Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
For Patricia Cook, the memory of her late father is never stronger than during the holiday season at her Albert Street home.
There, taking up much of the space in the family’s dining room, sits an elaborate Christmas village surrounded by blue panels that Patricia and her husband Adam inherited after the passing of her father, Norman Ford, of Thorndale, last December, just shy of his favourite day of the year.
It consists of approximately 200 individual pieces spread across the surface of a covered ping-pong table – houses, figurines, trees, skating rinks, mountains and two working trains – and has become a regular stop for many friends, family and neighbours during the holidays.
“Everyone comes to see it. We have our neighbours, my sisters from Ingersoll, people from work are coming too,” says Patricia.
While it has undoubtedly taken hundreds if not thousands of dollars to reach its present state, the village, says Patricia, is invaluable – a reminder of a man who lived for Christmas and imparted that unbridled love onto his children and, years later, his grandchildren.
“My dad was always big Christmas person,” says Patricia. “When Christmas came around it was family, family, family.
“We used to rent a hall and decorate and have a big meal,” she adds. “Christmas has always been a big thing to my family.”
Patricia says her father started small with the village and continuously added to it every chance he got.
“He started out when I was a kid on a bookcase,” she recalls, “and it just kind of got bigger and bigger.”
Some of the original pieces, like a three faded houses, still have a place, even if they now stand in stark contrast to the newer, shiner houses that light up with fibre optics and play holiday tunes.
Despite being the youngest of many siblings, Patricia was a natural fit for the village after her father passed away, given her husband’s penchant for building the miniature displays as well.
His village sits upstairs, and like his late father-in-law’s, has grown considerably over the years.
“(My husband) always said he was going to have a bigger (display) than my father had,” jokes Patricia.
“It’s something that is close to me at Christmastime,” adds Adam. “It’s not just about presents and commercialization.”
Rather than have two villages, Adam is contemplating connecting the two into one larger display for next year.
There’s only on problem.
“If we put our set down here too we wouldn’t be able to get into the dining room,” he adds, with a laugh.
Patricia says a day hardly passes that she doesn’t think about her father, especially at this time of the year and certainly not with the village just feet from their front door.
“Whenever you start thinking about the holiday season, remember Norman, it was his favourite time of year,” says Patricia, reading from a poem she wrote last year after her father’s death. “For every decoration placed with care, think of him ... because he will always be there.”