Why me? Why Vancouver?
For almost ten years, my husband’s request to be transferred to Vancouver by his employer sat in some HR equivalent of development hell. Nothing happened, and given the desirability of the posting and Paul’s place in the line, nothing was expected to. Then, three weeks after our family followed his employment from Montréal to Toronto, he got word to report for work in Vancouver in 72 hours’ time.
And he smiled. He’d applied for three weeks of vacation at exactly the same time, and couldn’t be forced to start work until it was finished. Thus began our family’s transition.
We put everything we owned in a truck trailer – including the vintage motorcycle and sidecar that Paul later sold so we could buy a house – and sent it on its way. We grabbed the kids and the cat and flew to Victoria and dropped the kids off with the grandparents, and then we spent two weeks lining up a car, a place to live and schooling and drivers licences.
We laboured in that little golden slot of weather that we get sometimes in late October, when the days are deliciously crisp and cool, the air smells wonderful, and the sun on the mountains makes you think you’re living in a fantasy novel.
We wondered why there was a bird we could only hear at intersections. We said Gag-lard-ee and Anna-kiss and locals choked on polite laughter. We found a house (after consulting an earthquake map for the safest locales) and got the kids settled, and began a love affair with Vancouver that continues to this day.
I can’t speak for the rest of my family, since time has kept us in the same city but no longer under one roof, but the shape and texture and beauty of the city has come to mean home as no other place ever has. Memories bubble up.
The turbaned Sikhs teasing the waitress to bring them chopsticks in the Chinese restaurant, “What are we, uncivilized?” The silent explosion of flowering shrubs each spring, the lilacs, the rhodos and the cherries. The way people leave their Diwali lights up until Christmas. The Babel of accents and voices on the transit; the kindnesses I have experienced on the two occasions I’ve had car trouble and strangers appeared out of nowhere with cell phones. The ‘four o’clock stripe’ at sunset in the winter, just about the only time you can reliably see the sun. The hundreds of kilometres of lovely places to walk and ride; the hills that nearly gut you in the summer and cause articulated buses to splay out like drunks in the winter.
Watching my son do Winter Karate Training on Jericho Beach, marching in his gi into the water; paddling among the herons on the Pitt River, and then nearly dying of the effort required to get back to the dock when the tide was making. Sunsets and sunrises of transfixing beauty. Dealing with raccoons, skunks, coyotes, deer and bears, and once, the authorities had to tranquilize a cougar, mere blocks from the house. Running into herons in every part of the city. Once I startled one as I came around a corner on my bicycle and nearly fell off as a six food wingspan abruptly flung wide in front of me. The stairs at Wreck Beach and the 60’s vibe that greets you at the bottom. Sadness at the ancient trees wrecked by a storm in Stanley Park; joy to see the statue of Lord Stanley the first time and read the beautiful words inscribed on it. Asking Headwater to come play on the back deck for my brother’s birthday, and what an amazing concert that was.
There are things I’ve learned to dislike about Vancouver, but complaints are cheap. I’ve learned to love my splendid city, to want to know more about her and the people who were here before the settlers came. It was a happy accident that brought me here, and I’ll be staying here as long as I can. Vancouver has given me a church community I cherish, co-workers whom I now consider my closest friends, and music and love and really phenomenal craft beer in abundance.
It seems strange to have been born on one coast only to find my heart’s home on the other, but Vancouver is a place that has taught me to respect the playful grip coincidence has on any human life.