Growing up, I moved from one country to another and then from one town to another. One summer after arriving in Canada, we lived in a great boat of a car. There was enough room for me and my life-sized panda bear teddy in the back seat, along with all our worldly possessions. That was the summer I fell in love with the Alberta skies, which was all I could see as they rolled past the windows.
Despite my early nomadic existence, my father always stressed the importance of owning a piece of land. One reason we didn’t stay in England is because the land goes to the oldest son. I rejected any sense of permanency in my youth, and moved nearly every year until I was 30.
At 35, I had my first child. I thought I was settled, but then my world cracked open and suddenly I needed to find a home. With my heart broken and my eyes full of tears, I called out to the universe. I asked for two storeys (why I love a staircase when I bear two scars on my forehead when I flew too fast down the stairs, I don’t know) and a backyard. I asked for this home to be in Norwood (I wanted my children to attend that beautiful brick school), and to include a second suite for income. I asked for this home to be clean and ready enough so that I could birth my second child in two months.
I met my house on the first day of house hunting. In a market when houses were selling with no conditions within three days, she had been empty for over a month. When I think of it now, it’s so clear my prayer was answered and she was waiting for me. Two storeys. A backyard. In Norwood. A second suite. Clean and ready to live in.
Two months later, my son was born to the sound of thunder in a bright blue blow-up pool in the living room. My neighbour, bless her dear heart, stayed up until 1:40 am, knowing he and I were safe when he christened the house with his cries.
My relationship with that house feels unreasonable—who has a love affair with a house? But she has provided me and my children with safety and security. My eldest child asked me recently, “Were we poor when I was young?” I laughed, because by hard work and miracles, I had managed to keep our poverty from my children. They felt rich, secure, and loved by me and our house.
I had what I would call a vision or dream once. I am in the upstairs bedroom of my house—the room where the light filters yellow and green through the elm trees into the two big windows, and high enough you can see the blue of the Alberta sky over the crowns of the elms. In my vision, I am an old woman, and I am dying. I am surrounded by people I do not recognize. They are all young, but I know they belong to me. I am loved by them, and I am held by my house.