GENDUSA COLUMN: Meet Mrs. Shirley Claus and her Elves

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, December 8, 2021

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She is just under five feet tall with rosy cheeks that illuminate a pixie face. Her smile can light up not only a room but a heart. This Mrs. Claus does not reside in the North Pole because she dislikes, rather abhors, the cold. No, this merry soul prefers palm trees, ocean breezes, and sand, not snow, between her little pink toes.

Mrs. Shirley traded Rudolph for a Cadillac years ago and prefers listening to Elvis on her radio rather than Christmas music. At home, pink flamingos hang on her Christmas tree along with an array of mermaids, shells, plus tiny beach umbrellas and chairs.

If you gaze toward the sky when summer fades to fall, you might see Mrs. Shirley flying south with the birds. You will recognize her by the sleigh, or rather the grocery cart trailing behind her. You better wave, holler and wish her well because Mrs. Claus is always watching out for the ‘good’ in all of us.

I had the great fortune of meeting Mrs. Shirley years ago, and we became close friends. I knew her to be a generous soul but didn’t recognize her lineage from the North Pole Santa Claus family until recently. I guess kinfolks of Santa, or his wife, are not recognizable when they prefer to wear pink T-shirts instead of red coats or aqua flip flops instead of black boots.

Mrs. Shirley has children who refer to her as Grandma, but they may not be related by blood. Like her kin, Mrs. Claus, Shirley views all children as hers. I would become so confused speaking with Shirley about “her family” that I finally gave up and decided the whole world was related to her.

For over 20 years, Grandma Shirley has gathered her brood during the Christmas season, loading them in the Caddy with its reindeer antlers adorning the roof. They listen to Elvis singing “Blue Christmas” while driving to a local department store, yet they know there will be nothing blue about the day.

Before pulling into the parking lot, Mrs. Claus discusses the rules of the day. The smallest and newest member of the grandkid group, eyes widen as his Grandma Shirley explains what they will do once they are inside.

“Each of you will take your own sleigh, rather grocery cart, and we travel together toward the toy aisles. No one is to ask for anything for themselves, and if you do, you will go on my naughty list very soon.”

The small boy’s eyes now appear troubled. “Son, you will have so much fun; you will not think about yourself, especially when I sprinkle you with my pixie dust!”

He relaxes a bit yet remains focused as his Grandma Shirley continues, “You are to fill each cart with toys for both girls and boys of all ages. If you have questions, ask me, for I know all about what my children love.”

The children form a line trailing one another with their carts and scan each shelf in every row.

Dropping toys in the carts with precision care as they begin to feel the effects of warmth and wonder from Grandma Claus’s pixie dust.

“To know the joy of giving is a fundamental rule all children must learn.” She tells them each year to encourage them to “Load more.”  “You will find this is the day you will remember as the years fly by. You will not recall what you received every Christmas, but you will remember what you gave to others, and it will always warm your soul.”

The wide-eyed little boy looks up to her, “Grandma, can we do this next week?” Her rosy cheeks turn red as she giggles down the aisles, watching the pixie dust as it settles on the floor.

If we are blessed to be grandparents or just grand people who adore children, and we can share or spare a bit of money or time, let’s teach our little ones early the true meaning of giving and the immense joy it brings for all.

At the end of Grandma Shirley’s big day, they all piled the toys in the back of the big Caddy and dropped them off at the Claus Family Bank, which was collecting Toys for Tots.

The bank employees were accustomed to the scene unfolding before them. As the children placed the gifts around the lobby, smiles began to illuminate faces throughout the bank as if magic had spread and the glow of Christmas shone brightly.

We all can become a Mrs. Claus if we take the time to teach our children and grandchildren the wonder of giving from the depth of our hearts to those who need to believe in the splendor of kindness.