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Menino’s absence is felt as holiday trolley tour kicks off

Angela Menino, filling in for her recuperating husband, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, cheered the arrival of Santa Claus as the holiday trolley tour came to Readville on Friday night.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Angela Menino, filling in for her recuperating husband, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, cheered the arrival of Santa Claus as the holiday trolley tour came to Readville on Friday night.

A blast of confetti filled the night sky Friday as a wild cheer went up from the crowd in West Roxbury: Boston’s Enchanted Trolley Tour and Tree Lightings had begun. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, a glittery elf, and a nutcracker wove through the throng in front of the Roche Family Community Center as Mr. and Mrs. Claus posed for pictures.

But one holiday mainstay was missing: Mayor Thomas M. Menino remained at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where he is undergoing physical therapy after an upper respiratory infection and a blood clot that traveled from his leg to his lungs landed him in a hospital bed in October.

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“He was just very disappointed,” said his wife, Angela , who took her usual spot on the trolley tour. “This is what he loves. He loves being with kids; he loves being in the neighborhoods. I think for him, that’s the very best part of his job.”

Friday marked nearly eight weeks since Menino last stepped foot in City Hall. He had left for an Italian cruise, but wound up falling ill and spending several weeks at Brigham and Women’s Hospital before being transferred to Spaulding.

Menino, who was recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, is getting better every day, his wife said. “He’ll be out here soon, very soon,” she said. “You can’t keep him down. He’ll make up for what he’s missed.”

Asked whether her husband will be home for Christmas, she said, “I hope so.”

At Spaulding, Menino is focus­ing on regaining the strength in his legs, said spokeswoman Dot Joyce. He usually has three hourlong physical therapy sessions every day, she said, which he spends walking and working on a stationary bike, among other ­activities.

Joyce said she could not predict when Menino will return to work. “Right now, the longer they can keep him there to get him as strong as possible, they’d like to see that happen,” she said. “He would love to be out and realizes that the best thing for him now is to do the work necessary to get his strength back as much as possible.”

Menino is briefed on city business several times a day, said Joyce, and meets with an inner circle daily. On Friday, he met with a member of a committee helping to develop a new plan for the school assignment process. “He was exactly as I expected: full of good questions, very ­interested in our work,” said Helen Dájer, cochairwoman of the committee. “He always has had his pulse on what the folks who live in Boston think and say.”

The people of Boston were thinking of him Friday night.

“Everybody’s looking for him,” said Bobby Bryant, 20, decked out as a nutcracker and dancing to “Last Christmas (I Gave You My Heart).”

“He’s got a presence here,” said Roger Mountford, 42, as he stood sipping coffee and waiting for his two children to emerge at the front of the line for Santa. “It’s like somebody’s missing.”

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at macquarrie@globe.com.
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