addresses the issue in a useful post about the possibility of uneven aging in a couple's senior years and the wealth of responses suggests this is a widespread concern. Duchesse's specific reference to hanging on to the family home in anticipation of grandchildren's visits resonated particularly loudly -- it certainly touched a chord with me.
I have long dreamed of having the grandchildren playing together here on our beach and cycling the dirt roads of the island, enjoying considerably more roaming latitude than they have access to in the city. As I've shared in numerous posts over the past few years, we've already made many happy memories here with Nola, and Harriet is now at the age when we hope she and Nola might be able to visit Nana and Granddad's together, sans parents. This summer, I'm planning to nudge a treehouse project into reality and we're also hoping Nola will be back for sailing lessons again.
But keeping up two places may become too much over the next few years: island life can be logistically challenging, the travel back and forth can be costly, and servicing two homes isn't cheap -- my pension will be very modest, given my late entry to the plan. Much as it will hurt to leave this place, if we have to choose, a downtown condo in the city that hosts some of our kids and grandkids makes more sense. Our current apartment, bought years ago when Pater worked in the city while I worked over here, is satisfactory but small -- about 500 square feet. It lacks some of the amenities we appreciate (no in-suite laundry, for example); the location is convenient but north-facing and without a particularly attractive view; there's no extra bedroom for grandkid sleepovers or visiting guests. Should/once we move, we'll be looking for something more suitable.
While we settle into my retirement, though, I'd like to sit with both possibilities. I don't want us to rush into the financial constraints that would come with buying a bigger condo now (Vancouver's housing market is absolutely nuts -- the income--average house ratio is one of the toughest anywhere). Still, we enjoy that parental/grandparental role of bringing the family together, regularly. And we find that it's surprisingly possible to manage, even in such a small space.
This past weekend, for example, we offered (begged?) to baby-sit Frankie -- her dad dropped her off on his way to climb some mountains (really!) while her mom headed off to yoga. We waited anxiously for the Sleeping Baby to wake and wonder where she was and who she was with . . . in fact, it took her about five very solemn minutes, looking, blinking, looking, thinking. . . and finally a careful smile that gradually dissolved into a more relaxed demeanour. By the end of the morning, she was quite happy to sit with a dapper uncle (see above photo) and keep track of all the goings-on.
After Frankie settled in, the rest of the family began to arrive. Nana plays a silly little game whereby I head down the hallway to the elevator as soon as I've buzzed the visitors in. I was crouched there with Frankie when Hattie exited the elevator -- huge grin! Baby Frankie! big hugs. . . .I'd love to think that might someday be a memory (Perhaps they'll tell their own little ones: "Nana used to wait for us at the elevator -- we always pretended to be surprised").
Hattie and I did the same elevator surprise for Nola who, I think, rather expects it by now but still looks delighted to see us.
Once inside the apartment, things are a bit crowded. Shoes pile up in our little hallway, coats get piled on Nana and Granddad's bed. But there are seats for all, and plenty of food and, very quickly, a happy din as we catch up on each other's news. The little girls seem to approve of the menu: Pater bought an electric grill, which simplifies the cooking considerably, and he stuck with a classic menu -- bacon, sausages, eggs, pancakes, and his superlative baking powder biscuits. (I questioned why he'd double the starch -- pancakes and biscuits? -- his reasonable answer: everyone likes his biscuits and they like pancakes as well)
And when the quieter play gives way to a need to move more energetically, we do as we did later on Sunday afternoon, when all the brunch guests but Nola had left. For the first hour, she was very happy to have her doll family and their house all to herself, and we could hear her happily chattering them through a number of grand narratives. But when she started looking for something new to do, we all got our coats and shoes on and headed to the beach -- a five-minute walk from the apartment! From the beach, we strolled to the grocery store, again only minutes away, and then back home to roast chicken and pasta -- both high on Little Girl's approved menus.
It's funny how wedded we are to the notion of sprawling interiors, given how many people in how many cities around the world make do -- and live rich lives -- in much less square footage. Although I'm occasionally disappointed that we can't have all our kids gather in our larger island home more often, I'm glad we're pushed to see how much hospitality can be fitted into 500 square feet. What about you? Have you lived in a small city space? Or a small space anywhere? Got any tricks to share? (and on that note, Ikea's pretty clever, no?) Would the cramped area drive you nuts? Are you contemplating a move once retired? Looking forward to it or dreading it? Do tell -- I've been keen to follow the conversation Duchesse started and interested in hearing more about this particular aspect of it.
Of course, the city also offers many simple, easily accessible pleasures for Granddad and Nana as a couple -- more on that in my next post. . . .