It started as a run-down rental unit owned by a local slum-lord who thought she was doing people a favour by allowing them to rent this place for below market value. When we purchased the place our shoes didn’t come off for a week until we could rip up the red shag carpet that was dirty and reeked of animal urine and feces. We pulled several truck loads of household garbage out from underneath the trailer because apparently putting the garbage out on the curb for community pick-up was not an option. And when the heavy rains came, and there was a sheet of water pouring down on the inside of our back door, we still were not fazed or scared off, because in all of it we saw the potential of the place.
It was the second trailer in on a cul-de-sac of other trailers. Each of us owned the land and the trailer. Our place was the worst on the block. Our neighbours all had significant improvements and when we began to fix up the place we were never short on compliments from everyone on what we were doing. This cul-de-sac was located in a quiet corner of the city, away from major intersections, close to a couple schools, a park, and a corner store. It was also close to the highway leading out of the city and the view from our back yard showed off the tallest mountain in the valley.
There were monuments to a grander time in the life of this place. The entire backyard was comprised of a rather sophisticated system of raised garden beds, now since long neglected and beyond repair. There was a garden shed crammed into the corner of the back yard and several overgrown shrubs that lined one side of the fence line. The neighbours behind us had a large weeping tree, which offered a safe harbour for the birds and some shade on both sides of the fence.
Over the next couple of years this run-down trailer was transformed. We tore up all the flooring, gutted the kitchen, redid the bathroom, upgraded plumbing, and electrical, did some furnace work, built a huge addition, which ended up being the master bedroom complete with a walk-out to a patio in our back yard. We replaced a bunch of windows, installed air-conditioning, built a new front porch and a new fence. We sided the entire place, and re-did the entire yard with new sod and new plants. I built a heart-shaped garden by our front pathway, and we had tulips and roses planted everywhere.
The old neglected trailer turned into a warm and very welcoming home where we brought three of our children home from the hospital. The home was bright, inviting, and our little piece of paradise. We would entertain friends and family here, celebrated the holidays here, and gradually got to know a bunch of our neighbours. Even though I was struggling emotionally as I was working through my past trauma and loss, this home was my retreat – a place where I could sit on our swing, on our deck, with my wife late at night, enjoying a treat from the local pizza place, just staring at the stars.
When my brother died, his truck ended up sitting in my driveway, a consolation prize for his departure, and yet, as painful as it was to see his truck sitting there for the short time that I had it, it also brought a sense of comfort to me in the context of my home. It was as if he had visited this place – as he never got to see the finished product – family sharing in the joy of one another – the milestones of life, so to speak. When I finally sold the truck to one of his friends, it was only after I had a chance to say goodbye, like a long extended visit from a loved one whom you haven’t seen for years.
Quite often my wife would be loading up the children for a walk downtown or to a friend or family’s place, and the sight of this woman pulling a wagon with at least one child along for the ride, with the others walking in single file behind her, drew some curious glances along the way. This parade of such would become even more popular if it was a journey to the grocery store and on the way home there was at least one of the children using all of their strength to carry a four-liter jug of milk, the size of it almost the same size as their upper body.
We didn’t mind. After all, we had our magical place where we could all retreat back to. In this place we started homeschooling our children, my wife having the opportunity to teach all of our children how to read, how to write – quite often I would arrive home after work to find at least one of the children sitting at our dining room table with some books in front of them, looking very academic, while my wife was busy with other projects or crafts or cooking up something delicious in our kitchen.
It was idyllic.
In the midst of life’s storms and in those early years when a young married couple were learning how to love one another, how to communicate to one another having come from completely different families, and how to raise children in the midst of it all – we had our quaint little home on a cul-de-sac to remind us daily of what was really important in life. Out of all the places I have ever lived and all the homes I had lived in – it was this one that I have loved the most.