Friday, August 20, 2010

Farewell to Nova Scotia

A song I've been singing since grade school is now becoming my reality.

We've been hoping for this move, planning for this move - heck, we asked for this move. Then came the months of preparing, the waiting, the seemingly never ending stress. But through it all I overlooked one very important detail: we are leaving our home.

Although Steve and I both grew up - for the most part - in the Halifax area, this is actually not the home I feel we are now leaving behind. We have not called that area home in quite some time and have made certain over the years to keep in close touch with our family and dear friends from there. The place of our childhoods and the friends from our past are already tucked protectively in our hearts and will remain there always.

But now we must say goodbye to the town that is the childhood home of our children, the place that has become more of a home to us than we ever expected.

I tell the story often of how we moved to Greenwood almost seven years ago, not knowing a single person and feeling like outsiders. Steven made many friends almost immediately (partly due to his personality and partly because he worked with most of the community on the Base!) but it took me longer. I had two small children, another on the way, and felt totally and utterly alone. I was even beginning to have second thoughts about moving away from our familiar circle of friends, our family and our roots. Fast forward more than six years and now we find ourselves leaving this town full of "extended family", countless memories and many years of happiness.

No, I won't miss being late for work because I got stuck behind a tractor on the old highway (more times than is worth mentioning) and yes, it will no doubt be nice to have more choices than just Pizza Delight for a family restaurant. But there are so many things unique to the Annapolis Valley that I am certain we will never find anywhere else. In fact, I found it was a bit of a culture shock moving here from the city.

I remember the very first hardware store I ever shopped in in the Valley had a display of paint whose label read, "Red Barn Paint". I was floored and commented to Steve that I always knew barns were generally red, but had no idea they made special read paint for them! I remember saying, "Where have you moved me to??" It took some getting used to that the stores all closed here so early, even on weekends (although admittedly they have gotten much better over the years) and that we had to drive to the post office on Base for our daily mail. The doctor's office was appalled I would expect them to be open on Fridays or any evenings, the closest hospital was half the size of my high school in the city, and the municipality is so particular with their rules on waste disposal that they will routinely reject your garbage or green bin for the smallest infraction. We are not even allowed to throw out anything that isn't bagged garbage, which has led to the creation of two very special garbage collection weeks in our town called "Spring clean up" and "Fall cleanup" You laugh, but if you've ever lived here you know it is a great tradition here in our Valley and begins several weeks prior to the appointed day. People start lugging piles of boxes and unwanted toys, tools, appliances - you name it - to the curb for the perusal of the neighbors and passers by. Cars will slow down as they pass to inspect what you have left out and many will come by in trucks to unburden you of anything they may find a use for. Haha, oh how I will miss those clean up days and the hours of entertainment they provided.

Interestingly enough, it was one of those clean up days that led to my job at Annapolis Valley Health. Once Rhian got older we decided it was time to get rid of her old baby furniture and strollers. Steve was in the process of putting it all out by the street when a car stopped and asked him if he would hold it all until she could get home to get her truck. We were speechless at this, but did as she asked. It turns out she and her mother do this every Spring and Fall, clean things up and then re-sell them. The previous year they had taken their family to Disney World on their profits. She proceeded to tell Steven that she in fact had a great job, at Valley Regional Hospital, doing exactly what I did. So he told her that I had been trying to get hired there. She gave him her boss' name, instructed him to have me contact her and, long story short, I got a call a couple months later! Only in the Valley.

That job ended up being the best job I ever had. I met so many wonderful people, formed precious friendships, learned so much about myself and had many experiences I will never forget. It was a place I truly felt at home, with people I quickly considered family. Sometimes I would complain about having to work later in the day and then stop and think to myself, "hang on, I don't mind going to work at all!" How many people can say that? To be honest, I am a little frightened I will never find that again.

Our kids all started school here and, despite the transient nature of our town, have pretty much kept the same friends for much of their lives so far. They have had several of the same teachers over the years, and I for one will miss the familiarity of those wonderful educators who have worked so hard to contribute to my childrens' futures. I mean, where else, after the first week of school when your 5 year old has forgotten three lunch boxes at school would you have a teacher who will bring them to your door on her way home? We live in a community so small that the teachers' children are on your kids' soccer team, your lawyer is their coach, their teammates are in their class and every Saturday you all get groceries at the same store so what should have been an hour long errand is actually a two and a half hour gossip session!

One of the most rewarding - and most difficult - things we got involved in in this community was the Soccer Club. Our family is very big into this particular sport, with all three kids playing and Steven playing for three different teams at various times of the year. We decided it was important to contribute to something that impacted our whole family and help out the community. Three years later we have many new friends from this venture and have had the priviledge to have made a difference in the lives of many children. We both have worked very hard to ensure that any child in the area who wanted to play made it onto the field, no matter what, and I leave here feeling very good about that.

Through so many ties in this very close-knit community, we are truly leaving a place we've made our home and so many people we care deeply about. I often joke and call us "the elders of the village," as it seems we've been here much longer than the average military family stays in one spot. Looking back on it all, I am glad we didn't leave before now. We've watched this town grow, we've given our kids a hometown they can be proud of and remember fondly, and we've created memories we can cherish forever.

As I am going about my last couple of weeks here, I am continually warmed by the people who have stopped by the house to say farewell and the people who see me in a store and take the time to ask about Steven, already in Ontario, and to offer any assistance I many need. I am really enjoying the opportunity to visit with people I don't always make time to see and am being careful to take the time to enjoy all that this town has to offer before we head out on our new adventure.

I am leaving with a heavy heart, but with my head held high and bursting with excitement. This was our first military posting, our learning ground and the place we discovered how wonderful it is to belong to such a fiercely patriotic community. We have friends who are still here, friends who have moved on before us and friends who are getting word they too are leaving soon. The revolving door of the military life never stops but as we go through it we collect valuable memories and take with us friendships we will never forget.

Farewell to Nova Scotia, the sea bound coast....we'll be back.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lady Luck

Once again it has been a while since I’ve sat down to blog – but this time it has nothing to do with my fear of being redundant, but rather my total lack of time to sit down at all. Everyone has heard the phrase “when it rains it pours”, but with Steve and I it is usually a monsoon. Why I ever thought this posting would be any different, I have no idea.

I could go on and on with the details of the last week and a half but lets be honest here: none of us have the time or the patience to endure that. Suffice it to say that after four long, highly stressful months of having our house on the market, it finally sold – the day before Steve moved to Ontario. It all seems like a blur now but that week was both the most stress-filled and joyous week of our adult lives, all at the same time. After a long, nerve wracking day of negotiations, when we finally had a signed agreement, everyone exclaimed, “Wow, you must be so relieved!” But to tell you the truth, I wasn’t. A month ago I would have been, even a month down the road. But to have that all happen when he was preparing to roll out of town, after having made all the arrangements and preparations to live apart for a while, we just ended up trading one set of stress and problems for another.

We had long since planned that I would drive up with Steve on his move and then fly home alone four days later. It was always a bittersweet trip in my mind; it would be so great to have four days alone road-tripping with my hunny (something we hadn’t done since our honeymoon almost 12 years ago) but at the end I would fly home and begin life alone and single-parenting for who knew how long. Then in just a few short hours that trip became an essential part of the process: a way to get me up there to find us a house ASAP. There were high points to the trip (the call on the road to tell us we had an offer for a PMQ, thus relieving some of the pressure to buy) and there were low points (when we saw the Q and realized it was not any place we would ever willingly make our kids live). We had the added stress of having the inspection done while we were gone, the hours to think about what could possibly go wrong and how we would deal with it over such a distance. But it was important to have all conditions met as soon as possible to enable us to purchase once we arrived at our destination. The nail biting was worth it though when we got the call in Fredericton that it was all good and the sale was final, making our evening out with old friends a much needed celebration as well as a wonderful reunion.

House hunting proved to be an exercise in self control once we arrived and began working down the list of available houses. Some were ok, some were down right nasty, but the overall impression that became clear early on was that Steve and I were looking for very different houses and were not going to agree easily. That is why when we walked into 21 Selkirk Drive we were both stunned when we looked at each other not halfway through the tour and said at the same time, “I want this house.” We were elated, and then quickly deflated when we found out the house wasn’t available until October 30th. It would take me far too long to get into details but lets just say that after some very fancy footwork and an offer they could not refuse (I mean after all, what are the chances we would ever again find a house we BOTH loved?) we finally ended up with a signed offer. A mere hour before I jumped on a flight back home. STRESS! There were some hairy moments – viewings arriving while we were filling out the offer, approaching our buyers and asking them to change the closing date here that we’d already agreed on and signed for, some conditions they wanted that made me nervous but couldn’t really rightfully refuse – but in the end we all got what we wanted.


Well of course it isn’t over yet: we still have to meet our conditions. Although we have no reason to expect any problems, I still find it hard to relax until it is finalized and the house is officially off the market. We could have met all requirements by week’s end but in order for me to fit in an “official” house hunting trip we had to extend it until Monday so I could travel on the weekend. The military will not pay for it if you have officially “secured accommodations”. That is the part that makes me nervous, its not definite yet. I would have turned my weekend adventure into a HHT but of course work simply would not give me these three evenings off. So I came home to work three 4 hour shifts and am flying back Saturday. See what I mean? Nothing is ever cut and dry with us.

Of course I have lots to say about the actual drive up and the great adventure we had together, but I don’t really have the time to get into my uncharacteristic fascination with the wildlife fences throughout New Brunswick or my opinion on the only redeeming quality of the drive through Quebec (the availability of beer in gas stations) so I’ll just say this: things seem to finally be falling into place and although I will likely never stop stressing over something, at least now it’s the positive kind of stress.

My dear friend said it best when she said, “Michelle just keeps pulling horseshoes out of her ass.” So here’s to a few more of those lucky charms and then a couple weeks of worry-free summer before we pack up all our worldly possessions and bid farewell to Nova Scotia.

In the meantime, perhaps I will go buy an lottery ticket...