Why Vancouver? Why You?
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I had only been in the city a couple of hours before I ended up sitting at a Starbucks on Seymour Street blubbering over a piece of pumpkin loaf. It was autumn. A man across the street was using a leaf blower to clean the sidewalk, but every time a car drove by, a gust of wind scattered his leaf pile and his work was undone.
So this is what it’s going to be like. That’s what I was thinking.
Watching the leaf guy demonstrate a study in futility made me cry even harder, so I called my mom to tell her that maybe driving across half the country so my husband Ian could go to video game school and I could just figure out the rest wasn’t my best idea after all. What could a mom say, but that she was sure I’d land on my feet. I hoped she was right.
Later that day we got our keys and after one load of boxes we realized that we were going to need more than a few hours, and that moving in without a cart or a dolly or a soul to help is a flat-out bust. There was a 1-800 number on the dashboard of the U-Haul we rented, so we called it and hired movers to come in the morning. It was only about 7:00 o’clock, but we found a blanket in one of our boxes and then slept our first night on the floor of our new bedroom. I cried myself to sleep. The next morning the movers never showed, and when I couldn’t get my end of the couch out of the truck I knew we were stuck. I was imagining having to abandon our only non-Ikea piece of furniture, when a man came up to us and said, “You look like you could use some help, and a guy’s gotta eat.” So, Donnie helped us move in, and at the end of the day, I knew that even though we were alone here, we weren’t totally on our own.
But, it turns out Vancouver is a bit of a tricky city to try to call home. It was six months before I found a full-time job, and longer than that until I had more than one friend. We spent the rainy nights of our first winter watching every single James Bond movie and eating day-old baguette that we found hanging on the door handle of Finch’s at closing time. I wasn’t so sure that we’d make it much past Ian’s graduation day, but somehow, almost five years later, we’re still here.
It’s hard to say why. Maybe it’s the cherry blossoms, or the frosted look of the mountains on mornings in winter. Or the beaches with their purple seashells. Or becoming a sports fan when the time seems right. It could be that I’m partial to being minutes away from the water, or that falling asleep to the sound of the first autumn rain makes my heart feel cozy. But then again, it might be 200 flavors of gelato, the creamiest of creamy cheeses, bike lanes, water taxis, thank-yous to bus drivers, leaf-stains on sidewalks, or being alone on the seawall on a rainy day. And it most certainly is the friends that have become sisters and brothers to me when my own dear family is so far away. It’s all of these things, and the things that are beyond the reach of naming. We’ve never decided to stay, but there are always reasons not to leave.
And now, no matter where I end up, a real piece of me will always belong to Vancouver. I gave birth to my daughter here; her name is Ivy. Throughout my pregnancy I walked and walked and traced a map of this city onto my baby’s growing body. All of my prayers and dreams for this girl were poured out while I looked at the mountains. So you see, these streets run through her veins and the mountains are in her DNA. She was part of this place before she even got here. We’re all tied together, our little family and the city we call home.
I guess my feet did find the ground. They found themselves a good pair of rain boots, and somehow, those ocean waves rolled their way on into my heart.