Another Dimension

Vancouver made us feel like we’d just moved from a small, two-horse town to an urban centre the size of New York. There was so much we just hadn’t experienced before and so much that we had yet to become aware of.

Richard started work in downtown Vancouver in the middle of July 1998 and I stayed back in Calgary until September 1st. Adam was born in February of that same year, and after 6 months maternity leave*, I returned to my former job at the cemetery** for the month of August to tie up loose ends before I moved. I spent the summer living with my parents, sleeping in the basement bar (I’ll take foreshadowing for $1000 Alex) on a double mattress with Ashley, surrounded by two pack n’play cribs and many, many boxes of stuff from our old apartment. Richard and I would converse by phone daily and I took every opportunity to cry and beg him to let us move a month or two earlier, so we could all be together again. I hated that summer, as I felt like a single parent abandoned by her spouse…left with a baby, a toddler and a six year-old who was difficult to keep entertained. Add in the fact that every day I had to drive 20km in one direction to drop the kids off at daycare and then turn around and drive 30km in the other direction out to work, past where I’d just come from. I was one unhappy mama.

The kids and I caught a flight to Vancouver the first of September and quickly settled into our vast apartment in North Vancouver (living there was like living on the set of Melrose Place – there was a pool in the centre of the courtyard where everyone gathered on the summer weekends. Everyone knew what everyone else was up to, which was good in that I could trust Ashley to play outside with her friends with minimal supervision. I still miss that place). What we didn’t adapt to as quickly was the vastly different environment we found ourselves in.

The Lower Mainland is beautiful. I mean drop dead, kick you in the nuts, turn it sideways gorgeous. Whereas everywhere you look in Alberta you see sky and prairie, on the West Coast it’s trees and mountains and water and WOW…it’s amazing. There is so much to do too, from Stanley Park to Grouse Mountain to Granville Island to Science World – shopping, sightseeing, entertainment. It’s the Mecca.

All of that was good and wonderful, but Vancouver has a dark side too. On Richard’s first day of work, he witnessed someone attempt suicide by threatening to jump off a building. On our commutes into downtown we would see thousands of homeless people, some of them sleeping shoulder to shoulder in rows in a park – I had seen maybe ten homeless people in my whole life in Calgary. From the commuter train we saw drug deals, prostitution and that memorable woman sporting nothing but high heels and a bolero jacket.

We had NEVER experienced traffic the way that Vancouverites experience traffic. On a typical commute you can sit in traffic for quadruple the time it would actually take you to drive to your office were there no other cars on the road. I have become wise to this over the years. Living here, one does not even drive to the corner store without first going to the bathroom. You just never know when you’ll get to relieve yourself again. Getting over a bridge or through a tunnel could take you til next Tuesday, so I never commute without three important items: an empty bladder, coffee and tunes.

What I remember is that it was a whole lot to get used to…

*don’t even talk to me about the YEAR’s worth of maternity leave that mothers get today. I figure the government owes me 18 months for changing that scheme after I had all my kids. That and cup holders in my strollers. We had nothing when I was a mother back in the dark ages!

**I had a lot of people under me at that job (groan).

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