We got a huge one this year – an enormous Christmas tree. It took three people to haul it all the way up the stairs into the living room. And we placed it by the window – right where it can get plenty of fresh air and a view of the other trees in the park. My goodness – it is enormous. How are we going to decorate it?
Look. All those boxes of decoration, magically appear. All year they have been sitting patiently in the basement, waiting, waiting for this wonderful December day. Let’s open them – shall we? One at a time? No, no – all at once! Look, they are popping open all by themselves, one after another – Pop – Pop – Pop. Out come treasures. All sorts of trinkets – for us to hang on the tree. We have a huge star, angels with bright wings, pretty bows, icicles, ropes of popcorn, crystal balls – in satin and glass – red, blue, silver, gold, green and some purple ones also. Cables with little lights – reams and reams of them – in all sorts of colors and twinkling ones too. Tinsel, fake snow and hand-made figurines Mummy and Daddy brought back from far away places. Let’s get started.
What’s that we see – in the far corner of the room? A giant box, bursting at the seams – becoming gianter and gianter by the minute. Oh see! Something is coming out of it – all by itself! My goodness, it is expanding, squeezing, slithering out. Pop, there is a dangly tail, and two huge legs stretching up, up and out. And what a big bottom it has! Oh no! Could it be? Surely not! How did it get here? Why was it hiding in that box? We can hear it groan – a gentle giant groan. It is rising, rising and starting to fill the corner of the room – right by the hearth. Look at the embers, the glowing logs. Come out – come out – the fire choir sings in yellow and red flames, with a huff and a hiss. Can you see the head? Those flappy ears and the little dancing eyes? What is that on its face? Another tail? A nose? That is a funny nose. More like a fleshy dangly pipe. Magic – it is a trunk curling up on itself. Underneath – there is a pair of pretty pink lips. Oh look – it is smiling.
Don’t be scared now. Let’s watch and see what it will do. Huh? It is talking. Hush children. Quiet. Listen carefully.
“Boys and girls – helloooooo helloooooo and how do you doooooooo? Don’t look so surprised, don’t be scared, don’t look at me like THAT! Every year around this time, you pull all sorts of ornaments out of these boxes. This year, I came along also. I am an elephant, here to tell you about me and to help you decorate your tree.
“The Star – the Star. We can’t reach the top of the tree. Please – pretty please place the star at the top; would you; Dear Mr. umm Elephant.
“I will, I will – but first you need to know I am no Mister. I am very much a Lady. A goodly, big and proud one. You may call me Madam Elephant.”
“You probably thought I only live in zoos. Did you ever wonder how I got from zoo to zoo? Maybe I was born there, no? But I need to tell you. I was most certainly not born there – no not me – I am no zoo elephant. I am a winter elephant – that’s right.”
“So where did you come from? Where are your parents?”
“My parents are from two continents – as far away from each other as my trunk is from your toenails. Mummy is from Africa and Daddy from India.
“How did they meet?”
“How did they meet you ask? Well – How do Mummies and Daddies meet? At a party I guess. A jungle party. Their eyes met, their trunks started swinging this way and that. Next thing you know, they fell in love and then they had a huge elephant wedding and did the elephant dance. It took a long time before I came to be.”
“How long you say?” Well, how long do you think each of you were in your Mummy’s tummies?
“Wrong, wrong and wrong. Boys and girls. The most you sat in your Mummy was 9 months. OK – maybe 9 months and ten days but no more than 9 months and 21 days. I can be sure of that. But I – big old “I” sat in my Mummy’s tum-tum for a whole – let me see (count, count, count). A whole TWO years. That is 24 months, that is 730 days. That is – (oh dear – I don’t have enough fingers and toes or wrinkles on my body to count). Anybody have a calculator? Thank you dear. Thank you. Let’s see – that is one million, fifty one thousand and two hundred minutes. Can you believe that?! A whole sixty three million seconds after Mummy kissed Daddy. Just imagine – all that time I sat there – cooped up in Mummy’s tummy – with no sunshine, no trees, no friends, no kisses or hugs. But it was warm and gooey. It was nice.”
“Did you get hungry Madam Elephant?”
“A little. But I got fed just like you got fed when you were in Mummy’s tummy. All Mummies feed babies the same way. It doesn’t matter if you are a little mouse or a huge elephant. I just eat more. What? Is that a giggle I hear? Good going. So let’s decorate the tree while we talk.”
“Tell us what it is like to be so big.”
“Well – you don’t have to say much when you are as big as me. You just have to show up. Nobody is scared of an elephant but they all respect her. Yes – my family gets a lot of respect in the jungle. Sometimes humans come along in their open top jeeps and look at us. They point and laugh and ooh and aah and they take lots of pictures. When we want to get close to say hello, they scoot away. The kids are friendly though. They never run away. But we are big and we don’t know how little they are, so even if we want to say hello or hug them, we shouldn’t. We might crush them, you see.
“Sometimes, humans catch us and use us to carry big stuff. One time one of my aunts carried a whole house from one village to another. A whole house with all the furniture, the food and everybody’s clothes – even the stable with the horses.
“Unbelievable, is it? Not really. Everything is believable for us elephantoids.
“We give really fun rides to people who can climb up a ladder and get to sit on top. Sometimes we can move a whole family up there. One time my cousin in Thailand had to give rides to a whole bunch of tourists all day long. He is the hairy one. Elephants in Thailand are hairy – not like me – soft and smooth. Do you want to get a feel? Here – be gentle now. I may be big but I am ever so tender.”
“What about your tusk? Where is it?”
“Well, some of us have tusks which are just humongous curly teeth. Some very cruel people cut them and sell them or make jewelry with them.”
“Ouch indeed – A big ouch. How would you like to have your teeth pulled to make a necklace? Not good I bet. That’s right. Those elephants don’t feel good either. There are not so many of them left any more. Some nice people hide them from the hunters. But most of us these days don’t have tusks.”
“What do you do all day Madam Elephant?”
“Well, it’s better if you ask what I DON’t do. I do a lot. I roam about, hang out with my Mum and Dad; play with my brothers and sisters. I talk to my friends. We do a lot of kissing with our trunks. We are too big to hug each other you see. Sometimes we even paint our toenails.”
“Paint your toenails?”
“Yes – of course, why not? Just so we can hide in a cookie jar or in a Christmas tree!
“That’s funny you say? Well – I told you we have a lot of fun. Monkeys are my best friends because they also like to have plenty of fun. I let them dangle off my trunk or sit on top of my head. Sometimes two of them fit there – a boy monkey and a girl monkey – right up there, holding hands playing kissy face, as I waddle here, there and everywhere.
“What do you eat?”
“Everything I can get my hands on. Oh sorry – my trunk on! I spend a lot of time looking for food, chewing food, swallowing food, enjoying food. I am a bit of a foodie.”
“How do you sleep? Do you have a big bed?”
“I sleep standing up sometimes. But most of the time I squat, ever so slowly so that I don’t end up rolling about all over the place. I am a bit of a roly-poly – as you can see!”
“Is it fun being an elephant?”
“Oh yes – the best part of it all is everybody loves us. We are kind and gentle. We don’t say much so we don’t hurt people’s feelings and also, we let humans say anything they want. Truth be told – we are just TOO BIG TO CARE! But grown ups have all sorts of sayings for us – like the Pink Elephant, or the Big White Elephant.”
“What are those?”
“Well – I don’t know what a pink elephant is, because I have never seen one. But a big white elephant; well – it sits in a room when grown ups have something to say to each other but won’t because he is there.
“More giggles? You don’t believe me? Next time you are in a room with a bunch of quiet grown ups; look in the middle of the room – right on top of the coffee table. It’s there. I bet you anything you will SEE him; THE BIG WHITE ELEPHANT.”
“Are you a big white elephant, Madam Elephant?”
“Do I look like a white elephant to you my darlings? No – not me. Besides, you don’t see any grown ups around right now, do you? So – no grown ups; no white elephant!
“Oh – the tree. It looks so beautiful. The tinsel is all shiny now that the lights are on and it’s pitch black outside. You are not scared are you? Soon it will be Christmas and there will be lots of goodies under this tree, won’t they?
“And has each one of you been a good boy and a good girl? Is that a nod? One nod, two nod, three nod, a fourth one – that’s not a nod really; it’s a floppy head of a baby – but that’s OK. We’ll count it as a nod. Good. So lots of presents, lots of laughter, a whole bunch of fun and no white elephant.”
Yawn – stretch – Yawn – Stretch.
“It looks like you – boys and girls are getting sleepy. Let me cuddle you gently before I take you to bed. Come on now, gather up on my trunk – the biggest one first. That’s it. You’ve got it. Now we are going to walk down this tight corridor – ouch – yikes and now up the stairs. Boy – these steps are steep. I can barely move. I hope I don’t get stuck. Aha – we are here – the bedrooms.”
Now, the little one first goes into her crib; the next one into a big cot, the next one into his own room with a big bed and the last one – and not the least, into an even bigger bed.
And I turn off the light, hum a sweet lullaby, blow a goodnight kiss off my trunk to each and everyone and descend the stairs. I make my way to my box. With the tip of my trunk, I reach under my right armpit and take out the air plug. I start to deflate. Slowly, slowly, slowly – I shrink and lower myself into the box where I came from. One last puff and I am flat and snug in my space.
It’s quiet now. A twinkling Christmas tree, multicolored ornaments sparkling and dancing; a shining star at the top harkens tidings of comfort and joy. It is the season of hope for little ones and grown ups also. With hope here – there is only room for love and happiness. Big white elephants don’t live in our home – nor will they ever.