“You have to remember that you have a flighty seven-year-old little brother,” replied her mother. “I don’t want him to be afraid to come near his own house.”
The ensuing eye roll lead to some soul searching and kicked off the quest to find a compromise: something a little scarier than the colorful ghost lights and the large furry spider by the door, who had been lovingly named M&M…which is what his eyes resembled, but not so scary as to cross over into the territory of gory or nightmare-inspiring and throw Little Man into a vicious cycle of sleepless nights.
After the kids had all left for school, their mother went to the local Halloween store, though she was not sure she would find much at this point. It was the day before trick or treating and the store had been picked over fairly thoroughly. In the very back of the store, however, tucked into a corner, hung a lone, full-sized skeleton. He wasn’t horribly scary looking, but she decided he would definitely be a step up from their current decorations. He certainly attracted some startled looks on the way home, seat-belted into the passenger seat of the family car!
Halloween came and went. The skeleton had been a hit, sitting out on the porch and startling trick or treaters. Little Man was a bit wary of him, but not outright afraid and The Sisters, as Little Man liked to call the two older girls, thought he was pretty cool. Once all the decorations were taken down and put away, the skeleton, who was far too big for the box which had always housed the season’s decorations, ended up seated on a sofa in the basement.
“Where’s Jeff?” Little Man asked one day.
“Who is Jeff?” his mother inquired.
“Jeff the skeleton!” he replied.
His mother, who was used to Little Man’s eccentric personality, chuckled and answered, “Jeff has moved into the basement until next Halloween.”
“I don’t think he likes it down there,” stated the boy, who then went about the business of playing with his legos.
In the blink of an eye, Thanksgiving had come and gone and the Christmas decorations had begun to go up both inside and outside the house. While digging through boxes and pulling out the lights, ornaments, and garland, among other things, Little Man found the Santa hat he so enjoyed wearing around every Christmas season. He quickly pulled it over his head and ran down the stairs to his father’s office to show off his holiday style. On the way to the office, Jeff caught his eye. The skeleton was still seated stiffly upon the old sofa. Little Man paused for a moment then slowly walked over to the sofa. He crinkled his nose up in disapproval. Jeff looked so cold and alone! He placed the Santa hat up on Jeff’s head and then ran upstairs to ask his sisters for a scarf.
There’s just something about love and apparel…. Jeff had never seen Frosty the Snowman, but if he had perhaps he would not have been so surprised at what happened next. As the boy placed the scarf around his neck, Jeff smiled inside and suddenly felt a warmth he had never before felt…which is not too surprising seeing as Jeff had never really felt anything before. This was amazing! Though he did not want to stay in the cold dark basement a moment longer, Jeff instinctively knew that he should wait before looking around. He didn’t want to scare the family, after all.
When everyone went to sleep that night, Jeff set out to explore the house. At some point during his wandering, he had decided it would be fun to help put some of the ornaments up on the tree and when morning rolled around that is exactly where Little Man found him frozen when he arrived downstairs.
“Mamma!!!!” he hollered. “Why did you put Jeff near the tree?”
His mother stumbled out of her room, still shaking off the last few moments of sleep before preparing to make the rounds helping everyone get ready for school.
“Very funny, Sweetie,” she answered when she saw Jeff standing by the tree. “He must be our very own Elf on a Shelf.”
Jeff did not know what an Elf on a Shelf was, but he certainly liked the sound of it.
“What exactly is an Elf on a Shelf?” asked Little Man just as The Sisters were traipsing down the stairs. His oldest sister explained it to him and then asked why he wanted to know.
“I guess Jeff is our special Elf on a Shelf!” their mother replied, pointing to the tree.
The girls looked up with a start and then smiled. “That is AWESOME!” they both agreed.
Jeff beamed on the inside and he began to plan out his next move while the kids finished up breakfast, and eventually all ended up heading off to school.
In the days to come, Jeff found himself brimming with anticipation each time he heard the kids getting closer to finding his new spot. The joy was almost uncontainable each time they stumbled upon him, shrieking and giggling in surprise. This was so much better than scaring people had been! OK…in all honesty there was still a wee bit of scaring occurring, as the skeleton began to learn some key human rules…like locking the bathroom door when occupying that space, and maybe leaving a light on when hiding in the pantry…or the closet, but it was all such a joyous sport and the kids adored him.
In an effort to repay the family for the enormous joy that they were bestowing upon him, Jeff learned a few helpful tasks along the way, like making espresso coffee, vacuuming, and even doing some light laundry.
The family pets soon accepted the skeleton,as well, and he could often be found enjoying their company.
As the season wound down, and the decorations began to disappear back into their boxes, Jeff felt concerned. He did not want to end up all alone in the basement again. It would be all the more horrible after having had such a wonderful time with the family. When he heard the mother declaring that the last night of the holiday season, the night before the Epiphany, had arrived, Jeff felt a deep despair overcome him. He looked on longingly as the children hung their stockings out for the Befana to fill and headed off to bed.
When the sun rose the next morning, Little Man was the first to bound down the stairs to see if the Befana had come. He squealed with delight when he saw the presents poking out from the top of his stocking. He was just about to run off to wake the rest of the family, when he noticed Jeff standing slightly off to the side with his arms out-stretched.
“Hi, Jeff!” he said cheerfully. He looked a little closer and thought that Jeff did not quite look his usual cheerful self.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. “You look worried.”
He thought for a bit and walked closer to the skeleton, not noticing that the rest of the family had entered the room. “I know,” he declared. “You are worried that we are going to put you away again…like the rest of the decorations.” Jeff felt his heart warm…despite the undeniable fact that he had no visible heart. It was wonderful to be understood. “Well, I will gladly exchange my Epiphany gifts for a wish,” said the boy, “that you will never again have to stay in the basement.”
He then gave Jeff one of his very sweetest hugs.
“Don’t you worry!” announced his father. “Jeff can stay up with the family as long as he wants.”
“And you don’t even have to give up your gifts, Little Man,” added his mom. “After all he may not be blood…or even have blood…but Jeff has most definitely become a member of this family.”
So, do not be startled, shocked, or dismayed when you visit the family, as you will most likely encounter Jeff, as well. He is not there to frighten or spook, but has simply found happiness in his new home.
Whoa there, Jeff! I’m not sure the world is quite ready for that!