By Sharon Mager
Santa’s wife — with a neat bun, little glasses and an apron — is always seen standing and holding cocoa and cookies as Santa heads out with the reindeer, right? Perhaps, but it seems there’s a bit more to Mrs. Claus.
Arnold resident Maureen Ridenour, along with her lifelong friend, Chicago resident Karen Lyons, wrote a book about St. Nick’s helpful wife that might start a new tradition.
There’s another job Tidy has that most people don’t know about: bringing gifts to neat and tidy children on New Year’s Eve.
The book, rich and whimsically illustrated, is a heartfelt tribute to Ridenour’s mother, Elizabeth Saba, who died 10 years ago on New Year’s Eve. After Saba’s death, Ridenour avoided any New Year’s fun as she mourned her loss. “About four years ago, I thought, ‘This is ridiculous,’” Ridenour said. “My mother wouldn’t want me to be sad.” That’s when she got the idea of writing “The Magical Mrs. Claus.”
“Every Christmas, my mother told us a story about Santa’s wife who came on New Year’s Eve if you were neat and tidy through Christmas,” Ridenour said.
Writing a book with that story has allowed Ridenour to honor her mom. In the book, a mother lovingly passes down the same story to her daughter. “It’s about a little girl who knows her mother’s story and tells it every Christmas Eve,” Ridenour said.
“My mother saved the best present for Tidy,” she explained. It was special because when a wished-for gift wasn’t under the tree on Christmas morning, Saba would often say, “Well, don’t give up hope, maybe Tidy will bring it.” And usually, she did.
Ridenour shared the first draft of the book with Lyons and asked her opinion. Her friend truthfully, as only a good friend can do, said, “This is awful!’” Ridenour recalled with a laugh, but she knew it was true. The two friends attended a writers and illustrators conference in New York where they were told it was going to take time and revisions to complete the book. They didn’t agree but found the experts were right.
“We must have revised it another 100 to 150 times,” she said. Ridenour secured an illustrator, David Pfendler, then published the book, and introduced it in October 2017.
Last year, she announced the book release on Facebook and placed it in Arnold Pharmacy, and she quickly sold 40 copies. She was thrilled. Within a few months she had sold more than 700 books.
She has expanded this season, offering copies once again at the pharmacy and also at Nail Station in Glen Burnie and at Local by Design in Annapolis. Books also available at www.themagicalmrsclaus.com.
Ridenour said this year she wants to give back. She created a “Magical Mrs. Claus” tree, which sold for $300 at Kennedy Krieger’s annual Festival of Trees fundraiser, and she donated books to the Ronald McDonald House, which supports programs that improve the health and well-being of children and their families.
In addition to promoting her book, Ridenour currently works as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines. Previously, she taught first-graders in the Hudson and Milford, New Hampshire school system for 23 years.
Lyons works with children with learning disabilities and served as the director of special education in private schools in New England and has been an instructor of Teachers for the Slingerland Institute for Literacy for more than 35 years.
The book comes in hardcover or paperback. Ridenour will sign copies of “The Magical Mrs. Claus” books from 5:00pm to 7:00pm at an open house on December 12 at Studio 24E, 206 New Jersey Avenue, in Glen Burnie. The open house is sponsored by the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center (UM BWMC) Foundation and Studio 24E, and proceeds will benefit UM BWMC's Tate Cancer Center. For more information, visit www.themagicalmrsclaus.com.
Ridenour is excited about the project. Her mom, she thinks, would be happy. The magical Mrs. Claus rescued New Year’s Eve — at least for one little girl.