Downsizing

Downsizing

In preparation for our final move into a duplex for nine months – before we packed up everything to move to the middle of the prairies – we had a dilemma. We were a growing family, eight of us now, and student housing on campus was a four-bedroom trailer at best. It was clear that in order for us to prepare for this move we needed to get rid of a lot of our belongings. To help us with this transition we plotted out some space in our double garage, mimicking the floor space of a large moving van. Then as we were preparing to move from our home and into the duplex we began to stack our belongings into this floor space in order to help provide us with a visual on what we were going to keep and what we needed to get rid of.

The children often talk about this time in particular and never with kind words. It was apparent that this move was the hardest of them all. We all sacrificed something in order to make the move to the middle of the prairies. I don’t blame them for being bitter about this either. More than once I had wondered whether we made the right move. It is funny how life is that way, we are faced with decisions and in that moment – at least my experience of it – is that I don’t want to be the grown-up and make a decision. I want someone else to make the decision and I want it to be the right decision.

When we moved from the valley city to the middle of the prairies my oldest was entering those tween years – early adolescence where everything we say and do carries a profound and deep message around worth and value. It was exhausting to walk through, feeling like we owed them for wronging them the way we did in moving to the middle of the prairies. Such is parenthood I suppose. When you make the right decisions you are heroes and when you make the wrong decisions, well, you may have heard the phrase, “Hell hath no fury then a woman scorned”? – How about substituting in children.

Oh, it wasn’t all bad in that sense. They adjusted, eventually. They had to as life continued to race by all around them. And, for the most part, I am left with the understanding that all is forgiven and all is forgotten and that they are all well-adjusted now. But, every once in a while one of them will say something in a sideways comment or a brief reflection and what they say cuts so deeply I am taken aback. In those moments I am left to conclude that perhaps they did not adjust well at all.

It was hard back then. Even for me. Standing in our garage, staring at our life stacked up before us. Looking at a box of books or a piece of furniture that is falling outside of the lines drawn on the concrete floor. Moving the box outside of that line and staring at it. Alone, apart from the rest. It was as if the box itself personified sadness and loss. I must make the hard decision to let this box go. To cut off another piece of me. To discard a valuable chunk of memories. It was a journey of morality, standing in that garage, having to make those decisions. It wasn’t all on my shoulders as my wife stood by my side, lamenting and fretting as well over what was going to stay and what was going to go. Even our children were into it from time to time – that is until the decisions became tougher and tougher and the sacrifices all too real.

It was clear that if our family was to survive such a move that our family needed to be about something much more than a pile of boxes stacked on our garage floor. We needed to become closer and more connected to one another. To a certain extent we already were – my wife homeschooling all of them, and given their age we would go and do things as one unit but we were about to enter a dangerous time in a dangerous place. Schooling would or could consume me, we had no family supports out there. We would be alone, isolated, and lacking any supports at all. We had no idea what to expect so we researched what it might be like.

At that time there was a Canadian comedy series that depicted life in a small town in the middle of the prairies. It took place in the same province that we were moving to, in a town fairly close to where we were going to be living. We happened upon it quite by accident, and were intrigued by the cultural training it may provide for our family. The premise of the show was around some main characters – a single man who owned a gas station, that he took over from his parents. The gas station was attached to a coffee shop, owned by a woman who just arrived from out East to take over the coffee shop from her aunt who had just passed away. Each show just depicted them living life in the prairies and because of that quirkiness of it – it went on to become a Canadian hit. It lasted six years until the star of the show who was also the producer wanted to leave on a high note for the fans.

So we purchased the series and watched them as a family. I still remember gathered around our tv screen watching the very first episode where somebody arrives at the gas station from out East – on his way across the prairies. There is some sarcastic interchange between the traveler and the gas station owner when the traveler comments on how flat it is. It took me a while to hear this full exchange because as the scenery was shown in those first few minutes of the sitcom I kept pausing the show, staring at the screen.

“Wow, is it ever flat there” I commented to my wife. It was all we could do but to stare at the screen – somewhat in disbelief.

“That is going to be our home” someone said, almost with fear in their voice.

All we had ever known has been mountains. Even during the brief stay in the golden city of the prairies – the mountains were right there as the city was nestled just at the bottom of the foothills of this massive mountain range that separated these two provinces. We were never away from the mountains and had never traveled that far away from ‘home’.

“Nothing to block our view” the main character retorted to the traveler.

Nothing, indeed.

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