Terry Campbell holds a magnifying glass up to his right eye. A light shines from it as he reads information from a sheet of paper.
“Hundred and eighty-four people… 73 animals… there’s 391 trees… 28 birds… and 76 structures.”
He’s counting all the items that make up the display of Christmas miniatures which takes up the entire dining room in his Chilliwack home.
The attention to detail is incredibly impressive, especially considering his eyesight.
“He has been legally blind since 2018,” his wife Kay said.
The Christmas miniatures display started back in 2007 when Terry still had decent vision. They were out shopping around Christmastime and Kay saw a small display of some miniature buildings set up in a store in Maple Ridge.
“She said ‘I really like those.’ And I thought ‘That’s good because you’re getting them for Christmas now,’” he recalled. “I didn’t have her Christmas present yet.”
He bought her three buildings – a pet shop, a chapel and an art gallery – plus 21 trees.
That small display grew slowly over the next 15 years to what it is today: a winter wonderland of tiny, snowy scenes that one could almost step right into.
A ski lift moves chairs and gondolas up and down a mountain while, at the bottom, a parade marches through the village. The train rolls around Santa’s lit-up amusement park and then through a tunnel. Across the village, people are ice skating and playing hockey, while others stay warm beside tiny campfires. There are rows and rows of houses and shops, plus a fire station, an outdoor stage, the ‘KOLD’ radio station and so much more.
Many things light up, play music or make sounds.
It is magical.
“I tried to keep it somewhat realistic in terms of how would a town be laid out,” Terry said.
All of the roads and walkways connect. It is built with stairs and ramps so the figurines, if they were real, could access every area of the village.
Terry needs to be within inches of what he’s working on to see things clearly.
Years ago, his right eye was his bad eye. In 2018, he got an infection in his left eye and his retina was removed. Now he can’t see anything out of his left eye.
“The other eye was his bad eye, now it’s the good eye,” Kay said.
For the past four years, Terry has been legally blind.
People are considered legally blind if their best eye has 20/200 vision or less with the help of glasses or contact lenses. Someone with 20/200 vision means they cannot be more than 20 feet away to see what a person with normal vision can see from 200 feet away.
Terry still works part time at Home Depot in the outdoor lot. He can see larger objects well enough to identify them, but he can’t see details or describe what people are wearing or what they look like.
“I can find the people and I can avoid the cars, so that’s really what I need to do there.”
Despite his poor vision, it doesn’t stop Terry from continuing to add to the Christmas display every year.
“It’s a challenge. Anytime I have something that challenges me because of my eyesight, I decide ‘Well, let’s take a shot at it, see how bad I screw it up.’”
On the day The Chilliwack Progress visited the Campbells, there was one tree knocked over in the village, and that was it.
“He does all the setup himself and he’s a perfectionist, too,” Kay said.
The display has actually been up for much longer than expected because of a few issues: a foam mountain they made for the ski hill took longer than expected to build, there was a flood in their basement where they store all the miniatures, and COVID.
“I haven’t had my dining room for, well, it’ll be three years after Christmas this year,” Kay said.
It’s not just the Campbells who’ve enjoyed it over the past several Christmases. Every year they open their door to neighbours, family, friends and sometimes visitors in their housing complex to come and take a peek.
“I do it as much for the seniors as I do for the kids,” Terry said.
And he does it because he loves it so much and it’s fun, he added.
“That’s why I still do woodworking, too, and I still have all 10 fingers.”
The Christmas miniatures display will be taken down after the holidays this year and will go back up again next year. It takes about two to three months to set it up.
Kay is looking forward to that day.
“She would like to have her dining room back. She’s been very patient, I understand that,” Terry said with a smile.