Most of us have met someone who is cuckoo over curios, a chronic and incorrigible collector of some kind of bric-a-brac or knick-knack that singularly sings to their soul.
However, if you’ve never crossed paths with such a sort, meet Pat Nattrass.
Pat likes Santa Clauses; she likes them a whole lot. She likes collecting Santas so much that she can’t even keep count of how many permutations of St. Nick she has hanging around her Daisy Hill Mobile Home Park doublewide in Los Osos. A conservative estimate would put the number around 350.
Halls, walls, living room, den: Santas crowd cheek to jowl.
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She has Santas made of mops, gourds, pine cones, tin, ceramic and champagne corks. Her Santas croak, sing and buzz, and one even comes with a wind-up nose. Some are hand-painted, some are carved; one looks like a palomino’s mane was used for a beard.
She’s got a black Santa and some that were made in Mexico or Alaska. Some Santas are stuffed, while others hang on walls.
She’s got a Santa that snores in a rocker, which can lead to an oddity among her collection. At times any one of dozens of mechanical Santas will spontaneously bellow a Ho-Ho-Ho on his own and that triggers other Santas to give their own battery-powered season’s greetings. When that happens, she laughs (which she does often) and says, “Isn’t that annoying?” If it weren’t so delightful, one could almost envision her home as an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
Pat says she’s always loved Christmas and that her super-crafty mother, Marie Young, who passed away two years ago, created many of the pieces in her collection.
Marie was so ingenious in her creations, she made bowls out of Christmas cards that are stitched together. Or how about the Santa she made out of a toilet paper roll complete with a beard from “lint from Aunt Helen’s dryer.” Or the hundreds of sleds Marie made from popsicle sticks. Or the snowmen made by gluing together two roll-on deodorant balls. I’m not making this stuff up.
Pat’s 74 “and holding,” but almost didn’t make it to her 65th birthday. She was diagnosed with cancer around her tonsils. It was serious enough that the former escrow officer from Costa Mesa was under Hospice counseling while undergoing radiation treatments.
Those treatments left her unable to eat solid foods, so she’s been living on a nutrient-laden drink called Boost for the past decade. (Ironically, she’s a possessed baker who weekly if not daily makes cookies, breads and an assortment of other tasties for her circle of friends and family.)
Without question, her close call with cancer must have honed her joy of life, perhaps kicking her already sunny disposition into year ’round hyper-drive. “I’m alive. I feel good. The world’s a beautiful place. What more do you need?” she asks.
By her own admission, Pat wasn’t a “joiner” before moving to Daisy Hill to be near her daughter, Judi, four years ago. That said, she’s making up for lost time as the president of the park’s social committee and helped found a Wii bowling league with 10 teams.
“I’m involved in everything I can,” she says of her life at the park. And part of that involvement is looking out for those in need at this time of year.
Three years ago she and the social committee began pooling money at regular luncheons. They then asked churches and programs like Head Start to help identify who they could help make Christmas, well, Christmas.
The first two years they adopted three families. This year, after raising $1,500 from park residents, they’ve adopted five Los Osos families.
Although it’s evident that her Santa collection puts a twinkle in her eye (she lovingly gets them out of her “Christmas closet” after Thanksgiving and puts them back to sleep the first week in January), it’s helping others that gives her the greatest glow. “I especially love the sharing part (of her adopt-a-family).
“Once the families are identified, we give them a list (and check it twice?) for things they need. We found out that an 8-year-old girl was sleeping on the floor. Within a couple of days she had a twin bed with all the bedding.”
In the final tally, Pat’s collection of all things Santa is impressive, something to behold, actually. But it’s the giving that she and her neighbors practice in offering succor to others that truly embodies the Christmas spirit.
And to all a good night …
Bill Morem can be reached at email@example.com or at 781-7852.