Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In the beginning

Chris and I have a long-held love for Prince Edward Island. This goes back to birth for Chris, who was born in Summerside and lived there for the first five years of his life. Being an Air Force Brat, he moved from there to Trenton and then finally to Ottawa, where he finished high school. During his university years, his parents moved back to PEI, and Chris again lived there in the summers. This is about the time we met.

As with many adolescent girls, I grew up on the fiction of Lucy Maud Montgomery and the magical worlds she created for beloved characters like Anne and Emily. I loved those books fiercely, and L.M. Montgomery was one of my childhood heroines, inspiring in me the ambition to one day become a writer. I longed to visit PEI, and nagged my parents to take me there for a family vacation. They never did. It was during my first year at Mt. Allison University in Sackville, NB, that I met several girls, who are now good friends, from PEI. I soon made it over for my first visit, in the dead of winter.

Here is a picture of me at Green Gables for the first time in 1994. My friends humoured me by visiting the park when it was closed in the middle of winter.

And here I am visiting the grave of Lucy Maud Montgomery, looking awfully chipper for a cold winter's day and a visit to a cemetary.

That was 15 years ago, and I've been to visit the Island every year since for one reason or another (except in 2007, when my youngest son Cameron was born right in the middle of the summer). Chris's parents live back here in Ontario now, about two minutes away from us, but they bought a cottage there in about 2000 or 2001. So we've had plenty of opportunity to visit, either camping or staying with them or on our own at their cottage. We even got married there in 2002. In a future post, I'll put up some of our very scenic wedding photos. So, needless to say, the place means a lot to us.
On and off for those 15 years, Chris and I (but mostly just I) would wistfully peruse the MLS listings for PEI, and for a couple of years, before having kids, we fantasized about moving there permanently. The prices were amazingly affordable and I had romanticized notions of living in the picturesque countryside in a charming farmhouse that we would buy for a song. But life - and making a living - got in the way. Now here we are, having left that dream behind with the birth of our first son Andrew in 2004. Having kids makes you want to be closer to family, so we packed in the Toronto lifestyle and moved to this small town outside of Ottawa in 2005, where we live 40 minutes from my parents and two minutes from my inlaws.
Now our visits to PEI are in one- or two-week blocks in the summer, happily squished into my inlaws' two-bedroom cottage. Sometimes they are in residence when we're there, and sometimes they're not. As this summer approached, it looked like it was going to be the first year we'd be there as a family of four, with my inlaws there as well (they were travelling in England when we were there last year). Chris and I went over the logistics and sleeping arrangements with them, and again wistfully thought how great it would be to have our own little cottage nearby, so that we could have our own space and not crowd them out with all our noise and chaos and stuff. We even did online searches for rental cottages nearby, discovering that $800/week was an off-season bargain, and that anything approaching decent was more likely to cost $1,200/week. And besides, the cost didn't seem worth it since we did in fact have a free place to stay. End of discussion.
Or was it?

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