As I walk toward the house I’m confronted with a unique question: which door do I knock on? This house has two, side by side. Both are painted purple. One is normal size, the other, no higher than my ankle. I knock on the big one.
The home owner Peggy O’Brian greets me and says the small door is intended for pixies. I ask if one had ever visited. She says “many,” and laughs, “leprechauns too!” I smile.
We stopped at her house because the cameraman and I noticed how she had transformed the car in her driveway (which I’ll tell you about soon). We didn’t expect her to have a passion for transforming everything.
After smiling about the doors, O’Brian invites us in to see the table she’s transformed in her front entrance.
“It was just an old, beat-up piece of furniture I found on the side of the road, all broken down. So I looked at it and I thought, ‘those are zebra legs.’ So it became a zebra.” She’s painted the table’s slender legs white with black stripes, attached a black tail to the small drawer, and created a lifelike head on top of it all. Again – we smile.
Then we head back out through the big door to find out about the transformation that originally piqued our curiosity. Peggy has covered the roof of her car with rows of fabric flowers. The beds of colour stretch from the roof-rack to the antenna sticking off the back.
She says she gets a lot of different responses from other drivers when they stop at a red light next to her – ranging from surprise to smiles. No matter how they react to the flowers, she waves. They always wave back.
I ask the obvious: “Why?” She responds with another question: “Did you smile when you saw it?” I say, ‘I did,’ and wonder aloud, “Is it as simple as that? You want to make people smile?” She says, “Yes. It’s as simple as that.”
The Esquimalt artist and teacher says her vehicle “gets people out of their funk.” The car also stops its driver from falling into one.
O’Brian is waiting for a hip replacement and says the constant pain is so bad she wants to scream all the time. I ask why we haven’t heard her scream during our conversation. She says, “Because I have to be happy.”
But Peggy doesn’t have to be happy. She is choosing to be happy. Just like she’s choosing to have two purple doors, to turn tables into animals and to create a car that commits random acts of drive-by happiness.
“Why do you transform things into happy Peggy?”
“Because the opposite isn’t healthy.”
I smile and wonder where we’d all go if we turned our lives in the direction of happy.
Adam Sawatsky is co-host of CTV News Vancouver Island at Five. On weekends, he hosts ‘Eye on the Arts’ on CFAX 1070.