(Voila – now with picture!)
We – Wonderbaby, Her Bad Father and yours truly – live in a house that is one hundred and twenty-plus years old. It is small and creaky and dusty and in a condition of perpetual renovation. It sits on a quiet street in an old Portguese neighbourhood – one that is less and less Portuguese with every passing month – that is very near the city centre, on its west side.
The neighbourhood is a busy one, a mix of families and elders and disaffected renters who may or may not be involved in the underground economy. Our neighbours are lovely, although truth be told they sometimes hover too closely (the elderly couple on one side of us have strong feelings about the fact that I do not take full-time care of my daughter, that I have ‘outside interests,’ that I sometimes travel and not take her with me. I have been known to refrain from stepping out onto our front verandah, for fear that Mr. will interrogate me – kindly, of course, but nonetheless interrogatively – where is Baby? Why Baby not with you? Mother should be with Baby.) The street itself is constantly undergoing renovation, as its Victorian rowhouses are bought, one by one, and gutted and brought into the 21st century to be sold to families like us. And although the street is quiet, by city standards, it is still a city street, with many vehicles that sometimes go too fast and many, many sources of noise.
We have loved the noise and the bustle and the feeling of humanity pressing in on us from all sides. We have loved the places to go and the people to see, the non-stop parade of activity on our doorstep. We have loved not being bored, not being boring. But we have also not loved it. Sometimes, it has been too much – the noise, the haste, the crowds, the speed at which time flies when every step out of the door is the first step of a rush into a crowd. Sometimes, the city has pressed down upon our shoulders and made us to feel its prisoners, caught in a cage, pressing our faces against the grates to get a sniff of fresh air, to see a glimpse of sky.
We have felt all the more caught – I have felt all the more caught – by the restriction of space, by the noise and the haste, since WonderBaby was born. We have yearned to escape. We have wanted out. We have wanted to be bored, to be boring.
It’s a cliche, of course, this feeling: to feel a hankering for big yards and wide quiet streets and playgrounds devoid of condom wrappers, once one has a child. To wish for space in which one can put a tree fort, a sandbox, ride a tricycle. To yearn for quiet, for just a little bit more quiet.
Cliches, however, are cliches because they speak of a common experience. I am not at all embarassed to admit that I have been having an experience that is common, that is ordinary, that is run-of-the-mill. I have been falling out love with the city. We – This Bad Family – have been falling out of love with the city.
So we started looking for a little something on the side, and we found this:
In a village, just outside the city, on a quiet street just a few blocks from the shops and the espresso bar and the bakery and the bistro and the library. A short stroll from the Montessori school and one street over from the big Victorian house with the pool where they give lessons to all the neighbourhood kids. Around the corner from the town museum, and not too far from the zoo. Very near the commuter train line, a quick trip into the city that we can’t give up entirely, and where we’ll certainly keep a little flat. An old house, but a bigger house than the one in which we currently reside (four bedrooms, oh my heart), with all the quirk and character that we love and with a big yard and lots of trees and lots of ivy and a wrap-around verandah for sitting outside and sipping tea on cool evenings. Not the city, not the suburbs; somewhere in between.
Somewhere right for us.