Mrs. Claus gets Christmas miracle after car stolen, job axed

First, Gail Larkin had her Subaru Forester stolen from a mall parking lot while she was inside volunteering as Mrs. Santa Claus. Then, after news of the theft broke, the mall barred her from coming back, citing "bad publicity." Yet in the end, all involved saw the dangers of getting stuck on the naughty list this close to Christmas.

Larkin's holiday travail began Dec. 10, when she arrived at the Mesilla Valley Mall in Las Cruces, N.M., in her silver 2005 Forester and spotted a man lurking around the parking lot. After appearing as Mrs. Claus during a breakfast that morning, Larkin emerged to find her car gone, along with her purse, phone and a walker borrowed from a church, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.

That would have been enough to spoil anyone's holiday spirit -- except that after the news broke, management at the Mesilla Valley Mall told Larkin Thursday she was barred from volunteering again as Mrs. Claus, due to what Larkin says was "bad publicity." Turns out the mall parking lot lacks security cameras that might have caught sight of whomever took the Forester on a sleigh ride.

The uproar on behalf of Santa's better half moved so quickly to calls for boycotts and angry letters to the mall's owners that by Friday, the mall had capitulated:

Mesilla Valley Mall made a mistake. Plain and simple. We realize that Ms. Larkin brings much joy and happiness to the children of our community by dressing up as Mrs. Claus and we are hopeful that she will be our special guest at tomorrow's Breakfast with Santa.

Larkin accepted, telling those who supported her to not boycott the mall, and that she had looked forward to seeing the children again, telling KFOX-TV: "(They sit) on Santa's lap, asking for a coat to keep them warm in the winter, or for shoes for mommy because she doesn't have shoes without holes...They don't ask for much and (I love) the joy on their faces seeing Santa Claus and Mrs. Santa."

This Saturday, Mrs. Claus arrived as scheduled, but took a slightly different route to the mall. On her way, she spotted a silver Subaru Forester parked in a far lot -- her Forester, lightly damaged with fresh scrapes on the side and money missing from her purse, but otherwise intact. Sometimes even car thieves know when to be good for goodness' sake.

Photo: KFOX, Mesilla Valley Mall via Facebook