The Summer That Got Away - Part One: Serendipity

You might have noticed that I didn't post very much over the last few months. There were a few things going on... .lots of guests, three part-time jobs to juggle, roommates coming and going, two gardens (no, make that three) to tend, dogs to walk. No wonder I didn't get much done.

One notable event was that my mother bought a house here on Gabriola. And as house buying often goes, it was a long drawn out process of small freak-outs, wonderings and worryings. And a whole lot of serendipity.

It started last fall when Mom had finally had enough of a difficult neighbour in her condo. She and her partner, Jim, started looking around at properties for sale in her Fraser Valley town. There were some places one or the other of them liked, and many that were just plain unsuitable, but nothing that they both agreed on. Eventually they decided to put the search on hold, but were still keeping an eye out. They even went on a house tour of Gabriola just for the heck of it.

Mom had been living in the condo for almost 30 years, ever since my father went for a walk around the block and came home with a shiny new purchase agreement for a unit in the new development one street over. Mom didn't get consulted, but she went along with it and ended up with the condo when they divorced a couple of years later. Jim moved in with her a couple more years after that -there had been a fire in his apartment and Mom said he could stay with her. He never left. So it ended up that neither of them were terribly experienced home buyers.
Me and my Mom at the Atlas Affair. We are wearing our buttons. Photo:Bill Pope
Cut to the end of January, 2016. The Gabriola Arts Council is putting on their annual fundraising gala, with the theme of "The Atlas Affair". I had the smart-alecky idea of making buttons with the quote "The map is not the territory." As I had just done a purge on my junk drawer and was fresh out of old political campaign buttons, I went to the local thrift shop to see if I could find any. The clerk shook her head, but a nearby customer overheard me and said "I've got lots of buttons. Here's my address, come by and if I'm not home I will leave them on the freezer out on the porch."

It turned out that this kind person was Susan, a retired librarian and major presence in the community. I went by her house the next day, and, true to her word, she had left a baggie of buttons on her freezer. Ever the snoop, I looked around a bit, noticing the charming trim on the eaves, the well-kept garden, the trellises and fruit trees. I peeked through the front window and noticed lots of art on the wall and shelves full of books. I distinctly thought to myself, "Now, this is the kind of house Mom and Jim are looking for."

A few weeks went by, and I was at my Monday rug hooking group, where we eat cake and chocolate and share what we have been up to. Alison happened to mention that her friend Susan was going to have to sell her house. My head popped up and I said "Susan Y----? That Susan?" And it was! I phoned her as soon as I got home and asked if it was true. And when she said it was, I told her my story about picking up the buttons, and asked if my mom could come visit next time she was on the island.

Susan said she was in no rush to sell, and a visit would be just fine. This past Easter, Mom and Jim came over and had a tour of the house and grounds, and liked it very much indeed. But their condo wasn't even on the market yet, and Susan emphasized that she planned to take her time selling. But they all hit it off, bonding over a shared love of theatre and books, and ended up with a very informal arrangement that Mom and Jim would get first dibs when the property eventually went on the market.

Mom is a very practical person and once she decides to do something she is a dynamo of organization and planning. Jim, on the other hand, is fine with her taking the lead. Even so, once their condo was listed and quickly sold, there were many sleepless nights filled with fretting. And there were several trips over to Gabriola to inspect, see lawyers, take measurements and discuss arrangements with Susan, who in the meantime had decided to buy a condo in the Village. The timing worked out perfectly.

It seems to have been a very friendly, agreeable process negotiating the terms. Susan has even been giving positive advance notice on Mom and Jim to her friends: "I couldn't have imagined a better couple to move into my house" was said to my friend Maia, who duly reported back to me. (It is a small island after all. The "Gumboot Telegraph" is fully operational.)

The moving date will be at the end of October. Mom is currently on her annual gallivant around Ontario: visiting friends, going to the Shaw Festival and staying with my sister in Kingston. The Kingston Writer's Fest is also happening, and Mom is attending as usual (she even got her picture in the program, with her letter of thanks for the many years of pleasure and learning the festival has given her.) And, typically, she emailed Susan, asking her which of the authors she would choose for an autograph.

I'm betting it will be an especially gracious inscription that Eleanor Wachtel will write in Susan's copy of "The Best of Writers & Company." Things just seem to be working out that way.


  1. Vicky aka Stitchr posted this comment and I accidentally deleted it. Find Vicky at
    such a happy post!!!

  2. what a beautiful post full of the good magic of synchronicity

  3. "all's well that ends well" sounds like a very happy set of circumstances.


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