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A Lake Oswego 'elf' and the true meaning of Christmas

Our city once had a toy shop owner who seemed at first glance to be just that — a toy shop owner. If you looked more closely, however, you could tell that he was actually an elf.

How do I know?

Well, one Christmas, my daughter and I figured out how to tell the difference between a man wearing a Santa hat and the real Santa. Here’s our secret: The real Santa has a twinkle in his eyes that shines brighter and steadier than anyone’s eyes you have ever seen. That’s true for elves, too. Their eyes shine with a brilliantly bright twinkling when they smile.

That toy shop owner had that very twinkle in his eyes, every time you saw him. He had a large heart and the warmest smile that made you feel so welcome, and like there was something more possible to Christmas than we often see or imagine.

Elves are also the ones who really, truly do keep Christmas in their hearts all year long. Abundant kindness to others, spreading joy and magic are not reserved for the Advent alone. And they really do have a point. Why should we restrict kindness, good cheer or magic anyway? Well, there are the Scrooges. They suggest we restrict magic, kindness and joy, sadly because such things are too unfamiliar, too uncomfortable for them. Not so for elves. Not so for that toy shop owner. He made Christmas happen in springtime.

Did I see him do it? No, but I can tell you how I know.

If I wanted really special wooden toys from the expert toy makers in Europe, I would ask that toy shop owner to get them for me. He always knew how to get the most special handmade toys, found only in faraway lands, even when it wasn’t Christmas. (That’s another piece of elf evidence!) Well, he helped me buy some of those toys one spring, for my daughter’s birthday. Their delivery was delayed and I began to doubt magic. But not that toy shop owner. He worked in the wee hours of dawn when no one was looking, and somehow, the presents arrived in his toy shop, the day before my daughter’s birthday.

More difficulty arose, however. Just as the presents arrived, I had to go to the emergency room. I called the toy shop owner and told him that I could not pick up my daughter’s birthday presents. That meant that her birthday would come and she would have nothing to open. I slipped into doubt and despair. But not that toy shop owner. That evening, when no one was looking, he carried her toys in a sack and left them on our door step. He really was an elf!

The next day, my daughter had a very happy birthday. Her heart was full of joy. My heart was full of joy, too, and gratitude — and a wiser understanding that aspiring to be more like elves is a worthy commitment, as is truly keeping Christmas in your heart through the whole year long.

Annie Meneakis is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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