Elderhood

Moving closer to my minimalistic son meant facing my packrat tendencies

Peter’s words on April 30, 2014, kindled a flame inside me.

“You sound a little restless in Guelph, Mom. Amy and I have talked this over and want you to know it would be okay with us if you moved to Vancouver and started a new life near us. We’re managing the child-care thing, so this isn’t about your coming to babysit – although we wouldn’t turn that down once in awhile. But it would be much easier to help you in an emergency if you were nearby. It would take me almost a day to get to you in Guelph.”

In the coming weeks, I went through the motions of discerning whether to move, but the flutter in my stomach when Peter spoke those words had told me resistance was futile.

Soon I was transfixed online several times a day after Googling “condos for sale Kitsilano,” in search of a place close to my family. I fretted this obsession was a waste of time because the nice places would be gone before I got there. But it was fun. I felt guilty excitement about a different condo each day, trying to picture myself enjoying life in it, totally forgetting the one I had found so hot the day before. I worried that I’d developed a full-blown case of real estate-porn addiction.

The ogling served a purpose, though. I learned that condos in my price range were much smaller than the one I had in Guelph, Ont. My recently refinished dining room table was too big for most of the condos I saw. So was the beloved bedroom set I had inherited from my parents. I would need to edit my belongings, seriously, before the movers arrived to pack me up.

Fast forward to late November that year. To my amazement, both Peter and Amy offered to take time away from their busy schedules to help me unpack the day I moved into my new place. This was a very generous offer, but I hesitated. Peter and Amy are minimalists. Their home inspires me, but not enough to follow suit as much as my son would prefer.

In the few short months between our conversation and my move, I had spent most of my time saying goodbye to family members and long-term friends – when I wasn’t online drooling over condos. And I had visualized the varieties of cookies I would bake for my two darling grandkids, recalling my delight as a child at the well-stocked tin my grandma used to stash within my reach at her house. I had even bought a set of seven brightly coloured mixing bowls at a garage sale because they matched my polka-dotted grandma apron.

Sorry, I have digressed. All this activity was much more fun than saying goodbye to the artifacts I’d acquired over almost seven decades of living. Back to Peter’s offer. “You are welcome to help, but I don’t want any flak about how much stuff I brought,” I pleaded. I’d given myself permission to ship a few things that might, in the end, wind up in a thrift store. My birthday present to myself.

Peter and Amy usually communicate wonderfully, but he must have forgotten to pass on my condition for accepting their help. “Wilda, do you realize you have 12 mixing bowls?” Amy blurted. “The cupboards are full!” I tried not to scowl. After all, I appreciated their youthful energy to deal with the mountain of boxes and packing paper that threatened to overtake the place utterly as we released my bountiful treasures from their careful wrappings.

Peter lost it when he got to the carton full of candles – votives, tea lights, tapers, pillar candles – and all their associated holders. “Mom, you’ve got enough candles here to hold a séance.” I didn’t scold him, but I noticed he decided it was time to get back to his office shortly after that. I suspect the look I gave him brought back memories of trying to stay on my good side long before he was seven inches taller than I am.

The big move was more than a year and a half ago. To my delight, I have been able to look after the grandkids on several occasions when either has had to stay home from daycare or kindergarten with minor illnesses. I have needed my son’s help when I locked myself out of my place, once, but have managed to avoid being too high maintenance, so far.

To my chagrin, I have yet to bake those cookies. Hey, building a new life takes time. I am busy blossoming in my three-times-a-week yoga classes, collaborative gardening group and progressive new church. And I don’t know how anyone can move to Vancouver and avoid being gobsmacked by the mountains and flowering shrubs. How can I enjoy those if I am holed up in my little kitchen generating batches of cookies? I have yet to miss several drab mixing bowls that have made their way to the thrift store around the corner so I could find my counter.

I do take time for candles, though. Whenever I light one that I brought, I know it’s contraband in my son’s eyes, but I enjoy it. With a surname like Bostwick, maybe I’m permitted to be part witch. A gift the universe gave me, perhaps.

Wilda Bostwick lives in Vancouver.

The Globe and Mail posted this article on August 24, 2016 in the Facts and Arguments section.
The print version appeared on August 25, 2016.

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