How the need for change led to selling and moving on

It was when I saw the “for sale” sign at the front yard entry of our home that I felt in my gut the full depth of the relationship I have to this place.

Twenty years ago, with a humble profession in Edmonton’s arts and culture sector and the financial backing of my family, I accepted stewardship over the two-story, boarded-up brick house at 11635 95A St. 

Though neglect and abuse cast a hard shadow on the whole property, a visceral connection captivated me. All that wear and tear was a minor distraction to the true nature I saw so clearly beneath. I could feel the house breathing. I sensed the strength in her bones. 

Seeing potential in old homes and furniture was a gift from my mother. She always acknowledged soul and spirit—whether in a piece of wood, a building, or in a person. 

We grew up with a deep appreciation for the beauty of age and character. 

This house and neighbourhood welcomed such appreciation. In return, its colourful reflection of humanity offered an abundance of riches.

For the first decade, I embraced dismantling and reconstructing my new environment— observing and exploring each raw layer and all the pieces of story revealed. As a young socially-engaged producer, the house, even stripped down to the 100-year-old fir studs, provided a secure container for a life of creative projects and reflection on social issues. 

I felt no time pressure in making the house perfect. To be honest, the rawness intrigued me. It needed time to air out, to breathe without the shackles of abuse. I allowed the house its space and it gave me mine. There were many photoshoots, tickle trunk parties, and meaningful porch conversations. The house shaped me as much as I shaped it, as did the neighbourhood. I steered my life from here. Simultaneously, a community tapestry was weaving itself together through inspired initiatives and good-hearted people.

When I became pregnant, my gaze shifted to a more intimate zone of home and community life. I went into nesting mode with an ambitious renovation plan that was declared complete with the early arrival of my daughter in February 2009. 

As a new mother, I leaned into the assets of the neighbourhood. My daughter and I were embraced by an accepting network of genuine people who shared values of art, diversity, inclusion, and social care. We belonged in this nourishing community that celebrated artistic expression and engagement with humility and without shame.

Lida grew up swinging in a backyard hammock and hopping through the community garden. Annual rituals were co-created on the grandest of neighbourly scale thanks to Arts on the Ave. Our life was delightfully animated by clowns and horns and songs. Our home was steeped in a community of beloved characters. 

All this made it easy to ignore an intuitive inner-calling for change. For years, I hushed the voice that persisted, “It is time to move”. 

Only after honouring my kitten angel Rakshita (and house companion since the beginning) with a calm, loving, and natural home death did I accept it was time to release the house to another and move on.

Now I step forward, grateful for the way this chapter is closing. I know from experience that the weavings of authentic community do not unravel when you take a brave leap. In fact, it is often the strength of community that gives the courage to leap. 

Like a handprint in concrete, I know that imprints of us will remain in the texture of this place just as it is forever imprinted in us.

Featured Image: Shelaine Sparrow (left) lived in her Alberta Avenue home for 20 years before making the decision to leave. | Supplied