I Like Where We Live

Here’s a thing to think about – because we are at a certain age and stage – friends and family ask me, where do you think you’ll retire? I feel as if I’m supposed to have a dream location – a little casita in a safe Mexican town with a red tile roof and a balcony overlooking the Bay of Banderas, or somewhere familiar and loved, such as our family

cottage in the Shuswaps – with its copper roof, and wide patio overlooking the blue-green lake. New or familiar, it’s the process of getting to this vision that has me flummoxed. 

            I like where we live. Plain and simple. My parents bought this property on the edge of the city, in 1966 when I was seven years old. The house was brand new and had lots of room for our family of seven. They’d purchased it, but because my dad was employed far out of town, they had to wait to move. My mom, a person who never drove, was anxious to begin the transformation of the big yard from unadorned soil to a landscape both pretty and useful, and so had some of us kids help carry spades and shovels from the old house, a long walk away. Not having transportation wasn’t going to prevent her from getting started on constructing flowerbeds and a wide vegetable garden and preparing places for shrubs and flowering plum trees. 

         My husband and I bought this home and garden from my parents when I was thirty years-old and our four little kids, age one, three, five and six, needed more space then available in our small rental.  It wasn’t until the year 2000 when our youngest was ten, that we felt ready to renovate, and update the home no longer anywhere near the city’s edge. The house had good bones and my parents understood updating, still my mom was practical and penny wise, and must have looked on aghast as we expanded into the yard and added granite and tile, gas fireplaces and two more big bathrooms. 

        Oddly, both my parents were more at ease than I was when the giant evergreen out front had to go. They said they might have also added the big deck if they were staying. Their new smaller home had one. In the twenty-six years they lived in that new house my mom grew splendid roses, lined her deck with pots of geraniums and nourished her own raspberry patch.  A year before she died, she helped us dig up her prize English rose bush and transplant it to this yard. I pause beside it some evenings to feel her spirit. It isn’t just that conveyor of soft pink ruffled blossoms that grounds me here. What makes me like where I live is what remains from those early days of my mom creating the garden we love – the tall over-reaching lilacs with the first fragrant blooms of summer, the dainty bleeding-heart blossoming in the shade, the nan king cherry bushes she made tart jelly with, the mass of lily of the valley on the shady north side.

            I feel rooted to this spot on the earth when I picture my seven-year-old self climbing the hill from our old neighborhood. I remember sitting on the steps, eating our brown bag lunch of ham sandwiches and home baked cookies, drinking from the hose she’d set up and watching while she watered her new seeds and skinny raspberry plants that still line the fence. A new family could move into the house, I suppose, but I don’t want anyone else to mess with what grows here. And so, I imagine, we’ll stay.

Raspberry Love – The Blog Post


When I was a little girl, younger then eight, my grandparents lived on a farm far down a rural road with a long, long driveway leading up to it. They raised cows, chickens and pigs, I think – it’s hard to remember what exactly I remember. I do recall that I told my grade two class about that farm for ‘show and tell’. I always wanted to bring a treasure from home to show, but my mom convinced me that their farm, where she grew up, was special enough to just ‘tell’.

   There were two aspects of the farm that I was enamoured with – one of these was that my grandparent’s farm in mid-eastern Alberta in 1966 didn’t have running water. All of the water was collected from a pump that ran into a trough, far down a sloping hill from the house. We bathed in a steel tub in the porch with water heated on a pot on the stove.

nanny and roses

   The second subject I choice to tell my grade two class about was the raspberries. Back when I was a little kid we never, ever would have bought raspberries from a grocery store during the limited season that they might have sold them, because when we made the five hour trip to my grandparent’s farm the bright red jewels grew in vast abundance in a field of bushes laden with the sweet fruit. The August sun would be hot on my head as I passed between the bushes, my mother and grandmother nearby, and I was in my own version of summertime Shangri-La – watching my small cup fill, even though I popped as many into my mouth and the berry juice sparkled on my tongue.

raspberry summers

     My grandparents left the farm in 1967 to retire to town. As a young adult I drove my mom back to the property and was shocked to see the driveway was short, the water pump was actually conveniently quite close to the house, and there really wasn’t much of a slope to what I thought of as a hill, at all. My mom and my small kids and I, pushed our way through a tight caragana hedge to get to the empty run down house – diminutive in size as well. We pried away a loose door knob as a odd keepsake and crept back through the hedge. The raspberries, however many there might really have been of them, were ploughed away.

But my grandmother had dug up and transplanted those fertile bushes into her town yard and it was that summer that I asked her if I could take some back to mine.

   My grandmother is gone now. I don’t know if the berry bushes still line her back fence in that far away town, but they grow in abundance at the back of my yard. This weekend I cared for my two small granddaughters – years away from grade two ‘show and tell’. The smallest one, not even two yet, was nonchalant over raspberries in her highchair, but I took them for a short walk, that they might remember as a hike, over the grass to those berry bushes and she literally cooed in delight at finding them underneath the heavy branches, while her sister filled a tiny cup.