By Adam Sawatsky
We notice Santa’s derriere up there first. Our random search for a story for the bottom of the newscast has lead us to Mr. Clause attempting to climb-up a roof towards a chimney. Although Margaret says you can see the bright red, wooden cut-out from blocks away, what she looks at most is her holiday hippo.
“I want a hippopotamus for Christmas” she begins singing. When I wonder why, she responds with a shrug, “That’s just me. I’m goofy.”
Santa and the hippo are part of a herd of 90 eclectic characters that Margaret has hand-made to fill her small front yard on Alan Road. The videographer captures images of them all cavorting — Mickey and Sylvester, Tweety and Rudolph, Piglet and Frosty. There’s also a sign that says ‘Season’s Greetings from the Kids at Heart’. Margaret and her partner start setting up their seasonal display in mid-November. “It’s quite a production and it might be our last.” Every year she says that because of the cost, the time, and the discomfort. Her fingers don’t work anymore because of a surgery gone wrong.
It left her unable to do the job she’d once lived for. After 25 years of teaching children with special needs, Margaret found herself emotionally devastated and in chronic pain. But she endures doing the display, because of the smiles of the kids who keep coming back every holiday.
“I miss the kids. This is my gift to them.” She calls it a ‘thank you’ for all the joy they gave her. What Margaret wasn’t expecting was the gift she ends up receiving: “It alleviates my pain.” It felt so good that she slowly started sewing Christmas themed baby blankets and fabric books, which she donates to local charities.
“I just really believe that we should not be takers, we should be givers.” Although when I ask if there‘s one thing she would accept for herself, Margaret continues singing that song with a smile “Only a hippopotamus will do!”
— Adam Sawatsky is an Anchor/Reporter at CTV News Vancouver Island.