By Jennifer Cochran
Mary Ann and Bo didn’t know it for years, but Santa’s workshop was right in their own back yard. You see, Bill had a workshop behind our house that he built not long before we were married in 1983. During the year, it was just “the shop” to us, and it was where Bill first used his carpentry skills as just a hobby and not a business – building cabinets, making moulding, trim, furniture for our home, and for others, etc.
Around every October or November though, when the leaves would begin to turn and the air would take on a chill, Bill’s shop would have to be locked up from our kids. It would turn into a workshop for our “Santa” to start wondering and planning, “What can I make or build for Christmas this year?”
Oh, the many fun and creative gifts Bill drew out and built by hand through the years in his shop to surprise not only Mary Ann and Bo, but others in our family as well. The lights and radio would be on, and the tapping, sawing, and sanding sounds would occasionally run late into the night as it drew closer to Christmas time. He would come inside covered in sawdust….grinning and saying, “Jennifer, come down to the shop to take a look and tell me what you think.”
For Mary Ann’s first birthday, Santa made a set of steps with her initials carved in the top for her to climb up and down on in place. These steps have a new place at Mary Ann and Allen’s home for our new granddaughter, Jane. She is the one who now climbs around on these special steps made by her grandfather. If only he could play with our Jane in person!
Bo became Bill’s little helper at a very young age – pretty much around the time he could walk and follow Bill around. Bo loved helping his Daddy and playing with his hammers, screwdrivers, sockets, etc. Around the age of four, Santa made Bo his very own tool tray to tote around with his name carved on the side and painted in bright, red letters. Bo hasn’t used his little toolbox for a very long time, but because of what he learned all these years from being around and working with his Daddy, you should see the cabinets and many other things Bo knows how to build and work on skillfully and confidently….and the shop is only a walk across our lake dam for him and Ansley in their own home now….Bill would be so proud !
Our Santa delighted in making swings, tables, doll beds, Barbie doll boxes, carts and wagons. Other years he made an art easel, spinning tops, casserole carriers for the ladies in our family, intricate folding fences for farm and jungle animals, houses and shops for a Christmas village – the list goes on and on…..and we treasure all of these things made so carefully and lovingly by Bill. These handmade gifts were not usually found on the wish list for letters written to Santa up at the North Pole, but they usually ended up being some of our kids’ favorite things to play with. That always made Santa just beam!
Christmas is so very different now for our family without Bill. Each and every day he is always incredibly loved, missed, remembered, and talked about continually. The shop is still filled with his smaller tools and wood scraps, and new Christmas surprises will continue to be built there through the years to carry on his workmanship and traditions. The dust and smell of sawdust will forever linger in Bill’s shop…. A scent that is like “perfume” to our family….because it always reminds us of our very own Santa.….all year long.
Merry Christmas…..My family and I wish you and yours love and peace.