Islander delights family and neighbors with decorations and Santa Claus collection
Islander Mary Ann Murphy spotted a 5-foot Santa Claus on display in a Houston store not long after losing her lifetime collection of special St. Nicks to Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Perhaps this particular Santa’s eyes twinkled, but something drew Murphy closer, she said. The Galveston resident kept looking back at the short and cheerful figure.
“Are you going to come home with me?” she asked.
The memory remains strong because it was her first purchase for a new Santa Claus collection, she said. And now the new collection lives in her attic and spills out during the holiday season. Friends and family have jumped in and added small Santas and larger ones to her collection. Each new Santa Claus comes with its own new memory, she said. Each is one of a kind.
“There’s a red one in the entry hall and a white one in the living room,” Murphy said. “I’ll have to build onto the house. It’s a collection of love.”
The ever-growing collection comes out by the first of November, but it’s much more than Santa Claus dolls and statues. Murphy’s house on Caduceus Place, where she has lived since 2001, will feature four Christmas trees, each with a different theme spurring separate sub-collections.
The living room has the crystal tree.
“I don’t know how many thousands of crystals are on it,” Murphy said.
In the library, she has a Victorian tree with ornaments and gold beads.
“The kids thought it would fun to put Victorian toys under the tree,” she said.
A bell collection almost overtakes the dining room, she said. The tree in that room is covered with bell ornaments.
“It’s a lot of work,” Murphy said. “It takes about three weeks to get it all up.”
Then, one of Murphy’s favorite traditions is when a live tree from Tom’s Thumb Nursery and Landscaping in Galveston arrives at her home. It goes up right after Thanksgiving, she said.
“I get a tall, skinny tree every year from Peggy Cornelius at Tom’s Thumb,” Murphy said. “It has traditional red and green decorations, and mostly Santa Claus ornaments.”
She also is eager to have Connie DeRome-Dryden, of Island Flowers in Galveston, put the Christmas garland up this year, Murphy said.
Christmas decorations overflow from the house to the yard. Murphy posts a “No Hunting” sign in the front yard near a life-size display of nine reindeer with Rudolph in the lead. It has become a neighborhood favorite, Murphy said.
“One year, I didn’t put them out, and there was a riot on Caduceus Place,” she said.
The smell of a fresh-cut tree and her Aunt Denny’s crisp sugar cookies remind Murphy of her childhood in Sulphur Springs,
Texas, she said.
“Daddy would go out and spot a Christmas tree,” she said. “We would go out with him and whack it down.”
Most years, a group of friends come over to decorate the large, live tree and eat tamales and chili, she said.
“The men sit and drink and instruct us,” Murphy said. “When you move away from your real family, you get to pick your own cousins, brothers and sisters.”
This year, Murphy won’t be hosting as many holiday parties on Caduceus Place, partly because of COVID-19 concerns, she said. It also will be the second Christmas since her husband, the Rev. Robert Murphy, died.
But there will be Christmas decorations and big and small Santa Clauses from every angle. Grandchildren will visit. The sugar cookies, the fresh tree, the luscious hues of red and green will fill their senses.
Murphy quoted a holiday song to sum up her anticipation this unusual year.
“We need a little Christmas right this very minute,” she said.