A Visit With Maria
December 15, 2004
While working for Chris Sorg and Sherry Lindley at their
Maximilian Corporation, I found it was often required of me to
rise above and beyond the call of duty. Several years ago, I
agreed to play Mrs. Santa at a variety of venues. My role was
reprised many times and after one such event, I came out to
find that my old-lady-grey Tempo, parked more for convenience
than legality, had been towed. After dealing with the costly
bother, I did what I always do after such an occasion: I
didn't get mad, I got busy writing about it and turned it into
a Christmas column for the Yukon News.
Not long ago, I found this column in my files and it brought
back the events of that day, good and bad, and it made me
laugh. Mrs. Santa is no longer part of my repertoire, but I
thought that I just might bring her back, in all her glory,
and share her with you one more time.
Startled, I leaned past the mail box in front of Shopper's and
peered down Second Avenue toward the Old Log Church.
And what my wondering eyes should appear but a vision, of
sorts, in be-ruffled red and white, hands on ample hips, mob
cap cocked at a belligerent angle over one eye, a stream of
invective issuing from her daintily rouged lips.
Springing from my viewpoint on the corner to see what was the
matter, I was able, with some difficulty, to determine that
Mrs. Claus's dog team had been towed.
Taking advantage of a late-night shopping opportunity before
returning to her northern home and finding the Hougen's
parking lot filled to overflowing, she had parked her team on
Elliott, a street designated for immediate snow removal. Upon
her return, she found only a yellow stain to indicate where
her vehicle had been.
I pointed out that she had tied up in a tow-away zone.
"But I was only a few minutes late, l5 at the most. I was
going to be right back," she declared with some indignation.
"They didn't know that," I pointed out in a reasonable tone as
a City grader began its sweep down the edge of the sidewalk.
Maria Claus muttered something unflattering about the
parentage of the hapless operator, picked up her parcels and
leaped spryly to the sidewalk as the big machine rumbled by.
She seemed quite nimble for a woman of her age and corpulence.
Catching my look of amazement, she grinned. "Gotta be quick,"
she said. "All those elves trying out all those toys and the
reindeer milling about.... " Sobering, she glanced at her
watch and then at me. "What shall I do?" she asked. "Santa's
expecting me home tonight and time is getting to be decidedly
of the essence. Darn it, anyway." She was getting angry again.
Finding a phone, I dispatched Phil to locate and liberate the
impounded pooches and their sled, then turned to the caustic
Mrs. Claus. "Come on, I'll buy you a coffee while we're
"So," I said as I watched her generously cream and sugar her
steaming cup of Tim Hortons's finest brew. "What brings you to
town so close to Christmas? Aren't you supposed to be up to
your teakettle in doll clothes and fruitcake?"
"Well, yes, I am," she agreed. "But I had this lovely
invitation to visit Maximilian's Emporium at Porter Creek... "
She glanced at me from under lowered brows. There was a glint
in her eye that was definitely not a twinkle. "I don't get
many of those, you know, it's always HIM that they want...
Santa Claus." Her lip curled just a little as she enunciated
the name in a singsong voice.
Bewildered by her tone, I stared at the grandmotherly figure
sitting opposite, looking somewhat the worse for wear.
She caught my look and smiled. "Oh, I know what you're
thinking, dearie. And you're right. I AM jealous." She sighed.
"But not of Himself, you understand. I just get tired of
sitting home while HE gets to go kiting all over the world. So
when I got an invitation to visit... why, I just couldn't
resist, even though it was going to make me late. And now,
unless your husband hurries with my team, I'm going to be
behinder than ever."
Fascinated, I gazed at Maria Claus, the woman behind the Man
of the Juletide Moment, and wondered aloud what it must be
like to be the wind beneath his wings...er...hoofs.
"Oh, it's not so bad." She leaned back in her chair, pursing
her lips. "Mostly, I don't even think about it, just do what
has to be done: all the new Barbie styles to sew, and a ton of
baking. Meals at odd hours, snacks and coffee breaks. Dishes.
Laundry, load after load of those little green shirts and
leggings, and not forgetting that it takes me a whole year to
get the soot out of his nice red outfit.
"And what about the reindeer, wandering in and out at will.
You don't believe anyone else would think to sweep up the
dropping, do you? Moan and complain when they step in some but
never take a broom and clean up after them.
"Then there's that Rudolph. What a pain in the neck HE turned
out to be, showing off his nose to the female deer... Yo!
Baby, take a look at this!" - her voice took on a decidedly
reindeer-ish timbre - "...and wearing out his batteries."
"But...Santa... he must be fun to be around, to work with, to
live with? He's so jolly and good-natured...?"
Maria held up her cup for a refill and took her time with the
cream and sugar. Stirred, sipped, a thoughtful look on her
softly lined face. "Oh, he's round, alright. About about 54
inches around, I'd say. And no wonder, all that shortbread!"
She took another slurp, looked right and left, then leaned
toward me. "And don't forget the Schnapps," she whispered.
"The SCHNAPPS?" I gasped. "Don't tell me....?"
"Shhh." Maria touched her finger to her lips and inclined her
curly white head the merest amount. "Yes, dearie, it's true.
That little red nose and the rosy cheeks... a dead giveaway!"
Slurp. "And the pipe....."
She nodded gently. "I'm afraid so."
I must have looked stricken for she reached out her hand and
gave mine a pat. "There, there, love. It's alright. Santa does
what he has to do to get the job done. He...oh, look...
there's your husband with my team." She drained her cup and
began gathering her parcels. "And now, I've got to be on my
Phil helped her straighten the dogs in their harnesses and
then jumped out of the way as she planted her feet firmly on
the rails at the back of the sleigh and grasped the handles.
With a crack of her whip and a shrill whistle, she began
slowly to rise up and out of the parking lot.
"Mrs. Claus...Maria...wait..." I shouted. "I forgot to ask.
What was so important on your list that you took a chance on
parking in the tow-away zone?"
Maria looked down, her eyes twinkling, her dimples how merry.
She fumbled amongst her parcels and held up a familiar shape.
"Oh-ho," she laughed, "I just nipped into the Bonanza Bar for
"What the heck?" Phil exclaimed. "That looked just like a
bottle of Bailey's!"
"There, there love. It's all right." My own eyes twinkling, I
patted his arm as he stood watching Maria and her team hang a
looping right over Grey Mountain. "After all, a woman's gotta
do what a woman's gotta do to get the job done."
And I heard her exclaim, as she drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas, my dear, and to all, a good night!"