Erin's Journals

Monday, May 27, 2024

Just a thought… If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. [Maya Angelou]

As we approach these final days of May and head into the sweet month of June and my favourite season, there are changes in the wind, of which you know if you follow here. (Twitter length: after four years here, our grandkids and their parents are moving back to Ontario in the week ahead.)

To mitigate the sadness, as is our way (what we did after losing Lauren – leaving the area), Rob and I decided to start a fresh chapter: last Thursday we took possession of a condo on the oceanfront in Sidney-by-the-Sea, about a ten-minute drive from our current home, which went up for sale the same day.

But there’s an emotional speed bump that we didn’t foresee: the effect that selling this house would have on the kids, especially Colin, who’s older and more in touch with his developing emotions. He told us he was bummed that we’re leaving this place. And after thinking about it, it became crystal clear to me as to why.

When I was a kid in a Canadian Armed Forces family, we moved around a lot. In Grade Five I was in three different schools in separate locales: England, Alberta and Ontario. (I’ve always used that year as an excuse for my sub-par math skills.)

The constant in my childhood was my grandparents’ home in Turner Valley, Alberta. Thanks to a free seat on a military 7o7 or Hercules transport plane (loud and uncomfortable but the price was right), I’d get to visit them many summers and stay for weeks on end.

It was in their tiny turquoise house below a golf course, at the end of a rough, pitted road that flooded over seemingly every spring thanks to the nearby Sheep Creek, that some of my best adolescent memories were made. Whether they were learning to golf, getting my feet wet (figuratively) playing bridge with my grandmother and her friends on ladies’ day at the club, or getting wet (literally) at the town pool – arrived at by crossing a decrepit and scary swinging foot bridge – days were filled with a hammock full of moments that stayed with me for life.

When I was an adult, Rob and I made one of our pilgrimages back to Alberta and drove the hour or so from Calgary to the tiny oil town of my and my parents’ childhoods. We had arranged with the new owner of that old turquoise house for us to pay a visit; I wanted to go inside and experience the place again.

When we pulled off the still-awful road and into the driveway, I saw that the house exterior had changed. Of course it had! They’d put on beige siding and modernized the place that my grandfather had built himself back in the 1930s.

That’s when my heart dropped into my stomach. If the outside had been altered, what had they done inside the house?

Were the checkerboard tiles, on which I could still hear my grandmother’s Tender Tootsies clacking as she made popcorn on her gas stove, still in the kitchen? Was the old piano, around which we had gathered for music nights with a guitar (or two), sax and microphones, still there? Were the bathroom sink and tub still that pastel green? And the big fridge with the sideways lever handle – had it gone, too?

Of course they probably had, but I didn’t want to see for myself. I wanted to protect my memories, just as Colin wanted always to picture us living in the house where Jane first crawled, and where he and his sister played hockey, baseball, soccer, UNO and Bingo with us for hours on end. He wants to remember the dogs excitedly running up and down the halls when their own dog, Sammy, arrived. He wanted to remember the birthdays and Christmases, the shared meals and the raucous laughter.

These are all things we want to remember, too. And we will try hard to make sure that the new place is fun for them if and when they come to visit.

We’ve tried to explain to him that we couldn’t stay here for the exact reasons he wants us to: the memories. Even the sweetest stories have to come to an end, but we can have a hand in making sure the ending is a happier one.

And the best news? On the weekend we took the kids to the condo and they absolutely LOVED it. Playing hide and seek in its bathrooms, closets and storage spaces, running around and exploring and discovering, a big game of softball out on the lawn between our building and the ocean with our friend Nancy’s two grandsons? New memories are already being made!

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Rob WhiteheadMonday, May 27, 2024