There’s nothing like Christmas for Kathy Botham. Walk in her front door, turn slightly left and Christmas is there in front of you. Every hour, every day, 365 days a year in her own Christmas room.
She loves it, and everyone who knows Botham knows her delight in the season. She says it’s the magic and the memories, the warmth of the season, and family ties.
Santa Claus is very present in his red and white iconic suit. Botham has many figures. How many? She doesn’t know, has never counted. But the jolly old guy comes in the traditional form of St. Nick dressed in a long red coat with ermine trim, or Santa with his sleeves rolled up working in the toy shop. Sometimes he’s pulling moves with a hockey stick, sometimes he’s glancing skyward with a faraway look in his eye about to launch a model plane.
He’s there in all forms – large, small, always dressed in his red fur-trimmed suit with a big black belt around his tubby tummy, long black boots, a jaunty red toque, white gloves and his ever-present bag of toys.
Santa’s not just present in her living room, he holds a presence in all the rooms of her house – in pictures, in throws, in stockings, in children’s books. And as the season draws closer, Botham pulls out her Christmas sweaters. She has a lot of them. “There are not enough days to wear them all,” she laughs.
Botham, 57, is in her element as she chats about her passion. But the Christmas room is just part of it; when she turned 30, she knew she wanted to have a child, and decided to start keeping the Sears Wish Book catalogue as well. So, today, at her house, she has 25 of the well-loved catalogues in a stack in her Christmas room, dog-eared, well-handled, long anticipated. Holding one or two of them, it’s clear the quality has changed over the years – but not what the catalogues promise.
“I used to look forward to them even before they came into the house,” Botham remembers. When it came, and Botham came in from school, her Mom would nod at the mail saying, “it’s here.”
She also remembers going right to the toy pages, never anywhere else, spending hours and days going through the selection, making a choice, changing her mind, and making another.
Every year she was allowed to order a Barbie doll and a baby doll. She also remembers, with a laugh, that she had to share with her brother “who never looked at dolls,” but she liked his Hot Wheels, too. And she has never not ordered from the catalogue; she had a child-like superstition that if she forgot she wouldn’t get a Wish Book the next year.
Sears produced the last catalogue in 2016; Botham says she carried through with her annual ritual of ordering, and ordered a sweater. Looking back a little longingly, she wishes she had kept some of the first catalogues from when she was a child. She’s made a promise to herself that if she ever sees some of the earlier ones in antique or collectible shops, she’ll pick them up.
What is it about the season that makes her want to see it, and feel it, every day, all year long. It’s the memories, she says, the wanting to save part of a really good childhood, “being blessed with the best Christmases,” the feeling when you saw Santa, especially the anticipation of Christmas.
And did you ever hear St. Nick? “I did! I saw Rudolph’s nose out my grandmother’s bedroom window,” she crows. To some extent, Botham’s memories about Christmas centre around her dad, Hal.
Hal Botham became known as ‘The Voice of the Valley’ and most of his career was spent at CJET Smiths Falls. He rarely said ‘no’ to anyone who needed an emcee for an event. Botham remembers, as a child, that her dad was very good friends with Santa and every Christmas Santa would go to the radio station “to read letters with my dad.”
Maybe that was where the magic began…
Today Botham has followed in her father’s footsteps. You can hear her on a regular basis as a community host at YourTV in Smiths Falls, Cable 10, HD Cable 700.
Want to get a real feel for Kathy’s Christmas room? Watch our video as Kathy explains it’s magic!