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MEET MRS. CLAUS: Nursery woman's home becomes Christmas toy land

By JR Ortega
Dec. 25, 2010 at 6:25 a.m.

Helen Gibbs, 73, a collector from Nursery, has decorating her home for many years with the help of her son. The inside of her home has about 2,000 ornaments carefully placed on the walls, windows and even on her ears as earrings.

NURSERY - Helen Gibbs pats down Santa Claus' velvet-red coat as he stands in the living room of her mobile home.

"I tell everyone he's my boyfriend," Gibbs said, jokingly.

More amazing than the towering animatronic Santa is the more than 50-year collection of Christmas decorations decking each wall, crevice and foot of her home.

The 73-year-old Nursery woman has lost count of how many decorations she has, but she and her son begin decorating about a week before Thanksgiving and finish several weeks later.

She has anything and everything Christmas.

From the 300 snowmen that flow from her bedroom into the master bathroom to an ornament from her childhood hanging from one of the two trees.

"I just like Christmas," she said. "I don't stop at the decorations."

Gibbs opens a cupboard and pulls out one of the Christmas-ordained plates she has had for nearly 15 years.

She looks around at her prideful accomplishment.

"I love all of them," she said, as her gaze sweeps across the decorations in the room.

Gibbs and her late husband moved to the Victoria area in 1982 from Illinois.

When she married, she began collecting decorations, as did her four children, for her favorite holiday.

Now her home blossoms into a Christmas toy land every December.

Traci Smith, of Victoria, has known Gibbs since they attended Rocky Creek Baptist Church 15 years ago.

Smith still remembers seeing Gibbs' home for the first time during the holiday season.

"When you go into her house, it's like going into grandma's house," she said.

Gibbs' passion for making the Christmas season merry has both touched and inspired Smith.

"She's like a little child in an older woman's body," she said. "That's her world."

Gibbs would like to stay in that world year-round, she said.

Gibbs has a motor home specifically for storing all the decorations.

Many of her knick-knacks are purchased at retail stores, like Walmart and Target. However, many of the prized decorations are from what she's found at yard sales or just happened to stumble upon.

A nativity set and a mouse playing Christmas songs on a piano are two of the yard sale decorations that stick in her mind.

The nativity scene was an inexpensive purchase from a woman who was afraid her children would break it. The more rare piano-playing mouse was bought for $2 from a lady who was just tired of it, she said.

The decorations will stay up until New Year's, then she'll take them all down and wait and plan how they'll go up the next year.

"It just keeps me going," she said, rocking back and forth next to a Christmas tree.



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