COLUMN: The ‘Mrs’ behind the memories

I’m a sentimental soul this time of year. Holiday memories transport me to epic places from my life and surround me with memories of all the people I have loved.

By Carla Barnes

The architects of many of these memories happen to be the women in my family, neighborhood, church and long-time family friends who never seem to have a shortage of magic this time of year.

They tie on the giant bows, stand in line for must-have toys, bake the cakes and fill the stockings of their children and those less fortunate all without anyone ever realizing it.

Their devotion to traditions and the creation of new ones make this truly the best time of year.

This love of the season has been passed on to my daughter who delights in all the festivities including the pajama party held a couple of weeks before Christmas and hosted by longtime friends.

The incredible spread of homemade dishes and the joyful squeals of delighted children as Santa makes a special appearance to read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas is unforgettable.”

This is followed by a rousing, boisterous performance of “Dominick the Donkey” a beloved tradition from my friend’s childhood and nod to her Italian roots.

I look around at all the little faces and think this will be what they remember and will be part of their collective, precious memories.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting the ultimate architects of the Christmas season and unforgettable moments. They were people just like you and I, until that moment they made the decision to be transformed into something much bigger than themselves. On the outside red suits trimmed in white, but on the inside hearts wide open to loving the smallest of us and creating a little magic in the process.

One of the first stories I ever wrote for the Cherokee Tribune was about Ronald “Ronnie” and Betty Page who not only opened their hearts, but their home to a community for more than 20 years as jolly St. Nicholas and his bride. It has been reported that they played host to more than 12,000 people over all of those years.

More than 50,000 lights and rooms filled with hundreds of decorations and animated figures entertained and delighted. I remember sitting at their kitchen table like I was one of their kin talking about everything from their lives.

I suspect the incredible hospitality I felt was exactly what drew people from all over to this place to feel and experience something special.

Another couple, Tim and Pam Cavender, have touched countless people as well from the March of the Toys for the Toys for Tots Parade in Ball Ground to the Georgia Governor’s Mansion.

Tim, who has played the big guy for more than 40 years and has been inducted into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame brings to the role a sense of Hollywood glamour, and his leading lady, Pam, is his perfect companion. She dazzles in the spotlight and I believe she was made for the role she has now played for 18 years.

In thinking about both of these women, I think on the things that make someone the ideal Mrs. Claus. Yes, they need to be able to wear those small wire-rimmed glasses, handle all the details of being Santa’s sidekick and take care of the reindeer, but the more I know about the job, the more I realize that it is the ability to be approachable and a confidant of sorts.

You see, it is Mrs. Claus the children run to to share their unspoken prayers, their wishes and dreams when Santa appears too intimidating.

And this is quite possibly the reason Betty Page insisted upon giving Pam a set of nine, whimsical reindeer holiday plates this year. Pam was completely surprised by the gift from one Mrs. Claus to another, but in later reflection realized that it pays homage to their sharing this great honor and responsibility of feeding the spirit of those who are hungry for holiday cheer, especially children.

I thought on this unique sorority as my daughter and I sang “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” on the way to school. This anthem from the “Elf” Broadway soundtrack is our favorite and speaks to decking the halls in preparation for Christmas and how it can make you feel.

Some Christmas china is certainly a step in the right direction.

Cheers to Betty and Pam, and to all those women who call themselves Mrs., Ms. or Miss — you makers of memories this time of year for all the rest of us.
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