There is no Santa shortage at Hazel Tidwells house.
Santa Claus hangs out in the kitchen, holds court over by the television and makes his presence felt up and down the ho-ho-hallway.
Hazel has more than 500 of the jolly fellows, according to her latest census count. That means more than a thousand Santa eyes know when shes been sleeping and know when shes awake.
They come in every size, shape and holiday tradition. They start a meet-and-greet by the front door and follow you to the bathroom, where a St. Nick stands guard on top of the toilet.
Push a button, and he will sing a song, spin around and drop his drawers. (Im not sure being mooned by Santa is on your bucket list.)
The Santa Brigade began in 1970 when her husband, the late Charles Tidwell, bought her a ceramic Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the farmers market in Macon.
One Santa begat another and another, the gift that keeps on giving. The house was soon standing-room-only with Santas.
Everywhere you look, Ive got them, she said.
Hazel spends most of her time in a wheelchair. After a triple heart bypass in 2003, she had an adverse reaction to heparin, a common blood thinner.
She had both legs amputated below the knee. She stayed in a medically-induced coma and remained in intensive care for seven weeks.
Charles stopped by the hospital Oct. 5, which was their 57th wedding anniversary. Two weeks later, he suffered a stroke. He died on Nov. 1, 2003.
Hazel also has vision and hearing problems. She never has been one to sit around and feel sorry for herself.
She gets her Santas out after Thanksgiving and puts them away after New Years Day. She keeps a few on display year-round.
Her adoration of St. Nick is in her DNA. Her father loved to decorate at Christmas. His name was Jesse James Floyd, but he was no outlaw. Most folks called him Pete.
They lived on a farm between Hawkinsville and Cochran until Hazel was 13, when they moved to Lynmore Estates in Macon. She remembers the frigid day she went with her father to buy a Christmas tree at the farmers market.
She met Charles in 1944 after he returned home from the Army during World War II. He was wounded in Pattons march across Europe.
They married in 1946. Charles worked at the Naval Ordnance Plant and Robins Air Force Base. They had three children -- Peggy, Ava and Terrell.
Charles not only started the Santa revolution at the Tidwell house, but he also became Santa himself.
Every October, he would grow a beard as white as the frost on the front lawn. He didnt have much hair, so he would usually put a Santa cap on his head.
Everybody called him Santa, Hazel said. We would go to Cracker Barrel, and they would all say, Here comes Santa!
At the Christmas parade in downtown Macon in 1997, Telegraph photographer Robert Seay spotted him in the crowd, across from the grandstand. He snapped a picture of Charles that appeared in the newspaper the next day.
He told Charles he looked more like Santa Claus than the guy in the parade, Hazel said, laughing.
She now surrounds herself with Santas drinking Coca-Colas, playing the saxophone and riding motorcycles to the sounds of Born To Be Wild.
Its an interesting mix. She has antique Santas and dollar-store Santas. They are pristine and sassy, sacred and slightly irreverent.
She has a Santa music box and Santa quilt. At the foot of her bed is a book she is now reading called The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn.
Most of the Santas have been given to me over the years, she said. When I tell people I still love to collect Santas, they bring them over.
She has received Santas from as far away as California and Germany and as close by as the neighborhood in the retirement community where she lives. She writes the name of the person who gave it to her on each Santa and makes notations of the year and origin.
Hazel will be 86 next month, which means she has been collecting Santas exactly half her life. It has brought her great joy.
As long as you believe in Santa Claus, he will keep coming back.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or email@example.com.