by Anita Mae Draper
Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birth, and birthday parties should be shared with family and friends, right? Here at the Inkwell, we've been sharing Christmas memories and now it's my turn. As I gathered the photos for this post, however, I came to a realization I should have figured out long ago... my love of photography comes from my mother. You may laugh at my surprise, but truly I've always thought my mother and I came from different planets.
Although I was born in a hospital in a Northern Ontario gold mining town, we lived at a logging camp out in the bush near Stevens, Ontario. I still have an old flour sack laundry bag with Camp #5 stencilled in black in across the top. I don't remember much about living there except that we lived near a cliff with a lake full of floating logs below the camp. And I remember the Christmases when Mom set out bowls of nuts and candy, and we put glass pine cones and metal icicles on the tree.
|Christmas morning, 1960. Anita 3, sister Bonnie, 4. Camp #5.|
Christmas morning, 1960. I was three years old, my sister, Bonnie was 4, and our brother was only a couple months old. That was the year Bonnie and I both received Lulu dolls for Christmas. As you'll see, we received other things, too, but the Lulu dolls will go down in history as my favourite doll of all time. The only problem was that my Lulu doll looked exactly like Bonnie's Lulu doll. So a few months later when Bonnie couldn't find hers, she took mine. Of course, I hung on to mine like a bear cub's mother and there we were, each pulling an arm of the soft vinyl rubber-like doll. After a few minutes, the arm Bonnie was holding ripped off! I was in shock! Bonnie wasn't because she dropped the arm and flounced off saying she just remembered where she'd left hers. My poor little Lulu doll. Mom sewed her arm back on, and I loved her, but she was never the same again.
|1960 Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). Camp #5|
Mom spent a lot of time dolling us up as you can see by my pretty ringlets in this photo taken on Boxing Day. That Christmas was special as Dad was making good money. Along with my Lulu doll, I received a nurse's kit and tea set.
|Christmas 1961. Anita 4, Johnny 1, Bonnie, 5. Camp #5. |
Johnny joined us for the Christmas of 1964 photo and although Mom snapped this after Christmas, I have no recollection of our presents. I do know that we were still in Camp #5, because Bonnie and I sang Silent Night in Finn in front of the whole community at the Camp Christmas Concert. And yes, I do remember the experience. It's probably what gave me the stage fright that lasted well into adulthood.
|Christmas 1963 Geraldton, Ontario|
We moved to the gold mining town of my birth when I was five, but we lived on a hill on the edge of town. Trying times of turmoil fell upon Bonnie and I as we were involved in a custody battle and shuffled between our biological parents and forced to live with step-parents who felt threatened by our existence. I don't have photos of those years. Truthfully, they feel like pages from someone else's book and I'd rather not look at them.
|Christmas 1967, Johnny 7, Anita 10, Bonnie 11, Thunder Bay, ON|
The Christmas of 1967 found us living with our mother in the city of Thunder Bay, at the head of Lake Superior. Here we are on the stairs with the stockings Mom made for each of us when we were small. The little plastic mesh stocking was for our brother, Peter, who was 2 that year but I guess Mom hadn't had time to make him one yet. She crafted ours out of felt and lined it with plastic. That way, the candies wouldn't stick to the felt and it would be an easy clean up if our Christmas oranges got squished and leaked. Our stockings were used for food only and if you look close, you can see a box of Pink Elephant popcorn poking out.
|Christmas 1967, Johnny 7, Anita 10, Bonnie 11, Thunder Bay, ON|
Those were hard times as our step-father was gone for months at a time while working road construction. I don't remember any of the gifts I received that year although I know those snow shovels were for Bonnie and I so that we could help Mom while Dad was gone. I don't know if it was the lack of money, or the move to the city, but our tree sure looked sparser than it had when we lived in the logging camp.
|Christmas 1968, Thunder Bay, ON|
Another year passed and 1968 we're all a year older (12, 11, 8 now) and we're still holding the same stockings and yes - it looks like we have more Pink Elephant popcorn. We were allowed to empty our stockings as soon as we awoke, but Mom's always been an early riser and took this photo that Christmas morning. Considering the smile on my face and the position of my box of Pink Elephant popcorn, I may have emptied part of my stocking before she got us to pose.
|Christmas 1968, Bonnie 12, Johnny 8, Anita 11,Thunder Bay, ON|
Here we are several hours later, holding our gifts and looking presentable. I received several musical instruments over the years as if Mom had hopes of getting me interested, but they weren't the real ones and I spent more time reading and writing than singing and playing. Once again, three-year-old Peter is missing from this photo, but he had a good excuse that year...he was sick in the hospital and didn't come home until several days later.
|Christmas 1968, Peter 3,Thunder Bay, ON|
Mom and Dad tried to make it up to him with a shiny red pedal car. Do you think it worked?
|Christmas 1969, Anita 12, Johnny 9, Bonnie 13, Peter 4, |
Thunder Bay, ON
We moved again in 1969 - this time to a farm 7 miles outside of Thunder Bay. And with the tree being so lush, it looks like we may have cut it on our own property. Now 12 yrs old, the gift I'm holding is a plush pajama doll. I don't think they even make pajama dolls anymore, but all day long she sat on my bed, all puffed out with my jammies inside. Then at night, I'd open the zipper, take my jammies out, and spend the night cuddling her. And she safely held my secrets along with my jammies.
Now do you see what I mean about Mom taking pictures? I never knew how many rolls of film she went through until I visited her last summer and took photos of her pictures so I could preserve them digitally. All I can say is thank you, Mom, for allowing me to see my past.
I also have my mom to thank for my stocking. Do you remember the stocking with my name on it from the above photos? Well, I still have it. Not only do I still have mine, but I made a green one for Nelson when we got married, and followed the tradition with the kids.
|Homemade Felt Stockings, Anita's c1958-59|
We gave Crystal her stocking when she moved out after graduation, and I believe she lost it along the way. Jessie moved out 2 yrs ago, but is leaving hers at home until she has her own home and family. I'd like to note that the plastic in Jessie's stocking is nice and thick - it's from the bag her Huggies diapers came in. Instead of candy, nuts and Japanese oranges though, we use our stockings for gifts and chocolate. Being flat however, limited these stockings to small gifts only.
A couple years ago, when my stocking turned 50, we decided to retire all the homemade ones. Now, they hang on one side of our hall as reminders of Christmases past.
|Draper Stockings c2009|
While on the other side hang our bigger, modern stockings with all kinds of room for goodies.
Thank you for taking this old Christmas journey with me whether you read the text or only looked at the photos.
Now look at your own photo of a past Christmas. What do you remember about it? The gifts? The location? The people? Do you remember how you felt as you waited for the 'click' of the camera?
Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. She writes stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Anita Mae has semi-finaled in the Historical Romance category of the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest and finaled in the Inspirational category of the 2011 Daphne du Maurier, the 2011 Fool for Love, the 2011 Duel on the Delta and 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests. You can find her at http://www.anitamaedraper.com/