Elfing Around

By Diane DeVaughn Stokes

Way back in 1971, I worked at a local department store where the man who was supposed to play Santa showed up drunk, and I was the hero that saved the day doing the Santa gig.

And it lasted through two Christmas seasons. In case you missed the article, I wrote about this in Sasee many years ago. But the highlight was that I was named “The First Female Santa in the USA.” And yes, I have the Associated Press articles to prove it.

However, because I love Christmas so much, I created a new persona back in the early nineties as “Jingles the Elf.” Instead of emceeing Christmas functions as me, I decided it would be more fun to emcee as a character. My family, who know my history as the first female Santa, tell me that I am the only person who ever “demoted” themselves from Santa to Elf! That may be one way to look at it, but I am having a ball being Jingles the Elf, so who cares?

It all started as I use to emcee Christmas Towne for the city of Myrtle Beach. And since then, I’ve made appearances at pre-schools, retirement communities, Taste of the Town, nursing homes, and appeared in TV commercials, as “Jingles.” The costume is adorable, and the hat is  perfect on a bad hair day.

For the past few years, I have done the Barefoot Landing Christmas tree lighting and got my husband in on the job when they desperately needed a Santa one night. Now we do it together. It’s such a joy to bring smiles to the kids and parents too. And thanks to Facebook and everyone having their own phones, our photos with local families and their kids have gone all around the world. Many have told us that they plan to use this picture as their Christmas card. This year we were at Barefoot Landing on Saturday November 17, amidst some grand entertainment!

But it’s what the kids say that makes the job so fantastic. When I told one youngster that I was Santa’s best friend, she asked me if my name was Rudolph! Another asked me if I was Peter Pan. One little boy asked me why I did not wear pants. I told him that my red and green striped tights were all I needed! Then he admitted that his dad put him up to ask that question. Yet, my favorite child was the one who came up to Santa and me and handed us a dollar. I asked her what that was for and she said that since she had to give Jesus money every Sunday, she wanted to give Santa some money too. Of course we told her we would rather she give it to Jesus on Sunday. As TV host Art Linkletter use to say, “Kids say the darndest things.” But then again, most people today do not remember Art Linkletter!

And so in this precious month of love and light and generosity just know while y’all are shopping for gifts, going to holiday parties and trimming the tree, I am “Elfing” around with my favorite Santa Claus, loving every minute of playing SECOND fiddle to the SECOND most adored man of the Christmas season.

So how many photo albums do you have stuffed in closets, under beds, in your attic? I have some that belonged to my dad when he was in the service, some that belonged to my mom from when I was a baby, and then I have over forty that belong to me! I’m actually embarrassed to tell you the exact amount of albums or you may think that I am some conceited twit! But truly the photos are mostly of family and friends and not of me.

Recently, my husband decided to sort out all the albums and start digitizing the pictures to save them forever, as he said the ones in the albums will soon fade and fall apart. I said that sounds like a ton of work for nothing. After all we have no children to leave them to, and I do not think my sisters will care about most of them unless they include their own family members. And even then, I am not sure they will want them as we probably gave them copies years ago when the photos were taken.

One by one we pulled out the dust covered albums and were instantly taken back in time. I really did have big hair back in the eighties. And my husband reminded me that he was lucky to have ANY hair in the eighties.  We laughed as we went through our wedding album remembering the terrible tropical storm that blew the roof off the country club the night before our big day, and how we danced around buckets catching water during the reception.

Pictures from a cat funeral my mother held for a friend who lost her beloved feline had us in hysterics. Holiday photos reminded us of the year Chuck wrapped up a red umbrella for me that cracked my family up when I opened it on Christmas morning as we all surrounded the tree. It did seem like an odd present to all of them, but he actually knew I had just lost mine, and he bought me one to match my red raincoat. It just wasn’t your typical gift. And then there were pictures from the best Halloween party we ever threw reminding us of the hearse that drove up into our yard filled with beer. We had won a local radio promotion and did not know it. The partygoers went wild!

As we opened album after album we were consumed by the memories, mostly good, some more difficult than others. A picture of my mother and my mother-in-law, together with me blowing out a phallic candle at my fertility party caused me to burst into tears, as four years later there still was no baby. I lost even more self control coming upon our Hawaiian vacation where we went to conceive right after that, telling our moms that if the Hawaiian adventure produced a grandchild for them that we would name him or her “Kona.” We were serious. They both groaned.

As we sorted through the pictures, we decided to give the family photos we had already digitized to my sisters, especially the ones of their own children. In some cases where friends were featured in the pictures, we stuffed them in envelopes and sent them onto our friends with funny notes, like who in the heck are these people? Did we all go to Woodstock together? What were we thinking back then? What rock band is this? Could this be the new Beverly Hillbillies? The cast from Peyton Place revisited! Were we ever really this young?

Yet the process started to not be fun. I became extremely emotional looking at pictures of our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, our dads, and friends who are no longer with us. I wasn’t even able to go out to dinner that night with our friends as we had planned. Gosh, I am actually crying right now just writing about it. It was way too difficult to continue digitizing this project. Maybe we can get back to it one day soon. Maybe not. Maybe never. Who cares anyway?

One thing for sure is that going through albums reminiscing with family is a tradition sadly gone by the wayside. Looking at pictures on the computer does not lend the same feeling or emotion. Maybe its because we were raised watching our parents go through their own photo albums, listening to their memories, hearing their laughter, seeing their smiles, then having their albums passed down to us. It was a cherished family tradition, was it not? And you felt so fortunate and honored to be given the album after a loved one’s death.

The kids of today are missing out by not being able to sit around the living room with family, and to hold these precious memories in their hands, transcending love directly to their hearts.

Even though our generation has loaded closets, attics and an under the bed array of dusty old albums, I would surely say, we are the lucky ones.

About this writer

  • Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes is the President of Stages Video Productions, Host and Producer for TV show “Inside Out” on HTC, and EASY Radio Host weekdays noon to 3pm. Her passions include food, travel and theater. You can reach her at diane@stagesvideo.com

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One Response to “Elfing Around”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Diane, your nostalgic story made me think of Christmases long ago, and I have a few plastic laundry containers filled with pictures, too. Jingle on, little elf!

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