Christmas Past

by Willa Condy

Christmas was always special when I was a kid. My folks were both creative, my mother with her sewing and my father always had a project on down in his basement woodworking shop. In the months leading up to Christmas there were projects that my parents only worked on once we were all in our beds. Many nights I went to sleep to the sounds of my mother’s sewing machine and my father’s Shopsmith saw.

One year Santa left a note that Mrs. Claus didn’t have time to finish the doll clothes and Santa left fabric for my mother to sew. As we got older the gifts changed into knitted sweaters and clothing that my mother would make for us.

When we were tiny my father would help us in our gift making procedure. We had gathered driftwood from the Arrow Lake and we turned those pieces into vases for artificial flowers. My sister had the largest and since I was the smallest my driftwood was the smallest piece. We spent hours down in the basement working on our driftwood creations. We sanded, working at our workbench that was next to my dad’s. I think he worked late in the night when we went to bed to sand and smooth down our driftwood. We did help putting on the oil and shellac on our projects.

I guess it was natural that my brother and I started making Christmas gifts for family and friends when we got older. We were both into photography and my father had built a darkroom in our basement when I was 12. Many gifts were photos taken and developed and printed by us. Yes, they were mainly black and white that we could produce from our darkroom. Others pictures we had printed and framed for special gifts for the folks.

I wasn’t very crafty as a kid. Okay – the darkroom was more interesting than trying to knit or crochet. I did enjoy doing embroidery and my mother was gifted embroidered tablecloths and runners that I would make for her. Years later those boomeranged back to me as my mom had carefully kept all of my efforts.

My mother went from sewing to doing ceramics and one of my Christmas presents was a china creche that she made for me. I am blessed by the furniture my father made. Some of the wood actually came from old orchards that were cut down when the Hugh Keeleyside dam was built.
This year I have been planning our Christmas gifts. We usually give gifts to family and friends that I make. Okay – mostly calendars with our own photos on it. We make a year calendar complete with magnets on the back for refrigerators that have a space to write on with a dry erase marker. We also make wall calendars which can prove a tad more problematic.
We started making our calendars over 15 years ago and over the years I think I have improved on producing them.

I do all the printing at home. I try to stock up on paper and ink before calendar season. Then I have to remember which way to print the pages. It sounds simple but printing calendars only once a year leaves gaps on which way to print the back. Nothing spoils the fun then forgetting and having to reprint a whole section of pages.

Next comes binding the calendars. When I started making calendars I used to take them out for binding. That lasted until the price went up. I am half Scottish and ended up buying a binder. Now I bind my own, with occasional wrong way up for pages.

Something nice is all the family birthdays shown on the calendar. With the exception of one family member most enjoy getting the family calendars showing what we have been up to during the year. He suggested I should find a new supplier for my calendars. A tad awkward since I had just told him I do the work at home.

I make scenic, flowers and wildlife calendars for friends and our family calendars. It reminds me of being a short person and the wonderful gifts that my parents used to make for Christmas gifts. I guess it brings me back to the Christmas traditions that I grew up with.

This year we are going to be adding a new category to our calendar mix. A Roxy2 calendar is now on the agenda. This year with sticking close to home I think I have taken more photos of our dog than I took of the Better Half.
This year doing calendars of 2021 contain an added message – that the worst is almost over and the world is close to going back to normal.

Willa Condy was born and raised in the West Kootenay. She is married, lives in Trail with her “better half” and their dog Roxy. Willa is part of the baby boom and loves photography, music, writing and having fun. Her email address is

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