Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reflections on a small change as a considerable transformation...shared with a loving partner

Up-rooted, discombobulated, disoriented, dizzy and exhausted....these are just a few of the words that begin to describe a household move, involving the departure from and entry into three bedroom dwellings, after six years of gathering "stuff" that seemed important and worthy of its acquisition at the time, yet often on reflection, not so much!
Nearly one hundred boxes of books, those rectangular arrangements of paper, sometimes with hard covers, often the cheaper "paper-back", another half-century of "files" including university papers, reports, reviews, and sloppy piles of journalistic efforts of the mostly editorial kind....evoking memories of a world now gone, when the word digital was merely a "smile" in the incubator of a few tech companies, not ready for prime time, and clearly not ready for mass marketing....these formed dividing walls in a mover's van segregating furniture from wardrobes, china cabinets from fireplaces, and bedroom suites from book shelves and patio chairs from keyboards.
Months ago, a respectable professional real estate agent commented, "If it's about the money, sell first and then purchase without the condition of the sale of your residence. If its about the "falling in love" with the new place, then you have to purchase conditionally on the sale of your current property."
Impatient romantics that we are, both my wife and I, there really was no debate about which category we would fall into (perhaps accept some form of predestination would be more accurate!) We had been looking, intermittently, for a more restful, pastoral, and reflective piece of real estate, as compared with the city-centre townhouse we had inhabited comfortably for these past few years. In-town, out-of-town,  on water, in a forest, on a farm, a cabin, a cottage, a "reno" project of another's hands....always the discussion was urged along by a central question about how far we wanted to "commute" including naturally the rising cost of fuel, auto repairs, our calendar years, and inclement weather, especially following the marathon of snow and ice mother nature poured over south-eastern Ontario in the last twelve months.
And when we had almost given up on a search that seemed paralyzed between our champagne appetite and our lager fiscal resources, while ambling through some random listings on the internet, an address, with photos, crept onto the screen, late one night, after Michelle had retired after a long day in the office, and I was still snooping about what surprise might be lurking for an inverterate treasurer-hunter.
Some people haunt garage and sidewalk sales, antique shoppes and used furniture outlets, looking for their next "find" from a combination of perspectives including investment, conversation piece, the urge to restore a tired "artifact" into a once-again vibrant and nearly living element, for a shelf, a garage, a cabinet, or even a retirement residence. On the other hand, following directly and inexplicably in my mother's footsteps, (she who could literally not pass by a new housing development without venturing through the open walls and halls to inspect floor plans, and discover features of design she could and would later review critically, much to the fatigue of family listeners, and visitors who marvelled at the encyclopedic comparisons of architecture and interior design, I too have made something of a hobby of exploring residential opportunities, whenever and wherever they presented themselves. The one difference between mother and me is that whereas she was raised in a CNR boxcar in Brent, at the north end of Algonquin Park, her father serving as Roundhouse Manager and she and her mother as the only women in the "camp" of workers, I had the privilege of a home in a small town prior to university and following also lived in permanent residences, much more comfortable and accommodating than anything I could ever imagine from a boxcar.
So, when we learned that the latest "address" to crawl across the computer screen was hosting an open-house in an upcoming weekend, Michelle and I agreed to take another or our proverbial jaunts to discover its canvas, especially the impact its entry would have on each of us.
There were no other cars parked outside the property, late in the afternoon, when we rang the doorbell. To our surprise, a duo of agents greeted us, a mother and daughter, clearly present to help the afternoon go more quickly, and just in case one client required additional time and attention another could also be accommodated. Filled with furniture, including a substantial upright ebony piano, modest and eye-friendly appointments, the back-front-split opened up to two floors, one of bedrooms and bath, the other of a nearly 500 sq. ft. family room complete with gas fireplace. Shining hardwood floors, a contemporary colour-co-ordinated decorating scheme and a feeling of gentle and welcoming warmth and hospitality all left immediate and lasting impressions on both of us.
And then, to our surprise, because the information had not been included in the listing, a professionally designed patio and separate a private deck overlooked a small river viewed through the lens of four healthy and resonant pine trees standing tall along the rear fence.
We could hardly believe our eyes, and our shared reception of muted yet deep anticipation, still not expressed fully until we returned to the car and exhaled a joint "wow"!
Another perfunctory visit with our realtor, a visit with the banker to confirm eligibility, our prepared offer quickly accepted by the vendor, a listing of our townhome, and the process of beginning to envisage, however tentatively, the possibility of moving into this home on the river all ensued in a somewhat blizzard-like fashion.
A small number of offers on the townhome, conditional on the sale of other properties, an open house, and a small number of inspections by potential purchasers resulted in an accepted offer, conditional on the sale of another property, with a final date for the removal of that condition dotted our emotional and linear calendars for a few weeks, until three hours prior to the expiration of the offer.
And then, to our surprise, our realtor appeared with two pieces of information: first, another conditional offer ready for sign-back, and second, a text indicating that our purchasers had just that instant removed the condition of the sale of their property.
And just this week, the transforming move occurred that completed the process of changing our address and our perspective from the city to a small town, where greetings by friendly people, complete strangers, in the grocery store, the pharmacy, the hardware store, the flooring store, and the co-op have universally been welcoming, warm, friendly and generally relaxed. Neighbours too have been congenial and helpful in providing the necessary tutorials about recycling schedules and the like.
This little reflection is being tapped out on the same laptop, at the same desk with the same light, surrounded by many of the same books and furniture in which the nearly two thousand earlier pieces were generated, only in a room some twenty-five kms east of the earlier address, in a house on a dead-end street with only a half-dozen other homes, all of them adjacent to the river that flows through our new lives.
And, following some six weeks of wondering if this would be the way our little adventure unfolded, we can look back with thanks to the professional service from the realtor, the solicitor, the banker, the movers and the new neighbours. Of course, there was the occasional glitch when a document seemed to go missing temporarily; and naturally, there were the occasional moments when both Michelle and I wondered, silently and aloud, if our vision was to become our new home; and also very naturally, there have been hours of fatigue and some muscle strain, borne mainly by Michelle in the process of
underpinning the external developments with hard work of packing, marking boxes, directing movers and now the process of unpacking continues.
Each time we return to our new address, we are renewed in our conviction that we have made what is potentially a good decision for us and look forward to seeing the world from a slightly different perspective, one that includes trees, winds, water views and private spaces in almost complete silence...the kind of lens that becomes the autumn years of one's life....when the prominent sentiment, at least for me, after a rich, varied, often challenging and highly rewarding span of seventy-plus years can be and is only gratitude.

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