Feels like home

The sun is finally shining and the forecast is promising a full week of it. If it holds, this will be a welcome reprieve from a soggy, damp spring. I’m aching to get out and enjoy the splendour of the season now that the trees are finally resplendent in a variety of greens and the flowers are blooming in abundant colour. I’m sitting happily in my living room, gazing out to my backyard, thoughtfully watching the line of clothes blowing softly in the breeze.

We live on five acres of property that is mostly treed, and very private. I feel very at ease in this space. The comforts of a simpler lifestyle, away from the hustle and bustle of city life are very important to me. But we struggle living here, so far from our respective work places. Both my husband and I spend two hours each day in the back and forth motion of our commutes. Many, many times we’ve talked of moving closer, of giving this up for a house in the city, closer to work, and parks and so many interesting activities for our children.

And then summer comes, and the birds begin to chatter their daily greetings, and once again I’m reminded of how peaceful and soothing the pace of life is here, in our little piece of the country. This just feels like home.

I’ve written about my husband I building our own homes. People often assume that we hired people to do it for us, but we didn’t. We built our first home almost entirely on our own, with the help of my contractor father. We bought and cleared the land. We measured and placed footings for the foundation, and lugged the hundreds of cinder blocks that would form the foundation. We nailed, and cut and erected stud, after stud, after stud, as our home slowly emerged in front of us. We closed it in with sheets of plywood, and the welcome dryness of shingles. Each and every window was lovingly place in it’s rightful space, then levelled and secured. Paint colours were carefully selected in each room, warm colours chosen to complement the outdoors and comfort its occupants. We brushed on coat after coat of white on endless lengths of trim; first primer, than a first coat and finally a second. Each floor board was meticulously set into place, the location of every electrical outlet discussed and chosen for optimal location, the boxes nailed and  then the covers screwed into place. It began with a heavily wooded lot, with barely space to move, and ended wit the two of us laughingly running up freshly delivered topsoil, spreading the little, bitty seeds that would sow the front lawn.

In short, it was a labour of love, and a dream come true.

But in our haste to make it happen, we overlooked some vital logistics. Namely, location. We wanted a country home, and we got it. But we were much to far in the country, with more than a 20 minute drive to closest town. If we needed milk, it was a journey to get it. Our commute at the time was well over an hour long, and in the winter, the driving was dangerous, dark and overwhelming. After the birth of our first son,  we realized we couldn’t keep it up. Less than three years after moving in, the dream turned sour. We had put all of our heart, and soul, and a good deal of sweat and tears into this home. How in the world could we even entertain the idea of leaving it.

It was an emotional time. I was terribly lonely, at home on maternity leave with our first son. We had neighbours, but they were all older, their children mostly grown and gone.  My husband was away for long days because of the commute, leaving before the baby and I would wake, and then coming home more than 12 hours later. I began to resent the location, and the restrictions it placed on our lives.

After the dust had settled on parenthood, and the realities of our lives as a family of three began to sink in, we began to joke about how great it would be if we could only move our house.

And then an opportunity came a long. A rural sub-division we had long coveted was expanding, adding 30 new estate lots. It was located only five minutes out of my hometown, and literally two minutes from my parents lakeside property. It seemed impossible, we didn’t think we had the energetic ambition we needed to entertain the idea of building another house. But we opened ourselves up to the possibility, did a little research, and lo and behold, within the month we had bought a parcel of land. Things were looking up as we started to dream again. It didn’t take us long to decide we’d just build our house again, hoping that the second time would be the charm. We figured, if you couldn’t move it, the next best thing was to build it again!

That’s what we did. We quickly sold our first house, and less than five months after buying the new lot we had broken ground. This time we did less, we hired more tradespeople and managed the project quite differently than the first. But we both had our hands in it. We helped it grow, nourishing it with all the love we had the first time, only this time with a little more experience and a lot more patience.

It’s been three and a half years since we moved in. It’s almost exactly the same house, with a few minor changes here and there. The colours are the same, the kitchen’s and bathrooms all have the same the fixtures. Just as the first we are flanked by two long porches, and it’s wrapped in the red we so loved the first time. But at the same time, along with the view, our perspective is so very different. From the moment we moved in, I knew this one was really home. This was where we were meant to be. And today, as I sit here, listening to the whisper of the leaves on the trees just outside my door, and feel the caress of the wind blowing in from the windows that  surround us, I breathe a huge sigh and think of all the hope, happiness and love that is wrapped up in the places we call home.


13 thoughts on “Feels like home

  1. Your stamina never ceases to amaze me when I think about how much reading and writing you manage to do, all the while mothering and having a full-time career. And then I remember that you built two houses, largely with your own hands, and it’s confirmed: Oh, right, Christine really is a marvel.

    I love your writing here, by the way. xo

  2. ayala says:

    Christine, great story. You are where you are meant to be. Your home…your place in the world.

  3. Yes. What Kristen said. A marvel, you are.

    It’s pretty amazing, how we can think we know where we’re meant to be and put in so much work and then years later, sit in the living room somewhere else and realize it’s so much better.

    I have no idea if that made sense. Am so tired. 🙂


  4. Christa says:

    Love this. We moved, at about the same time, halfway across the country (the other country!) after spending three years renovating our old house. I never thought I would feel at home here, but I do. I really do.

  5. This is really lovely, Christine. I feel as though I am right there, with you. “Home” is so important, in whatever form we can make it.

  6. Pamela says:

    Wow. What an amazing feat – to build your own home! I loved reading this. We move every 2 years and my husband and I often dream of building our own home when we’re done with the Navy thing. (He built a house with his dad and brother years ago). I love your descriptions and writing. Beautiful! What a gorgeous place to live!

  7. You sound so happy where you are. Living as I do far from anywhere, I understand thoughts of moving closer to amenities. It’s a 20 min drive to get grocieries, the school is 25 minutes away; heck I even drive 4 km to meet the school bus. In the winter, we make the best of it, using the property for skiing and snowshoe tramps. But it is summer when it really comes into its own, and when I sit on my shady veranda, the only visible building a neighbour across the river, and the spire of the church in the nearby hamlet, the sheep bleating, the wind blowing, the birds singing, and the sound of distant laughter as the kids play in the fields and forest, it all seems worth while. Also, I work from home mostly, and only commute to teach a couple of days a week. That helps, I think.

  8. denise says:

    I love picturing you there, in your space with the birds singing to you through the layers of green leaves. A very peaceful picture indeed. xoxo

    (PS: this reminds me of when you told me you guys built your house. And I said, “that’s so amazing!” and commented about working with contractors, etc. Then Sarah said, “no, they BUILT it. Like with their hands.” Still wowed by this.)

  9. I love hearing about how you built your two homes … but I would love it even more if you would share some pics! 🙂

  10. harrietglynn says:

    I’m totally amazed that you have built two homes. We renovated our place, and I nearly had a nervous breakdown. But I hear you on isolation. We live in a dense part of the city, and while I yearn for calm and nature and space, I love that there are kids, playgrounds, parks, festivals and events at every turn.

  11. […] we sold it, and built our second and then third house, a sadness settled inside. I’ve missed it, and the feelings I remember from that time. For […]

  12. […] Two houses, built with our blood, sweat and tears. […]

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