Monday, 18 November 2013


With no sign of a head or an upper torso, only the protrusion of twitching legs and feet are visible. Is it the Wicked Witch trapped under Dorothy's house, landed in Oz?  A plumber repairing leaky pipes? Jim restoring his Triumph Spitfire? No! Wrong on all counts! It becomes clearer when a string of uncharacteristic expletives escapes out from under the twelve foot long table as Jim tangles with a twisted mass of electrical cords and plugs. Yup!  It's a snowy day and we would be in the midst of erecting our miniature Dickens' Village for another Christmas Season.

In 1994, knowing that Jim's favourite book of all time is Dickens' Christmas Carol, my brother and sister presented Jim and I with our first two lit porcelin houses from Department 56's Dickens' Village collection. Little could they foresee what monster had been unleashed.  Immediately charmed by these quaint miniature houses depicting 19th century London and the time of Charles Dickens, we began to collect the occasional piece lovingly displaying them on our mantel at Christmas. But wait.....

Our son, Matthew, in a past life, was most certainly a crazed developer who could not view vacant land without rubbing his hands in mercenary glee and hysterically giggling, "Expansion!"  Building on Jo-Anne and David's lead, Matthew, and then Matthew and Michelle, have annually gifted us over the past nineteen years with one or two miniature buildings. As it became necessary to move our mantel display to a twelve foot table (yes, I said 'twelve'), Jim and I protested, although frankly not with much resolve. Steadfastly ignoring our half-hearted pleas to curb expansion, Matthew and Michelle delightfully present us each year with an additional structure. Village sprawl knows no bounds and we love it!

Our realistic little diorama is populated with lamp lighters, skaters, street vendors, shoppers, carolers, chimney sweeps, and even snowmen.  I can only wonder when StatsCan will forward their census survey. Bob Crachit and Tiny Tim frolic in the snow. Peak through the window of the Melancholy Tavern and you will spot Ebenezer Scrooge miserably dining alone. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future lurk in the shadows of the church graveyard awaiting their night with Scrooge. Land values must be skyrocketing as available space on the table dwindles and housing becomes stacked.  "With this market, should I come out of retirement?" I muse! The ever increasing population of our little village competes for space with sleighs, hackney cabs, gas lights and God forbid, an increasing array of pubs! Just how great is the urban sprawl? Our elder son, Christopher, laughingly quips that we will soon require our own power grid!  Would that be DVPG, Marion?

And so we begin what will require the better part of a day to complete, our annual rebuild. Jim takes on the electrical challenge; me, the arrangement of buildings, trees, people and vehicles.  My task is tickled by memories of Morgan and Zachary, at each age, studying and commenting on life in our little village. With individual pieces placed, I pause and imagine a story. My writing teacher has been encouraging me; perhaps there are some short children's stories within our miniature Christmas town just waiting to be told. 

A day of rebuild, a day of deconstruction - for such a short time, why bother? One glimpse at the wonderment and joy shining in Morgan and Zachary's faces each year and our construction industry work is more than worth it.  For me, the magic is woven on Christma Eve. Christmas tree lit, carols playing, fireplace aglow, a glass of wine in hand, and the twinkling lights of our Dickens' Village find me transported back to another time and place. A time and place where a mean spirited, miserly old man learns to honour Christmas with all his heart, with kindness, with generosity and with warmth. "Too much wine", you say.  I know it to be the magic of the season.

Notes on photos:
The swearing electrician and his favourite Melancoly Tavern. You can just see Scrooge's shadow through the window.
I would then take you on a tour. Shrink down and here we go! We move though the densely populated city, past finer homes and skating rinks, into the countryside and finally reach the Thames.
The final four photos are my favourites: the skating rink with snowmen and a tree lighting, the skiff rental on the Thames, the graveyard with the gathering of Scrooge's ghosts, and finally the farm with its animals and the roasting of fish over a fire.