My father in law is famous for saying that he only cries at weddings, funerals, and garage sales. It seems funny, but no one I know takes a bargain as seriously as he does, and it was no different when he discovered an old house being offered up in the newspaper by an elderly lady.
Even though we’d hired a realtor, my (then) fiancé Derek and I knew better than to miss an opportunity to capitalize on Marvin’s frugality. Having spent no time in the Prince Rupert/Kingsway area, we experienced the typical, navigational challenges of finding our future home situated between regular north/south roads, irregularly diagonal Kingsway Avenue, a landing field of runways, and a lot of addresses whose street numbers were the same as their coordinating avenue numbers. It was enough for my usually confident navigator to proclaim, “This house does NOT exist!”
In fact, it did. It does. Nestled on the east end of tiny Prince Rupert Community, north of 111 Avenue, and not far from the airplane on a stick. The place we’ve come to call home.
When Elsie, the 82 year old also known in the community as Todd, invited us in, we were in for a bit of a shock. I joked that the house was 60 years old, and so was the dirt it hosted. Still, there was something about it. Elsie had already moved into a lovely assisted living apartment because the home that she’d raised her family in since 1954 had finally become too much for her. She knew she was ready to allow another family to make it their own. So confident she was that she asked us to rip up the carpet before we’d even made an offer!
But in all the disarray, all of the boxes, the overcrowded kitchen, the smashed in walls, I vividly remember standing in the hallway and telling Derek that this was, in fact, the one.
At least for the time being … I mean, I never really saw our family living here long term. It was a stop over. A leap pad that would launch us into something … better. We rapidly renovated, often choosing the cheaper options with fear that it wouldn’t be worth the investment into a house we were going to flip.
Then the housing prices skyrocketed and the home we’d created for ourselves and our two little boys seemed to be the best we could get. It would take time for us to realize that we weren’t actually settling; we’d landed the jackpot. We began to appreciate our home and community for what it was – quaint, quiet, sandwiched between three parks, minutes from downtown and each of our jobs. Our house was big enough for us to enjoy, but small enough that we wouldn’t have the luxury of amassing superfluous material goods. Spacious enough for multi-family potlucks, but too small to host turkey dinner at Thanksgiving!
“I want to take the time to get to know our community,” was my constant plea to Derek who still wanted to move on to our next place.
It dawns on me now that the first several years living in our home in Prince Rupert were focused on ourselves. Getting renovations done. Making the yard livable. Working and taking care of our family.
Then, a turning point happened during a conversation over weeds. Anyone who knows me (or my oldest boy) knows that we love to talk to strangers, so when I took off for a neighbourhood walk, I didn’t hesitate to stop an inquire with a lovely woman actually digging weeds out by the roots! Ashley explained that she’d wanted a long term, sustainable solution to keeping up the curb appeal of her home, not a quick fix that Round-up (and its side effects) would offer.
What a lovely metaphor, one that speaks to the tireless patience that I’ve come to appreciate about my community and its members.
It was hard to believe that Ashley and her husband Dave had been living four doors down from us for three years by this point, but it didn’t take long to get caught up. It was like we’d been friends all along. Ashley and Dave introduced us to many other community members who participated in community events that she, her husband, and a few other volunteers were leading from the Prince Rupert Community League Board. I was grateful to finally see that our community was growing more and more connected, and I was grateful to know that someone was willing to take on this important work. People and families are busy, and diving into community league work has the potential to become a burden.
This was the dilemma that I squared off against about two years ago when I circled around the idea of joining the board myself. Could I really spare the time? Did I really want to add another thing to my already-full plate? These were tough questions (and still are), but we are a small community of only about 1400 residents, so garnering support for taking on board positions is very difficult.
Fortunately, this was also a time in my life when I was exploring the power of entanglement in my life. In an effort to curb a growing anxiety of not having enough time and energy to spare, I found myself saying no to a great many opportunities. While I believe strongly in the power of a good no, I was starting to wonder whether my no’s were truly impacting my quality of life in a negative way.
Nothing happens in isolation; everything is connected to everything else.
My decision to join the board as the secretary is a product of a new kind of yes I was embracing. It was a bit of a paradigm shift, one that I often preached when I was teaching and leading at school. Rather than saying no to things we don’t want, what if we said yes to things that we do want, trusting that the good will squeeze out the not-so-super-good? This is entanglement in action.
I needed to start practicing what I was preaching.
In June of 2017, I won the nomination of secretary of the Prince Rupert Community League by acclamation. An organizer at heart, I felt good to be fueling that side of my soul. I also wanted my kids to witness the spirit of volunteerism, as I did when my dad was running the Boy Scouts of Saskatchewan when I was a kid.
In giving a little bit of myself and my time away from my family, I could not have imagined what I would receive in return: powerful connections to the people and the place in which we live.
I always craved connecting to young people with families like my own, so this was a no brainer. Although we are busy, and we don’t get together enough, I take comfort in knowing a handful of families who can descend on my house for pizza and wine, without expectations of a clean house or any pomp and circumstance. My kids can play with their kids, but even more importantly, the parents can act on my behalf when I’m not in the room. We can help with pick ups and drop offs from school when needed.
We can drop our kids of at one another’s houses when we need a date night or just time without kids. This connection is great for convenience, but the greater power lies in our ability to support one another in maintaining strong, healthy relationships. We need to be in this together.
Recently, I’ve met other neighbours who’ve hosted multi-family parties, bringing all walks of life together in one house. Another neighbour offered his business to support the distribution of our newsletter. Still others are carrying on the tradition of service that their parents have offered this community for the last 30 years.
This connection to the past and the older members of our community is the one that’s surprised me the most. Sure, I know that older people carry much wisdom, and we need to slow down and listen to their stories; however, their importance in my life was an unexpected one. While the younger generation have a stronger ability to keep our community growing into the future, our older friends help us to remember where we’ve been, so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. They are also selfless with the time they’ve earned as retirees. We could not do the work that we’re doing without the Tonys (president) and Ralphs (vice president) of the world.
Though it’s been a long time coming, and we sometimes feel like the forgotten community, we are finally set to redesign our (mostly empty) park space! Tyson has taken such an amazing lead on this project that new people are coming out of the woodwork to help out, too! People want to be involved. They want to have a say in what’s happening, and they want to be connected.
This is the power of entanglement. Community and place. Young and old.
While it can be stressful to find the time to answer emails, write up minutes, and advertise what’s going on, I’m filled up by the passion and care of the people around me. I love meeting new people at our Christmas party, Winter Family Fun Day, or May Day events. I love the appreciation people share at board meetings for the work being done.
But mostly …
Mostly, I love it when my kids run to the door to wave when a neighbour walks by. Or when I can take care of a baby as a last minute favour. Or when I watch my kid talk a senior’s ear off when I welcome him in to help him with his computer.
In Prince Rupert Community, we have each other’s backs.
Now, 14 years later, our main floor renovations are needing updates, and there is much to be done in the yard. However, rather than exploring the possibilities of another neighbourhood, we are excited about the ways we can make our home and community better. The basement, updated five years after we moved in, remains light, open, and modern, probably because we invested in the best for that space, a testament to our shifting perspective on our home’s staying power.
The fact of the matter is that in all the times we’ve looked elsewhere, nothing could offer us what was truly important: a large yard, connected community, a house with a solid foundation, playgrounds within walking distance, a walkable and bikeable neighbourhood.
We are settled, but we didn’t have to settle.
Prince Rupert #Entangled