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Posts Tagged ‘boomers starting over again’

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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Shortly after my last entry, my husband and I learned that we were eligible for a mortgage. It would take a leap of faith on the lender’s part and on our own, because we’d have a higher interest rate than people with solid jobs or flourishing businesses, but we couldn’t let the opportunity pass.

Immediately we started to search in a city where house prices are still affordable, and the commute to Toronto and the outlying areas reasonable. Because we were considering homes at the low end of the price scale, we saw some real disasters. Some were so bad that it would be cheaper to tear them down and start over, rather than try to renovate what was already there. We saw homes that looked wonderful online, but those pictures were carefully cropped to miss the dilapidated homes on the rest of the street, or the fifteen story apartment that loomed behind and put the entire house in its shade. There were a lot of estate homes – easily recognizable by the dated decor and overall neglect of an elderly person who doesn’t have the money or energy to redecorate or renovate. We saw one place we loved, only to be told that the corner three hundred metres away served as home base for most of the city’s prostitutes.

One particular older home charmed us, and we considered making an offer. A closer look showed dangerous undermining of the foundation, and other structural time bombs. Another old place was lovely inside, but the floor was so uneven you’d swear you were hung over as you moved from one room to the next. My husband, ever the optimist, believed he could raise the floor himself. He did the research, then we went back for a second look. That’s when he discovered that the supports at one end of the house were rotten, and that without a mega transfusion of cash, the house would eventually crumble.

Across the street and down a bit, we found another home – sturdy, stately, with tons of character and original features. It took just one short visit for us to fall in love with it.

The purchase has moved quickly because the house is vacant. I can’t tell you how excited I am. Over the years, we’ve owned three brand new homes, and another that was only six years old when we bought it. Between homes, we’ve been lucky enough to live with a close friend. Now, after two tumultuous years, we are embarking on an entirely new adventure, something we’ve never considered before: a home that’s over one hundred years old, in the middle of a city we are only beginning to know.

It’s a fresh start for us, and it begins tomorrow. Wish us luck.

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