A converted city-slicker’s ode to the rural life
BY JANE BEDARD
Special to the VOICE
Three and half years ago, we transplanted from the thick, chunky stew of Toronto to the thin, translucent broth of Fonthill. Many of our urban friends couldn’t understand why we wanted to leave. Many of our new rural friends couldn’t understand why we wanted to come.
To answer our old friends, we sought peace, space, affordability, and free parking. To our new friends, while the city is undoubtedly a vibrant and eclectic place, it comes with its share of problems.
When you feel like complaining about small town living, perhaps consider these examples of metropolitan mayhem, which may change your perspective.
I remember making a presentation to the Toronto City Council to support my application for the addition of a coveted 6 x 3.2 metre parking pad in front of our 5.2 metre- wide property. I rehearsed, used a Seinfeld quote to lighten the mood, shamelessly pleaded for the safety of my children. Truthfully, there were days when the closest parking spot to my home was a 10-minute walk away.
Luckily, more sympathetic than environmentalist councilors were in attendance, and I left with permit in hand. It was coup that I will tell my grandchildren about one day.
A perk of this victory also saw the value of our shoebox property increase by $15,000, which seems utterly ridiculous by any standard.
Compare this to our new residence, which has a two-car garage, along with ample room to park six more cars in the driveway. I also don’t have to deal with angry, entitled neighbours, who leave nasty notes on my windshield for almost blocking the entrance to their parking pads.
Our teeny Toronto house had a living area of about 900 sq.ft. for our family of five. To say we were a close family is an understatement. The floors sloped so much that our kids lost all their balls and wheeled toys to one side of the living room, and some guests complained of vertigo. The cost of this fixer-upper home left us with little cash with which to fix it up, and so we lived a slanted existence.
In contrast, our new master bathroom—which has a delightfully level floor— is approximately the same size as our old backyard.
Registering our kids for city summer swim programs required a strategic, almost military effort, necessitating two people, two cell phones, and two computers. With each new season, my husband and I sat, poised to communicate with the website or call center for the 7 AM. opening.
A nanosecond after 7, we were in full attack mode. We had previously filled out the registration forms and checked our program choices. All we needed to do was speak to an operator, or find our way to the Submit button online. We hit redial continuously. We clicked Submit constantly. Not 10 seconds later, I heard my husband yell, “I got it!”
The screen read Registration Accepted! Yes! We did it!
A few seconds later, a new screen thanked us for registering and informed us that we were 37th on the wait list.
These days, our kids can take swimming lessons in the comfort and privacy of the pool in our backyard.
During our last winter in Toronto, a pipe broke in front of our house on city property. The water shutoff valve from the street, however, was broken and the water flowed, unstoppable.
A city worker watched as I bailed water out of our flooding basement, trying to keep the rising sea at bay. The worker assessed the situation, scribbled something on his clipboard, and announced that we were not a high priority, so someone would come to look at the problem in a couple of days. Our whole family took shifts bailing water for the next 36 hours.
Conversely, in Fonthill, I called an eavestrough company to have a look at a bent eavestrough, which overflowed when it rained, sending water cascading down one side of the house and seeping into the basement. The man who owned the company swung by later that day, gave me a quote, and began work the following day because he saw a storm in the forecast and wanted to make sure we were covered.
Life here is simpler, so that even when chaos is swirling around me in the form of a simultaneous soccer game/tennis practice/vet appointment/husband-out-of-town kind of moment, at least there aren’t traffic jams, or angry drivers in cars or on bikes, construction vehicles blocking lanes, illegally parked cars, entitled, jaywalking pedestrians, chariot-like strollers, or dogs at the end of ten-foot leashes, pushing others off the sidewalks—all of which amplify the stress of trying to get where I need to be.
Despite the occasional overlapping of schedules, things just seem much more manageable, people are more patient and forgiving, and quiet is always just around the corner.
Of course I’d be lying if I didn’t say there are things I miss about the city, such as having easy access to a particular coffee shop, which supports my crippling addiction to a grande, non-fat, no-foam, kid’s-temperature Earl Grey Tea Latte.
The closest of these franchises to my former city dwelling was 47 paces south and 16 paces east. I know this because I sometimes tried to get there with my eyes closed for fun. Four other of these shops were within a 10-minute walk. For a change of scenery, there were five other independent cafes sprinkled about to accommodate the spillover.
Now the closest Earl Grey Tea Latte to me is 13.2 km away. It’s a number that has challenged my brand loyalty and altered my caffeine intake, but it is a price worth paying as I drive among cows and horses to get there.
Even though there are signs of gentrification in Pelham, as new homes sprout up on former farmer’s fields, it is still a far cry from the high-rises and cranes which darken the urban skies.
And while we may lose a little of that pastoral identity, we gain things like new arenas and, what looks to be a coffee house, opening soon, about 400 paces west and 30 paces south of me. I look forward to the day when I can have the best of both worlds—when I can walk down the open street of this beautiful and friendly small town and be reunited with my long lost latte. ◆
Have an interesting tale to tell? Send it to Column Six!