I can still remember my first apartment like it was yesterday. It was a cute one bedroom in a trendy neighbourhood, walking distance to the beach, restaurants, bars, and all the other essentials. My rent was cheap compared to most places these days. Having my first apartment meant independence. I could do anything I damn well pleased! I loved living on my own, “my house, my rules.” I hosted parties, a few romantic dinners and many coffee mornings with the girls. To say my need to decorate or make improvements would be an understatement. I couldn’t wait to go home with my new “this” or “that”, hanging artwork or proudly displaying a new soap dish found at the latest niche store. In the mean time, my stack of interior design magazines grew by the day. I would spend hours pouring over every detail, making a mental note of the latest trends. Too bad my paycheques didn’t grow at the same rate. There would be several more apartments, these I would share with my soon to be husband. My passion for design continued, I was borderline obsessed in making our home together perfect. I wanted it to be just right.
I loved our first house as a married couple, a character home in the city with newly finished hardwood floors, a large sunny back yard and lots of room for our family to grow. Money was tight, so I learned how to decorate on a budget, lol, ok, you got me! I wasn’t great with the budget, but I did know where to spend my money and where to save. We added beautiful crown mouldings and painted all the rooms in a sophisticated colour palette. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do, elevating our drab beige walls and turning our home into the jewel we knew existed.
I had a new appreciation for gardening, it was free to do and fun to hang out with the kids at the same time. I stocked up on landscaping books and learned through trial and error; my garden became another passion and extension of our home.
Five years later, during a hot real estate market, we sold our house. It was an emotional move, leaving our close friends behind and crossing two bridges, which felt like a hundred miles away. We arrived at our new neighbourhood, a beautiful waterfront community with city views in the distance, reminding us that we were still close to civilization. Our new home was an ambitious project; I had so many ideas, but knowing where to begin was even a greater challenge. It was a busy time with young kids, and I was desperate to make our house a fabulous home.
We couldn’t afford a proper renovation at the time, so our massively over grown garden took priority, it became my new obsession. It was cheaper than tearing walls down or removing the roof for a more favourable floor plan. Instead, I enlisted the help of a landscape designer, who over the years became a good friend, love how that happens! Every year he would help me with another garden bed or finesse anything that didn’t work. This was definitely one of my happy places, hands in the dirt, picking weeds.
I met most of our neighbours while I was outside gardening; most would stop to chat with me, commenting and admiring my hard work. I’m sure many of them thought I was crazy for tackling such an arduous project. Gardening was always a good distraction. I never complained and always looked forward to a hard days work. As the years went by, these same neighbours would become some of our closest friends. There were many celebrations in that garden which brought us together. I don’t miss the hard work, but I miss the garden and the friends.
It took nearly ten years to finally commit to an extensive home renovation, it was worth the wait, giving me the satisfaction of bringing my vision to life. It was a long haul, but it turned out exactly how I imagined, bittersweet in the end.
Tomorrow I will move my 97-year-old mother to a senior home. I can’t imagine what might be going through her mind; actually, I can. It would be scary, but she’s putting up a strong front for which I admire. She’s slowed down considerably, age has caught up to her, but not without a fight. We’ve had random conversations about “one day when she’s gone” and “heaven” which makes me sad, but, it’s a reality at her age. Packing her personal belongings for her new smaller home, it’s clear, she needs less and less. Most of her treasured chachkas go in the “giveaway” pile rather than the “to take” pile, a lifetime, ending up in a box for charity. Even her clothes are minimal, taking only what fits properly, and she’s not wanting to pack anything fussy. My mom isn’t interested in making her place “just right” or needing one last “thing” to make her place perfect. In this situation, less is more, packing her final box with a few doilies, wooden spoons made by a favourite uncle, a bible and a pincushion that she made years ago, save for one day. It occurs to me, all she needs or wants are a few precious select items. She doesn’t need “stuff” to make her happy; she has her memories. My mom has always been a strong, independent woman. As her daughter, it was hard to watch her willingness to surrender this independence for a new way of life, albeit, not entirely. My mom is well aware of her significant lifestyle change and how it will impact her. It’s not surprising; she is strong, always optimistic, and ready to embrace her new home. She’s not giving up. She’s moving on.