We spent the weekend on Vancouver Island. Just the two of us travelled on BC Ferries this time, our teenagers don’t want to tag along anymore. Empty nesters we soon will be. Our home, that the kids will take flight from is the only one they have known. In contrast, the timeline of my childhood was marked by moves. I can’t say which way was better. We don’t really get a choice in the matter, anyway. Life circumstances dictate which path a family will follow.
My parents were very young when they started a family with me. As my Dad got better paying jobs in the oil industry, we moved up into larger homes with room to accommodate all three children. Sometimes the moves were local enough that I didn’t have to change schools, but often they were not. Many times I was the new kid, standing at the front of the classroom.
Over the years, I have spent many hours walking through rooms of a house, representing somebody else’s life. The family photos on the mantle, the various ways they entertain themselves, lonely pets walking around wondering what is going on. These are but a few of the clues which you can pick up to tell you what the story of the house is. All of this is to understand, what was it like to live here? This is an important type of scavenger hunt.
Normally the owners are not home. Real estate agents make appointments with enough advance notice so that people can clean up and clear out. This past Saturday, one of the properties we looked at, the owner was home. A bit of a miscommunication and for a moment I thought we might not be able to go inside. From the outside, I couldn’t see past the moss growing everywhere. In my mind, I thought the inside of the house would be a disaster or a tear down, as they say.
My husband had arranged 3 properties for us to look at. The first one was really about the land as the ‘home’ was a one room situation built by the owner. For the time it was built, the massive composting toilet which took up half the bathroom must have caused quit a stir with the local ‘live of the land types’. But, technology has improved immensely since the late 1990s. In my mind, that little dwelling would have been converted to a tiny house, if it would remain at all.
As we approached the second house, it was emphasized that the steeply pitched roof covered in moss was made of metal. That meant it would not have to be replaced, necessarily. The extensive decking around the home was covered in the green slime which grows over a winter in the rain forest, although I suspected the surface had not received a good scrub in many years. There was a sad looking hot tub that once offered an amazing view of the water with a relaxing soak. Various gardens sat in neglect and the wooden pathway down the high bank to the beach deck looked too sketchy to navigate. There was evidence of a boat down there, covered with a tarp.
When the owner did let us in, he retreated to the kitchen table and we tiptoed through, whispering as we went as to not disturb too much. The three level home was built in such a way that there was a surprise space around every corner. It was not large, by conventional standards, but there was so much space. It felt a little like being in a Harry Potter book. Maybe the house was getting larger as we walked through it?
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” -Maya Angelou
As we opened every door and looked into the nooks and crannies, it became evident that this place had been carefully designed, built and loved. There was once, 4 children and 2 parents enjoying the space. I could see the summer parties when the trees were smaller, the fading sun on a warm evening. Food cooking on the outdoor brick grill, cocktails held in hands perched over the railing soaking in the view. Later, when everyone else had retired or departed and the whole event had been tidied up, the owner and his wife might enjoy the last minutes of the day from the warm water nestled into the corner of the deck.
That would have been before the modern house was built next door. The garage of this newcomer, tucked right up on the property line with a few feet to spare towards the house with the steep mossy roof. It would have been when the children still tucked away into their little corners each night and the wife still stirred the soup in the big pot, under the sky light in the kitchen. All that is left of those times are memories. Some are captured in the photos on the walls, others are tumbling around with the owner. “It is time for a change,” he told me.
It will take a lot of time and money to bring the steeply pitched, mossy roof home back to life. I can see it all. Each space transformed and set to right. Bringing the spirit of the space back to life with hard work would be an enjoyable way to spend a few years. Then one day, host the same kind of garden party as I imagine took place there so long ago. But, this will not be our destiny. At one time, it might have been. I can see it all unfolding, with the love and dedication of another family.
The last house we looked at was staged to look a certain way. Nobody lived there anymore. The rooms didn’t tell the story of the owner, even though the realtor tried hard to spin a tale of what the space could become. I could easily picture myself living in this ‘blank slate’ kind of place, just as I could imagine anyone else doing the same. Nothing was calling out to me from the large spaces. I was not being drawn into the scene of what a life in that space could be like. I was standing in an architectural design, not a family home.
I want our next living space to be as welcoming as our current one. By making the final move to the island, we will be as far West as one can go in Canada. When our friends and family come to visit I want them to feel like they can relax for awhile. But, more importantly, I want to experience all sorts of lovely moments in my home. Winter rain on the roof, sunshine cascading into the windows and cozy outdoor places to stop and ponder. It doesn’t seem like much to ask for, but it is surprisingly difficult to find.
The search continues. We have time. A couple more years at least. But, it passes so quickly now. Moving day will be upon us before we know it. Or we stay put. Could go one way or the other.
If you feel inclined to experience the start of fall here in my hometown, stay-tuned to dailycreatives. I am preparing for the first CreaSpaTreat September 20-22, 2019.
CreaSpaTreat is an immersive, retreat experience. Treat yourself to practice creativity in this beautiful setting. Enter a unique space, without life’s regular distractions. Ten like-minded women will gather in Crescent Beach & White Rock to share, learn, socialize and exercise our hearts and minds.
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