The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in Mrs. Claus, who is gearing up for yet another holiday season. Shes been a part of many area residents Christmas traditions for over 25 years, something she considers both an honor and a blessing.
Kids give me the Christmas spirit. It feels so good; I just want to spread it, she stressed.
Youll see her spreading that holiday cheer while riding with Santa in Bellevilles annual Christmas Parade the Friday after Thanksgiving. And throughout the area in the weeks that follow, she will be visiting schools, daycare centers and holiday parties. Shes also typically on-hand every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas at Fischers Restaurant in Belleville, where she is never without a festive greeting for customers and her trademark candy canes, which overflow the pockets of her holly-embellished apron.
Wearing a red satin dress under her apron, with sprigs of fresh holly and a bright red poinsettia tucked into her snowy-white bun, Mrs. Claus looks like she just stepped out of a Christmas storybook. However, its not her outer trappings, but her merry outlook and her heartfelt well-wishes that pronounce her the real deal.
Bringing holiday joy to locals is purely a labor of love, she says.
Its the best thing in the whole world to see those little ones and to hear their questions.
Lot of questions for Mrs. ClausSo the kids just want to know all about Santa, right? Not so, according to the jolly old elfs other half.
The thing they ask me the most is about my hair, she said, chuckling. They say, Is it real? Can I touch it? And they also want to touch my dress.
Sometimes they want to know about Rudolf or the other reindeer, and I get a lot of questions about the North Pole.
And Mrs. Claus treats each one with the utmost importance.
I dont sing or dance; I just answer questions, she remarked.
I try to answer every question they have, in a way they can visualize. They soak it in like a sponge, and their mouths drop open.
Take the reindeer, they like oats and carrots. But Santas favorite cookie is most certainly chocolate chip. And the toys? They get made at the North Pole in toy factories that look like big barns. We just had to add a new one for all the new electronics. Then Santa does some of the finishing details on toys at our kitchen table. Im always having to ask him to move all that stuff so I can set the table!
Sometimes kids just want to tell her things - things about their pets, their home or their school. No matter. Mrs. Claus is always ready to listen.
They have things to tell me too. I make sure to get down on their level and listen, really listen.
Funny momentsOver the years, there have been some humorous moments, like when a child crawled under her skirt and attempted to permanently attach himself to her leg. Though embarrassed at the time, Mrs. Claus laughs about it now, but shes been sure to wear long pants underneath her dress ever since! Another time teenagers spotted her stopped at a red light and reacted like she was a rock star, complete with enthusiastic calls, waves and honking. But Mrs. Claus favorite such story happened during her off-season when she hides her true identity by dressing like the rest of us. That didnt stop one very astute preschooler from making the connection though. After studying her at length, the astonished tyke whispered to his grandfather, Mrs. Claus doesnt have her clothes on!
Touching timesHer most touching memory, though, is from the one year she was unable to make her normal rounds after undergoing emergency gallbladder surgery two days before Thanksgiving. The medical team caring for her shared her distress about the situation, and her local surgeon even mentioned the unfortunate timing to his family. The doctors young daughter got very upset, wailing, Daddy, Daddy, dont let anything happen to Mrs. Claus! He later relayed the story while delivering his little girls handmade get-well card to the recovering Mrs. Claus.
Better than presentsShe treasured that card - just as she treasures all the little trinkets children have given her over the years. (Many of these are holiday pins that she proudly wears on her apron.) But its not the gifts but the young givers that she so greatly values. I love Christmas, but I love kids even more. Kids are what make Christmas for me, not the presents.