Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.” Charles Dickens
I’ve struggled with the notion of ‘home’ ever since leaving mine in Edmonton AB at age 18. For a decade I sampled cities and towns, even the backwoods of BC, across Canada, returning to our family house when I needed a safe place to be for a while. Eventually my parents sold the house, deeming it too big for empty-nesters, and rented an apartment downtown with a glorious view of the river valley. To their surprise, one son from Calgary and my dad’s brother from Brandon opted to move in with them. Then a few months later I too relocated from Calgary to their apartment, bumping the two male transients. Sorry Rick and Uncle John!
At this stage I embraced Edmonton, seeing the city through a different lens from my youth, and along the way I also embraced Glen. Like me, Glen had lived in Ontario but relished being in Western Canada. We vowed to make a good life in Alberta, but then … A job opportunity arose for Glen at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville QC. Back to Eastern Canada.
OUTSIDERS MOVING IN
Geographically, we moved 2400 miles away; psychologically and emotionally, we entered a strange new world. We encountered linguistic challenges — given our rudimentary high school French — and social ones. For example, when the Principal found out about our illicit (read unmarried) relationship, he withdrew a dinner invitation. Later on our adopted, biracial son met prejudice, as did individuals who ‘came out’ in this rather parochial community. Because theatres seldom showed English language movies and language laws prohibited English subtitles on international ones, we welcomed the advent of VCRs. I won’t discuss Quebec politics and the agonizing referendum of 1995, though will say I came to appreciate the rise of the Parti Quebecois and the passage in 1977 of Bill 101.
Glen and I determined to accentuate the positive. We created a nurturing environment for our children, formed wonderful friendships, established rewarding careers, enjoyed two dozen Christmas vacations in Toronto thanks to my brothers’ hospitality, developed decent tennis games, and cherished holidays with family and friends in Northeastern USA. In short, we made ourselves happy.
We also owned two houses in Lennoxville, the second one — which we loved — for 22 years. But a house alone is not a home. Home is more than a building. It’s the place where what lies outside us best matches our inner needs and values. Although Glen and I knew we’d move on in retirement, we wondered where to go? Where to find home after 30 years away from our beloved West?
Serendipity played a role in our discovery of a new place to live. In 2011 we rented a condo for two weeks in downtown Vancouver so I could attend workshops at SFU and Glen a few CFL games. Although we rented a car at the airport, we walked everywhere. On the fifth day we strolled over to the Vancouver Art Gallery to view an exhibition on surrealism. Then we walked to the VanCity Theatre to watch Bobby Fischer Against the World. We discussed the exhibit and documentary while dining at Glen’s favourite White Spot, a restaurant founded in Vancouver in 1928.
That night walking back to our rental unit, I experienced an epiphany and stopped suddenly to announce: “Let’s move to Vancouver.” “Really”? mumbled a stunned Glen. “Yes, really.”
Since Glen grew up in East Vancouver, we visited the city most summers, staying with his parents in the family house. He hoped to return to his birthplace, even after his parents died, but didn’t think I’d choose it in our sunset years. We phoned our children in Toronto to tell them of our proposed move. Disappointed we wouldn’t be closer to them, they nonetheless accepted our plan or at least acknowledged the attraction of Vancouver.
On our return to Lennoxville we launched The Relocation Project. Stay tuned for more about this venture. After all, Glen and I are not alone in undertaking a move in retirement. •