The son of Lilly Claus and Sammy Claus, Noel Claus was barely out of childhood when his parents sent him to gain his necessary experience as heir to the Santahood to observe and study the habits, the weaknesses and the miracles of the human beings who lived in the lower world, especially those of the youngest of human beings, the children.
Greta Kemkelgrunkler was a young widow who knew how to make due and still give. She made every possible sacrifice for the well-being of her playful and imaginative young daughter Klara. The greatest joy for Greta was saving enough money to purchase costly eggs and fresh cream from the market so she could make Klara her favorite meal of creamy eggs. If she saved a few more dollars each month, Greta was even able to buy a tiny sugar pyramid and spices from the East, to make Austrian cookies for Klara.
Greta’s artistic skill as a seamstress in the heart of Vienna, had quickly made her a legend among the merchant class, but although she had little time to spare, Greta was always willing to make some clothing for the poorest class, sometimes even sewing a new pair of pants or making a new dress and secretly leaving it on the doorstep of those who needed clothes most.
Never wasteful, she kept every little strip, square, corner or bit of trimmed cloth, from every type of material, and in every color, storing them all in great big bags in her attic. Word soon travelled to the palace, where the cruel Austrian King wanted to give his selfish Queen the one thing she demanded that nobody could provide – a gown of real gold. None of her twenty seamstresses had been able to make this for her, and each one had been imprisoned and a new one hired to replace them.
The Queen wore an entirely different costume every single day, demanding that whatever she had worn was to be destroyed. Not only did she refuse to donate the clothes to the poor, but the cost of what she wore and of keeping her twenty seamstresses working day and night was paid for by the heavy taxes on the poor. Hearing of Greta’s great gift, the King ordered one of his twenty messengers to her home where he was to demand that Greta fashion the Queen’s gown of gold.
Hearing a knock at her door, Greta was filled with fear when she saw the scarlet and gold uniform of the Cruel King’s messenger. He tried to get right to business and tell her why he had come, and that the King threatened that if Greta could not fashion a gown of gold for the selfish Queen, the seamstress widow would be thrown in prison. But he didn’t – rather he couldn’t, for even to this fearful fellow, Greta could not stand to deny him some cheer.
Running into her kitchen, however, Greta fretted and worried. She had no wine, no tea, no flavored waters, just a bare touch of medicinal whiskey. She stared at the icebox and the cupboard just above it. She reached to open the icebox –then stopped herself, pausing with consideration. Just that morning she had spent her month’s savings to buy eggs, fresh cream, a small pyramid of sugar and spices to make cookies for Klara.
Meanwhile, as the messenger waited in the parlor, he quietly watched little Klara playing happily with a bag of her mother’s clothing scraps. And the messenger was also here to do just that – observe the good and bad habits of children so he could train himself to recognize those who were naughty and nice.
Suddenly, Greta emerged, holding a large silver cup which she held out to the messenger. He sipped just a small bit…and then quickly gulped it all away. And he could not help drop his stern look of the messenger to smile broadly at her, and nod in grateful thanks, excitedly remarking, “My dear Mrs. Kemkelgrunkler, what is this sweet, smooth intoxicating brew? Something tells me my own father and mother would even surely love it!”
Greta had sacrificed the happiness she received from making Klara happy to instead extend her hospitality, even to the King’s messenger. In that cup, the Widow Kemkelgrunkler had quickly concocted a tasty, rich and fortifying drink made of eggs, cream, sugar and some spices for the King’s messenger (and that last drop of medicinal whiskey).
This, however, was no ordinary messenger. This was really Noel, the son of Santa and Mrs. Claus. And in that moment, his soon-to-be wife, the soon-to-be-called Greta Claus had suddenly invented that most discerning of concoctions, imbibed by one and all at the North Pole, the legendary Eggnog.
Noel was utterly bewitched, as as drawn to Greta for her good cheer and hearty nog. And then his growing smile shrank when he remembered the threat that hung above her head, but which she did not yet know. What would happen to all those among the poor who depended on Greta’s goodness were the widow to be imprisoned? He must muster whatever he could to help her craft the Queen’s gold gown.
He rose sternly, resuming his martial manner. He unscrolled and read the edict: “By order of the King, the Widow Kemkelgrunkler is hereby commanded to fashion a gown of gold for the Queen and he commence industry upon it henceforth, in time for the Queen’s Christmas Ball – ”
The Queen’s Christmas Ball?! That’s but three months away!” Greta interrupted. “Impossible!
“Impossible to be done in that time?” Noel seemed to sympathetically lead her on.
“Not impossible because I could do that in two days – but still, impossible!”
Noel wanted to help Greta. He didn’t want to see her imprisoned but he could not disclose his covert identity, for he was still in training, in the observation of children. Again, he tried to lead her on, offering a reasonable excuse that might be explained to the King and keep Greta from being free.
“Impossible because gold cannot be thread into clothing?” he asked.
“Not impossible because I could thread anything into any cloth! Yet, it remains – utterly impossible!”
“Then, all conditions being as you state, it is possible to make a gown of gold within three months for the Queen to wear at her Christmas Ball – and keep yourself from being imprisoned?!” he snapped, making clear the stakes of the matter.
Greta swayed in shock, her mind circling every which way. She turned away from Noel, to look down at Klara, blissfully deaf to the matters at hand. She did not take her eyes from this child, who meant more to her than any money she might earn from weaving a gown of gold.
And Noel found himself staring down again at Klara – and himself speechless at what she’d accomplished in mere minutes. All the while her mother and Noel were chatting, Klara’s rapid technique and artistic skill remained transfixed on each unpredictable size, shape and color of clothing scraps she pulled from bags on the floor, creatively weaving and intertwining various colors and textures into elaborations never before seen. Furthermore, little Klara tied them here and there, about the house, on the rotund potbellied stove, around the square dining room table, along the octagonal clock.
Noel began to see how the full-hearted love of a child could so encourage them to be who they truly were and fully unleash the gifts of their talents. And if that were not enough, the manner in which little Klara imaginatively folded larger pieces of cloth around the cumbersome piano and tucked remnant fabrics through the uneven staircase handrail convinced him, then and there, that one can never be thankful enough for those adults who forever kept to the challenge of making real what largely remained in the imaginations of most others.
“Impossible not because I can not do it,” Greta suddenly shouted staunchly. “Impossible because I shall not do it. Not for that woman! If my imprisonment or the Queen’s heavy taxing are entirely an equal burden on the poor, then at least by former she will finally learn the costly lesson she has borne on so many others! All I ask of you, the kindliest of King’s messengers I have ever met, is to assume responsibility for continuing a loving life for my little Klara!”
And without even having to think, Noel ordered the Widow Kemkelgrunkler to immediately gather all but the most necessary of her personal items and those of Klara. While they did so, Noel scribbled a transcription of what had just transpired, on the verso of the King’s edict, this making what can be presumed to be his official report. To ensure that its contents were kept strictly and entirely confidential, he then placed it within a larger, outer paper, sealing every available inch of its closure. Finally, he addressed it with the only name permitted to open it, then stamped the cover with the King’s frank, ensuring it would swiftly reach the only hands for which it was intended.
All Klara wanted to take with her was a full bag of clothing strips and fabric remnants.
Upon the moment of Noel’s order, Greta realized she actually needed not one thing – except her daughter – and the last silver cupful of her Eggnog.
Noel sternly marched them into the waiting carriage. To be entirely proprietary in fulfilling his duty, he dismissed the coachman and took the horse reins himself. He halted briefly to hand the report to an express journeyman, his scarlet and gold uniform of the King being the only explanation he need provide. No questions were asked and the journeyman immediately headed out to ensure the report’s eventual delivery, almost immediately bypassing the coach as it approached the palace. The King was then in the furthest northern territory of his kingdom, but the Queen scowled out,, perpetually aghast and agog for no reason.
The Queen’s scowl vanished as she watched the coach near her “royal-only” entrance. It twisted in perplexity as the coach then passed it, stretched with flabbergast as it bypassed the palace, and sputtered and spewed as Noel drove the coach madly beyond the palace ground. And he drove it faster, beyond Vienna’s boundary, beyond the Empire’s border, straight up into France. All the while Klara’s giggles floated from the coach like music into Noel’s ears.
Only once did they stop, in the city of lights itself. They did not tarry in Paris, however, for Noel had a most specific time and specific date to reach a very specific place. All they did was promenade the main aisle of the finest shop, trailed by a wake of clerks who loaded the coach with a steady stream of endless boxes of new clothes – warm clothes. All of it purchased on the King’s account!
And there was that brief pitstop at a farmhouse further north, where Greta dickered for some eggs, cream, a small pyramid of sugar, some spices and a pint of medicinal whiskey. They were full of Eggnog by the time their coach reached the Normandy Beach on France’s northern coast – just in time, in fact. Despite the modest setting, the occasion was of vital importance to all gathered there. Most especially to Sammy Claus and Lilly Claus, who both flew the sleigh and reindeer down from the North Pole at the appointed time, Noel’s parents having received his confidential letter with all the details. They embraced a still slightly bewildered Greta but before they could reach little Klara, she burst from inside the carriage and stopped them in their tracks with the sight of something so familiar and yet so entirely new.
Stacked in her arms, Klara carried out the sort of Christmas gifts that no previous Santa or Mrs. Claus had ever before laid eyes upon. For these gifts were covered and closed and glistening like gems, each odd shape covered in fine patches of colorful cloth, each secured with strips of ribbons and bows. Klara herself was covered in ribbons and bows.
And as they all lifted off in the sleigh, headed to the North Pole, soon to be new members of the Claus family, the soon-to-be Greta Claus suggested that, henceforth, children’s gifts be wrapped in the brightest and most beautiful papers and clothes and tied with rainbows of ribbons for it was so attractive to simply stare at them, that it delayed the impulse to peek inside.
And indeed, it was a full week that villagers in the North Pole came to gaze upon the beautiful wrapping and ribbons adorning the gifts on display in the entrance lobby of Santa’s Palace. And finally, the whole Claus family tore them all off with glee – the same night the selfish Queen danced – without a gold gown.
For Klara, however, the single greatest gift she ever received arrived that Christmas, not wrapped in paper or satin or ribbons, but the arms of the father who adopted her as his own.
Although Klara Claus was the adoptive daughter of Noel Claus, she was entirely his child. And when, nearly a century later, Noel Claus and Greta Claus were unable to continue their calling, they made their only child the first and only daughter of Santa to assume his mantle of leadership. She then met and married a man from lower earth who became her Santa and with him parented a male progeny who would go on to become the next Santa Claus.
“In lower earth, we used to say that ‘Blood is thicker than water,’ Klara Claus later recalled, ‘But up here, we know that, ‘Love is thicker than everything.”
THE CHARACTERS AND STORYLINE OF THIS SERIES ARE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL
- The Secret History of Mrs. Claus: Introduction (carlanthonyonline.com)
- Russia’s Sadie Claus and Flying Reindeer (and China’s Yinna Claus and France’s Lulu Claus): The Secret History of Mrs. Claus, Part III (carlanthonyonline.com)
- Hawaii’s Lilly Claus and the Christmas Wreath: The Secret History of Mrs. Claus, Part IV (carlanthonyonline.com)