"I didn't mean to startle you," she said.
But she hadn't really startled me. It was more like ... well, I was having a moment of "Is this real life?"
I had stopped at CVS because I thought I might be able to buy some stationary. And, in fact, there was a large sign on the back wall that literally said "Stationary." But turns out there is no stationary at CVS. The stationary is a lie.
But what there did appear to be was a real-life, honest-to-goodness, right-in-front-of-me Mrs. Claus.
"I'm reading to school children this morning," she said. And it was the words "school children" that made me love her. Because here she was dressed in red, in the sort of dowdy yet festive style everyone expects from Mrs. Claus (Mrs. Kringle?). Her hair was snowy white and her cheeks were remarkably rosy.
She was a teacher by trade, but every year she dresses up and carries a big basket full of goodies with her to a local school, where she reads Christmas stories to little kids. One of whom is her grandchild, who apparently isn't falling for her ruse.
"They told all the children, 'Mrs. Claus is here to read to you about Christmas!' and my granddaughter says, 'That's not Mrs. Claus, that's my granny!'" And then she laughed, light and beautiful, and I didn't want to do anything else with my day but sit right on the floor of that CVS and listen to her tell me all about the night before Christmas. I had visions of sugar plums. I don't even know what sugar plums are.
I gave her my card, because that's what you do when you meet someone who embodies the spirit of Christmas. And I said, "I'd love to read to kids like that! I talk to schools all the time, and sometimes I read from my books. But it would be amazing to dress as Santa and read Christmas stories."
And I meant it. I think I'd love it. I think I'd ham it up and take Christmas wish lists from the kids and just fall in love with the whole idea. And then I could quietly slink back to my keyboard and write another book, feeling like I'd accomplished more in one morning than I had all year.
Mrs. Claus was an unexpected jewel in my day, and God bless her. She's lighting up some kid's faces, but she probably didn't expect to light up the face of a big kid randomly looking for stationary in a chain pharmacy. And that, my friends, is what a Christmas miracle looks like.