Are We There Yet?


Lori Clinch

Decorating for Christmas is a little different at the Clinch household than most others. Where some have efficient systems and well-organized procedures to retrieve decorations from the attic, we have a fine group of elves to do our bidding.

Every year the younger elves wear their felt elf caps, complete with ears that are barely held on by a stitch. To the tune of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer (sung a cappella, of course), one of the elves will stand ready on the ground. Another hangs onto the ladder as he tries to balance a box while calling his brother a stinking idiot, and the third and youngest elf stands in the attic, dropping everything that he deems unbreakable onto his brother’s head.

It’s all so festive.

Once the tree is up and the halls are decked and the shepherds and sheep stand ready in the manger, I commence to wrapping and listening to the elves fight as they compare presents and play their favorite Christmas game, “Oh look! My present’s bigger — they obviously love me more!”

And the shopping — we all know the shopping is done by the mother elf, for she is the only one who understands that it is never done. Take last night for instance, when my husband (the head of the elves, if you will) inquired, “Will you be around tomorrow?”

“Oh,” I replied, “heavens no! The department stores are having their one-day-only sales.”

“Didn’t you go to a one-day-only sale just the other day?”


“Then how can there be another one-day-only sale?”

“Because,” I responded with an eye roll, “that one-day-only sale was a 15 percent off one-day-only sale. And this one is a 20 percent off sale, with many items discounted to bargain-basement prices. Duh!”

Shouldn’t the head elf understand that? Shouldn’t he understand the importance of coupons, early bird specials, and Customer Appreciation days? Shouldn’t he realize how crucial it is to purchase something at half-price, with another 15 percent off coupon, and to obtain an item that the children have always wanted, and then to hide them, regardless of their size, until the big day arrives?

And perhaps it’s just me, but I absolutely feel that the head elf should have a complete understanding of the covert project that’s designed to protect the whereabouts and contents of the secret presents at all cost.

Take last year for instance. I got up every day at zero-dark-thirty, and hit the stores dressed in fashionable attire and running shoes. (I learned long ago that cute shoes are not the hot tip when serious purchasing is to be done.) I obtained coupons, stood in line, fought the crowds, and leapt over tall displays as I fought fellow shoppers tooth and nail for items that I knew would be adored by all.

I completed the lists and bought our little charges the presents of their dreams: shiny new bicycles. My husband (head elf that he is) and I then loaded the rigs up and stashed them at his carpenter’s shop.

Soon, it was Christmas Eve and I was convinced that all was right in the world. I was about to hang a shining star upon the highest bough and have myself a Merry Little Christmas Now, when my husband walked through the living room.

He was pale, he was sweating bullets and he was in a panic as he blurted, “We need to talk!” I knew that it couldn’t be good. He had that look about him that I generally don’t see unless, GOOD HEAVENS! He’s been looking at the checkbook!

“What is it?” I asked as we went into our bedroom and shut the door.

“You’re going to be very upset.”

“How bad can it be?”

“Bad, real bad.”

“Is it another woman?”


“Worse than another woman? Oh no. You did not let the kids see their gifts again did you?”

“I did, I mean I didn’t. I just took the kids to the shop with me for one minute and I never thought they’d look in. I never thought they’d actually see the bikes.”

You know, the more I think about the problems of Christmases past, the more I realize I’ve got to hire me another set of elves.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her at