Tuesday, 8 May 2012
We first met almost exactly twelve years ago when I took then about-to-be-four-year-old younger daughter on her first cross-country plane trip to meet the Resident Fan Boy, who was already working in Hades while I attempted to sell our house in Victoria.
The trip had an inauspicious prelude when, in the flurry of last-minute preparations, I managed to lock myself out of the house with younger daughter inside. I ran across the street and got a neighbour to phone my mum who had elder daughter at her condo a few blocks away. Younger daughter, when my mum rushed over with an extra key, had not noticed my absence. Then I had to rise before dawn, take a protesting and sleepy preschooler in a cab to the airport and spend five hours on a plane in the days before they had entertainment centres on the back of the seat in front of you.
I had left Victoria in the green and leafy splendour of early May, and first glimpsed my new home beyond the wing-tip of the circling plane: brown fields with patches of frost. The taxi took us past forests of flattened and grey tree trunks, victims of the Ice Storm of '98.
There followed six days of being driven around by a real estate agent through neighbourhoods that meant nothing to me, to see bleak brick houses that looked weather-beaten and grim. We also made the rounds of museums and libraries, struggling without a stroller (I had lacked the courage to lug one on the plane), and I tried to imagine a life here in this city where my daughters would grow up. We went to the local Unitarian church and my heart sank. The sermon was a diatribe against Conrad Black (before his prison term), and reference was made to the beauty of a member's home and the fact that the choir had sung for the Governor-General.
We celebrated younger daughter's turning four in the hotel suite in which the Resident Fan Boy was living, and by the time we were readying ourselves for the flight home without him, the trees were finally showing green fuzz and the tulips were beginning to open. I tried to push my doubts aside. Surely, my home was where the Resident Fan Boy was. Surely I could make this work...
Getting back to Victoria meant hauling my new four-year-old through three plane rides. At Toronto Airport, she climbed up inside a play structure and I fought rising panic when I couldn't get her to come down. I could see our flight boarding.
In Victoria, our cab took us past trees fully in leaf, blowing in a temperate and gentle sea breeze. Flowers everywhere. My relief was tempered with the knowledge that the next time we left, we would not be returning to our light-filled house. The city that I had not chosen was waiting. And you know, it hasn't even been a convenient marriage. (No, Resident Fan Boy. I'm not talking about you.)