Growing up, Charlene McIntosh did not have a lot, but these days remembering what she did have rekindles those fond memories of Christmases past
It wasn’t the few gifts under the sparsely decorated tree, but the time her large family spent together that was most important.
Now, what helps her relive those early days is the annual set-up of her 1,500-piece Christmas village which has grown to 140 square-feet in size and now takes up nearly the entire living room of her Dartmouth Road home.
A little gift of her own she likes to share with others at this time of year.
“It’s (village) about giving a little piece of Christmas to people and letting them remember what it is all about,” said McIntosh, 52. “It’s not about getting presents, it’s about giving, and my village I feel truly gives people a bit of the spirit, makes people smile, makes them happy and that’s what Christmas is all about.
“The real joy of it is watching people’s faces when they see it. When they walk into my house they know it’s Christmas, and the adults are just as starry eyed as the kids.”
The holiday tradition — which McIntosh refers to as an obsession — actually began 18 years ago when she was living in Aldergrove and received a few of the items as a gift.
“It started under my tree and then I got more pieces and it went across the floor and then I said to my husband Jock, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ and so he built me a stand and it went from one stand to three and now…” she said as her eyes wandered over the blinking lights and moving figures. “I tell everybody it’s an addiction and that I need to go to Village Anonymous or maybe be on a reality show.”
The three-tiered display has a population of about 300 human figurines, a countless variety of animals, every type of business imaginable and a working ski hill.
Having taken on a life of its own, the McIntosh residence now has six dedicated electrical breaker switches for the village alone.
And the electric bill?
“No, I’ve never actually figured that out because I don’t care, this is about Christmas,” she replied.
“A couple of years ago everybody wanted to give me some money to help pay for it but I said no, but what I do have now is a donation jar for charity.”
In addition to that donation, the McIntoshes also adopt a family every Christmas.
Setting up the village this year took her and 18-year-old daughter Amanda about 26 hours over a two-day period.
Despite the large number of pieces, she is familiar with each and the original ones from all those years ago have their own special place.
And as it has every year, the village continues to grow, and although again the edict from on high is it will not get any larger, Charlene, as usual, plans to ignore it.
While her husband and daughter help out wherever they can, it’s quite clear this is mom’s baby.
When asked how her family feels about the obsession, Charlene nods in Amanda’s direction for the answer.
“I’m going to bury it with her,” said the younger McIntosh with a wry laugh.
Her mother admitted the world has changed since she was a kid, and not necessarily for the better, but she hopes she is able to give at least a few people some good memories of their own.