Huge custom Christmas display renews former teacher's sense of purpose
This is not a story about the eight Christmas trees inside Yvette’s house or the room upstairs that’s decorated all year round. This is a story about how she ended up focusing on the Christmas spirit “24-7, 365.”
“Christmas isn’t just a day,” Yvette smiles. “It’s a frame of mind.”
It begins in the early 1970s, when six-year-old Yvette spotted Santa and Rudolph on the roof of a house.
“I was star-struck!” Yvette recalls, not realizing then that the characters were made from painted plywood. “It was magical!”
It was a feeling of joyful discovery that — decades later — Yvette strived to inspire in her students as a teacher, until her 18-year-career was cut short by a debilitating autoimmune disease.
“It was really hard,” she says, fighting back tears. “Teaching was everything.”
It was like the Grinch had stolen her sense of self and purpose.
And then one day, while recovering from surgery, Yvette noticed a collection of old plywood Looney Tunes Christmas characters being sold online.
“It was like, ‘Oh my God!,’” Yvette recalls with a smile. “I had to get it!”
Although the characters ranged from Woody Woodpecker to Sylvester the Cat, their vintage look reminded Yvette of that rooftop Santa she saw as a kid. She decided to buy them and refurbish them.
“This was an outlet for me to take my mind off my pain,” she says of the process.
Although she was confined to her bed, Yvette turned it into a studio. Despite no previous propensity for creativity, she started hand-making her own yard art.
Throughout the year, she’ll craft four or five vintage characters to manage her pain, from Peanuts to The Flintstones.
“I was also wanting to give back to society still,” Yvette says. “Because I had this void of not teaching anymore.”
So — with her husband Trevor’s help — Yvette decided to publicly display her custom collection, which had grown to include more than 100 festive characters. Thanks to an additional 100 plastic “blow-mold” characters from the 1950s, their front lawn has been turned into a jam-packed and joyful travelogue, with stops including Whoville, The North Pole, and the Nativity.
This year’s display at 4360 Torquay Dr. in Saanich’s Gordon Head neighbourhood also includes a donation box for the SPCA.
“This display is for everyone,” Yvette says. “But it’s also a tribute to the students I’ve had in the past and the students I missed out having in the future.”
The display outside — unlike her family’s personal trees inside, or the year-round Christmas room that used to be the office she marked papers in — has proven to be an unexpected and priceless gift for Yvette. It’s presented her with a renewed sense of self and purpose.
“How can you not be happy when you’re thinking about how you’re going to make people happy?” Yvette smiles. “That’s what I want to do is making people happy.”
Yvette’s display also includes Santa and Rudolph on the roof, so a child like she once was might also be inspired to start thinking about Christmas as more than day, but a joyful frame of mind.