So. Apparently it was me. I was the one at fault. Without any shred of mindful, occurrent awareness of what I was doing, I had closed the kitchen cabinet doors, shutting in and away from view, our very own Elf on the Shelf.
I had been instructed before bedtime that our small thin and red-garbed guest would be residing overnight in the kitchen cabinet amid such items as pepper, and pasta, and assorted baking goods. And I was to leave the cabinet doors wide open so that he and his faithful steed, the silent reindeer, could be suitably discovered in the morning by our granddaughter, who has successful espied the capricious imp in creative recline, lo these many December days for countless years past.
And, apparently, when I paused a viewing of A Place to Call Home (Australian TV through subscription service) to prepare a bowl of popcorn and festoon it with fresh ground black pepper alongside blistered southern North Carolina peanuts, I grabbed the pepper mill from right under the visiting lad's dangling feet and spiced the corn, and then performed the forbidden act of closing the cabinet doors on Elf, who then had to endure the entire night in the company of boxes of uncooked pasta and sundry spices. But of course, the true crime was the rendering of him as relatively undiscoverable in the morning's dash to school.
I tell this sad tale for a reason. When confronted with the evidence of my wrongdoing, the clearly closeted Elf, I had literally no memory of having performed the heinous deed of shutting him away. Zero visual recall. And of course, I assumed that either my wife was the unintentional culprit, or that our large black and white cat had, on the prowl, decided to close the cabinet doors, but then of course, so silently as to give no hint of his mischief. It could not have been me. It was epistemically impossible that I could have done such a thing without even the slightest trace of memory. I could have accepted the hypothesis of rambunctious poltergeist before admitting that I could have been the doer of the deed.
I tell you all this for a reason. Don't worry. I haven't forgotten my point, as I had my mistake. Anyone at my age, and especially with my profession, sensibly prefers never to entertain a possible implication of poor memory, indicative as it might be of any measure of cognitive decline. It couldn't have been me! I cast a suspicious glance at the border collie. They are known for their canny intellect and prodigious feats of physical surprise. But no. All signs pointed to the philosopher. It was truly alarming.
But then I remembered the phenomenon of "selective attention." A decade or more ago, a video was being passed around of some boys playing basketball on an outdoor court. Viewers of the short clip were then asked if they had seen anything unusual. And I, like most others, replied with some perplexity that I had not. It was then revealed that a man in a gorilla suit had walked slowly through the video frame behind the action of our focused attention. We could not have been more surprised. So, perhaps, in my intense focus on popcorn and pepper and peanuts, and getting back quickly to the show, I had astonishingly not noticed the Elf of whose presence I had been warned, sitting just above the pepper. I had fixed my snack and, out of habit, closed the cabinet —a habit to whose superiority any married man will gladly attest. So that was it, not a memory lapse due to age, harbinger that it might be of untoward things to come, but merely the trick of selective attention, a weakness that can accompany any of us, whatever our age. That was it!
But then, I had been told of the Elf's location and need for fresh air. That, I had clearly forgotten in my own late night kitchen raiding activities. And this element was not about selective attention. So I had to admit to myself, the most stringent of judges on matters of evidence and reasoning, that a common attendant of age had been responsible for my lapse. And at that exact moment, I suddenly also realized I'd been waking around the house all morning without remembering to zip up my pants. Oh, well.
But then, the Elf himself comforted me with tales of his boss, and the Jolly Old Elf's own forgetfulness, after all the centuries of lists and appraisals of childhood conduct, and changes of address. You yourself may have been victim to a "naughty or nice" mix-up at some point. Mrs. Claus could only roll her eyes. And yet, still, he somehow gets the job done. And so, shall, perhaps I, despite such momentary, and at the same time, monumental, reminders that as the years pass, so will some of our capacities of mental retention. But don't yet put me on the shelf, Ok?