Monday, April 30, 2012

Boom, like that.

I have been thinking about the past year a lot lately. It was a year that I am happy to leave behind. I gave up my work as an artist for what I felt and continue to feel was for the greater good of all artists with disabilities. But I am now at a point where I realize that I am unwilling to put off my own needs anymore. I chose to give my time to things that I continue to believe in, however, I have lost my energy for those things for now.

July passed by quickly. It wasn't without it's small dramas, but it was summer holidays, the kids were home or in day camps and that kept me busy.

At the end of July my husband had a phone call from a head hunter. There was nothing unusual about that. Was he interested in moving to Ottawa for a company that could really use his skills. He was open to the idea. Three days later he had a phone interview, at the end of which they had booked him a flight for a final interview. He left on a Sunday and returned the next day. I had told one friend what was going on. She was there when he came home. We left the sun and warmth of my backyard deck and went to hear about his trip. 

He played coy. He loves doing that because he knows that he will always get a reaction from me, which invariably will lead us all to laugh. These are the roles that we have adopted to relieve the pressure and it works. My friend asked if she should leave us alone but we have spent so much time together that now we're family. So I said that it was a family discussion and therefore she was included.We three adults sat down in the dining room while my two children and my friends son continued to play with the bliss of ignorance that they still had. I asked my husband how his trip went and what would happen next. His typical abbreviated response was "It's up to you".

It's up to me. The big decision was essentially mine. This meant that he liked what the job had to offer so the only question was, what did I want? Oh sure, put it all on me! This was exciting, we both loved Ottawa, we had been there before we were married. It was still within Canada, which after our venture for a job prospect in Lynchburg, Virginia felt more in line with our own attitudes and what we wanted in an education system for our children-the opportunity to learn a second language while they are still young, continued access to a flawed but free national health system, and the continued exposure to multiculturalism.

The only draw back to the job offer was that they wanted him to begin working in the office by September. We debated about when to move the kids in the beginning. Should we stay until Christmas? We could ease into the idea of moving, I would be home to oversee renovations that would now need to be done by a contractor rather than by ourselves as we had done for our entire marriage. 

But first I had to tell my family that we were moving. Boom, like that. I told my Dad and Step-mom. They were happy for us, which I knew would be their response. They travelled regularly and my life had always been independent of theirs. 

Telling my mother was terrifying. She and I had never been very independent of one another. Two years earlier when my husband and I had gone to Virginia for a job interview and she had handled it remarkably well. Her and my step-dad were prepared for us to come home from that trip to say that we were moving. But Lynchburg, Virginia turned out to be a place that I did not want to raise my children. I didn't want them absorbing the bible-belt culture. I didn't want any of us to live in a city where transportation relied entirely on cars. Our hotel was across the street from the "big" mall, but there was no way to walk to it. The hotel had a car-service to drive people to the mall if they didn't have cars of their own. It took about 7 minutes to drive to the mall across the street. We had a real estate agent there to help us find a home. Before even going there we had looked at real estate on line there. I sent the links to our agent but when we arrived she did not show us any of those houses. She said that we wouldn't like the neighbourhood. We drove to a lot of different houses. Some with lovely big yards and swimming pools, all situated only minutes from town. My husband would have been close enough to cycle to work, except that the roads were dangerously narrow with steep ditches on either side. Besides, cycling on the freeway would have been impossible even if he could have made it into town. 

I was also able to confirm that there were no second languages offered in school until grade 11. Latin. Useful for all of the seminary students, but otherwise it was too little too late in my opinion.

On our second last day in Lynchburg we drove across town to where the beautiful old houses were. It took us a long time to navigate through the city. There seemed to be no straightforward route to the other side.

What we discovered was a lovely tree lined area. It was very homey and it felt right. So why wouldn't the real estate agent take us there? Because it was a predominantly African American neighbourhood. It was another peg in the coffin to discover that politeness could mask hate so well. 

We left without regret of the "what-if's". Virginia is a beautiful place full of tall trees and winding paths. But the culture sucked (At least in Lynchburg).

When the offer of a job in Ottawa arrived we were in a place in our minds where we thought we would probably stick things out in Winnipeg. We were mentally unprepared. 

My mother took the news pretty badly this time. She would argue with me about the move off and on throughout the process of getting everything organized to move for the next 5 weeks. She had her moments where she tried to be supportive but she just wasn't able to this time around.

I dreaded telling our children. More specifically our son, who is the eldest. He is sensitive and reactionary. He feels everything in its most extreme. On the day that Jonathan signed his contract we told the kids. It was as bad as I had imagined and it still sends a shiver through me when I remember the scene in our living room. My son was sitting on a chair across from me, my husband had arrived home from work a few minutes earlier and my younger child, my daughter hovered between us. They had both just come inside from playing outside with their friends. It was just any other day until the moment that I told them. When my son screamed it sounded like he was being physically tortured. It was one of the worst memories that I have. After his scream he cried hysterically for sometime. He was inconsolable and we just had to sit and wait him out. 

He is his mothers child. We both react strongly and quickly to things, and when we do it also means that the worst of it is finished. It's the slower, festering things that are harder to leave behind.

August was a crazy time but not horrible. We took the kids to Ottawa for five days in search of a house, and in the hopes that it would give them a sense of familiarity for the official move. We couldn't find a house despite having a very capable real estate agent. He showed us a home that was for rent. It was a two story house which was not entirely desirable in terms of accessibility for me, but it had a washroom on the main floor in addition to two more upstairs, it was clean and there were children playing outside. I didn't bother going upstairs to see what it was like. By then I was too tired to care about anything more than having a washroom on each floor, and that for now we would be living in a neighbourhood with children the same age as my own.

Four weeks after telling our family and friends that we were leaving Winnipeg we arrived in Ottawa. Despite all of our preparation there was still a great deal to do over the next many months-both in Winnipeg and in Ottawa

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