the elves are watching: a tribute to imagination and magic

Likely after a Christmas eve church service and before opening one gift before listening for Santa’s sleigh bells and snuggling in for picture books with Mom. Of course we read T’was the Night Before Christmas. Of course we heard sleigh bells.


“The elves are watching,” my mom always said on Christmas eve. My dad worked on Christmas eve, and my mom spent it in the kitchen. She made pies and other things. I remember the pies.

There was a magical energy on Christmas eve vining around Jeff, my brother, and me. We played on Christmas eve, and we kept an eye on the yard in hopes of glimpsing the elves.

I saw one, once. I think once is all anyone can hope when it comes to seeing elves. They are magical and designed to hide. Actually, I saw the little pointy elf shoe sticking out from the tree trunk. There was a bit of an ear, too, and a slice of hat. It was silver striped with Christmas green, a color I had never seen before, nor have I seen since. There were sparkles, iridescent blings of light shining behind the tree trunk.

I was sure it was real. Jeffie had his reservations, but as I pointed out the elf and described what to look for, Jeff saw it, too.

We ran to tell Mom. She squinted out the kitchen window in time to see the elf dash away. “They are probably so excited to tell Santa how well you two are getting along,” Mom proclaimed.

Today is Christmas eve, and I wonder what my kids will remember. We always celebrate with Andy’s parents and sister and a slew of kids and more family. We make appetizers and put together giant puzzles. We laugh and eat sweets. We play pool. We play basketball. We sip drinks by the lights of the Christmas tree and watch the train go around and around. We are not rushed. We stay too late.

This year we are home, together, just five of us. We will wait to gather with Andy’s family to make sure no one gets sick. We asked the kids to plan the Christmas eve festivities. 

“Remember, the elves are watching,” I say. 

I can feel their energy shift. The vibe becomes magical. I hope their imaginations are as strong as their momma’s.



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  1. I love when you say, “I wonder what they will remember.” My kids tell me know what they remember and loved… such a joy even watching them on Zoom today. My daughter had those tired eyes today… she loves Christmas so much and does so much for her kids, family and ministry. I remembered that tired, I can’t get off the couch on Christmas Day. XO

  2. I love the line “They are magical and designed to hide.” And what a whimsical description of the elf itself! I hope your children planned magical and memorable festivities for your family. Happy holidays!

  3. What a wonderful picture! I loved these magical memories. I hope you were all able to lean into the magic and have a merry Christmas!

  4. “Precious memories, how they linger
    How they ever flood my soul
    In the stillness, of the midnight
    Precious sacred scenes unfold”
    – Edwin Hawkins

  5. The magic is there as long as you believe and trust your imagination. I hope your Christmas was warm and cozy and you all made some magic together. 🙂