There are 70 lighted elements to the display, Murphy said. “All the houses are different.” For example, the stylized headquarters of the “Naughty or Nice Detective Agency” features a giant spyglass.
Murphy can’t help showing his excitement as residents knock on the door and are welcomed in to admire the work.
“It’s a lot better than last year,” one says. “My grandchildren would love this.”
“It’s just beautiful,” Joyce Thornburg said. “You gotta see the skiers.” She points with delight as a pair of them, apparently pulled along by hidden magnets, manage to ski down the slope and then up again. Similarly, skaters do turns and spins over a white pond.
Both Murphy and Pappalardo have lost their spouses. They’ve been together the last five years. She speaks of four grandchildren, while he has 17. Both live at Brooksby, and they enjoy the sense of family there.
All this started, however, 15 years ago when Pappalardo bought her first Department 56 house.
“I fell in love with one piece,” she said.
Over the years, her family would give her more houses as presents. The hobby really took off, however, when she got involved with Murphy. And when she seems a little overwhelmed by it, someone reminds, “You started it.”
“I started it,” she confesses.
As a nurse, she cared for people like John Wayne (“He was wonderful”), Katharine Hepburn (“Very eccentric”) and Bruins great Johnny Bucyk, whose muscles were so well-developed that Pappalardo couldn’t stick the needle in the usual place.
Murphy, who owned a company that produced a specialized detergent used to clean things like helicopters, is excited to have control of a whole village, even if it is scaled at a ratio of 1-to-87.
“He’s talking to it in the morning,” Pappalardo said, smiling at Murphy. “And he talks to it at night before he goes to bed. ... I’ve gone from No. 1 to No. 2.”