressing with Barbie, scattering 30 pages of "Dio’s Here!" announcements throughout the house, and gathering every single stuffed animal in Jellybean’s room for a midnight reading of "Dork Diaries."
The only trick that really rattled Jellybean was Dio’s celebration of Opposite Day, for which he switched everything in her book bag with everything that was in mine.
Jellybean is rather particular (peculiar?) about her stuff. Drawers, shoes, books, remote controls, pajamas — all things have a proper place. To move them is to incur her wrath, magical creepy creature or not.
"No. He. Didn’t!" Jellybean shouted, twitching with anger.
I guess there are worse things than a boy elf seeing you naked.
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com.