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Posts Tagged ‘a new chapter in life’

We’ve now been in our new home for just over three weeks, and what a whirlwind it’s been! It seems that we’ve had barely a moment’s rest! But I’m not complaining . Compared to the sadness of leaving our last home and the limbo existence of the previous ten months, this is exhilarating.

The first five days here were a real challenge. It didn’t take us long to realize that we should have delayed the move by a week or so. First of all, my sister’s wedding was just four days later. There was a bachelorette party on Wednesday, the second day of our move, and a hair appointment for me on Thursday. Both meant a long drive back into the city. Each time, we made the rounds of friends’ homes where my husband still had things stored. Seriously, he could have easily filled a house all on his own, and my son had nearly as much to move. To give you an idea of just how disproportionate my husband’s and son’s possessions were compared to mine, someone said to me on the day of the move, “Are you sure you live here?”

The running around before the wedding wasn’t the only complication of the week. The biggest advantage of relocating later is that we could have cleaned first. I have never seen a house in such need of a good scouring. It had been sadly neglected for a long while – vacant for six months and before then owned by a widower who was in deep mourning over the loss of his wife. The house badly needed to be loved again, and that began with vacuuming and scrubbing things down.

Our furniture is now in place, and except for unopened boxes for the office, we are unpacked. We got a great deal on a used refrigerator that could pass for new. We’ve bought a few curtain rods, but no drapes yet. My husband has started to repair our double hung sash windows – original to the house. They must have ten layers of paint on them. They’re very hard to open and because the sashes are broken, they’re being held open by books. He’s removing all the paint and sanding them down to the original wood before repainting them. We’ve replaced locks on both windows and doors – almost all were faulty. We’ve fixed a leaky sink and replaced faucets, only to see that now, our water pressure in the kitchen is down to a trickle. Somewhere, there’s an obstruction.

The second-to-last owner was a big fan of big pot lights. Our bathroom alone has six of them, in addition to two wall lights. My kitchen has twelve of them, but only half of them work. None have covers, and many have wires hanging out. The wiring in this place is insane. We’re still trying to figure out why the lights on the staircase landing and second floor hallway don’t work. I have to use a flashlight to go up and down the stairs in the evening.

We’ve demolished most of the basement in preparation for new wiring. There is a walled off room that has us curious. Time capsule? Stash of money? Body hidden amidst the brick?

The most exciting work has been the complete transformation of our front and backyards. Okay, I’ll be honest. My job was just to supply food and beverages. My husband and sons did the serious labour. And what a wonderful job they did! Just looking at it makes me smile, and our neighbours are thrilled to see the changes.

The neighbourhood itself is a pleasant surprise. The area we’re in, which is just outside the downtown core, is built on a grid system. Daily walks with the dog are filled with new discoveries: heritage homes, gardens loaded with flowering plants that I’ve never seen before, stately homes that once belonged to the original “movers and shakers” of the city, and still show such pride of ownership. I take a different route almost every day. Cadeau, who’s never really experienced city life, is in paradise. Everywhere you look, people are walking their dogs; Cadeau stops every ten feet to pick up a new scent. Most nights, we head to Gage Park, a huge park just a few minutes’ walk room here. There are trees with trunks ten feet in diameter. There are gardens and a greenhouse, water features and playground equipment, a pink bandshell where summer performances take place and huge fountain that’s now being restored to its former glory.

This city has never had the best reputation. It’s quite solidly blue collar, home to Canada’s steel plants, once employing thousands. The view of the city from the highway is bleak. I used to watch the smoke and flames shooting from the chimney stacks of the refineries, and imagine that the air here must be awful.

The steel industry has had its share of troubles, and many have lost their jobs. The downturn has rippled throughout the city, particularly the downtown core. You can’t miss the businesses that have closed, or the higher than average percentage of poor people who appear malnourished, sometimes with signs of substance abuse problems. But this city seems to have a heart. The downtown core is peppered with services for the poor, the handicapped, the sort of person so easily forgotten and left to live on the streets in bigger cities.

We’ve seen that “heart” in the faces of strangers serving us in stores, and we’ve heard it in the voices of our neighbours. We’ve never felt more welcomed by a community. This is home, and after the difficulties of the past couple of years, this newfound contentment is almost euphoric.

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I’ve never really been a morning person. Sure, I can fake it when I have to, jumping out of bed at the first sound of the alarm, and moving through my “to-do” checklist like a “Stepford Wife” model of efficiency. But I’m moving just to stay awake. Sit me down for two minutes and I’m apt to nod off again. If it’s up to me, it’s late to bed, later to rise – usually a very civilized nine-thirty.

For the past ten days, I’ve had no choice in the matter. My husband has started a new job, and since he’s still on crutches, he needs my help in the morning. Otherwise, he’ll end up “ass over teakettle,” as his dear mum used to say. And because this will be his schedule indefinitely, I’m forcing myself to stick to it too. It gives me more time to think.

Now that spring is here, our home is on the market again, and I spend my days either compulsively cleaning the house to impress prospective buyers, or searching online for our next place to live. I feel like an anxious little mother robin, trying to figure out where to build her next nest.

We’ll be downsizing, and the verdict is out on whether we’ll move further into the country, where homes are less expensive, or closer to urban centres, where there are more job opportunities. Weighing the pros and cons of each is exhausting, and it’s tinged with a sense of loss. This move is based on practicality, not simple wanderlust, and so far nothing I’ve seen online makes the decision any easier.

It was beautiful outside this morning, and a moment of lucidity hit me when I carried my husband’s coffee to his car and reminded him to drive safely. The reality is that each day that passes is one less in this much-loved country home, and I’m not taking the time to appreciate it. So I walked inside, poured myself a coffee, grabbed the novel “Precious,” and joined my dog, Cadeau, and cat, Cleo, on our backyard deck. I’m glad I did.

By now, everyone knows the story of Precious, based on the attention generated by the screenplay. It is a story about survival against all odds, and the power of self-esteem. The heroine picks herself up from the worst of circumstances and begins to build a new life for herself. The last few pages of the book are pieces written by the girl and by her classmates, other young women struggling to get on track. I read those last pages this morning, and it set the perfect tone for my day.

I closed the book and looked around me, trying to remember the last time I gave myself permission to do this, just sit outside on an early spring day rather than plant myself in front of the computer or rush to finish chores. Why have I wasted these so many mornings when I could have been here, feeling the sun and listening to the birds on my backyard deck?

On our first day in this home, I remember waking to their singing. It was a striking change from the city, and I wondered if I’d ever be able to sleep through their early morning cacophony. Over the years, I’ve come to take their concert for granted, but today, I heard them again as if for the first time. I tried to identify the source of the diverse dialects. A blackbird atop the birch? The small yellow songbirds high in the willows? The killdeer on the slope at the back? The robins near the front of the house, gathering materials for their nest? There were so many more whose names I never bothered to learn.

I felt a wave of regret, but shook it off. Like the heroine Precious, we all move through different chapters in our lives. Sometimes, we’re pulled there, kicking all the way. Leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar is never easy, but it comes down to this: we can choose to remain mired in the past and mourn its loss, or we can rejoice in all the blessings we still have and look to the future. No matter how uncertain life can be, there will always be sunny April mornings, and the birds will still be singing their morning song.

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