22: Renewed

22: Renewed

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home


Home is home, though it be never so homely.

~John Clarke

Not one kitchen cupboard door hangs straight. The furniture is secondhand with ugly, dated upholstery and the odd stain. None of the floors are level — when you walk from one room to another, you get the distinct feeling of walking the deck of a ship at sea. There are unusual odours whose source we have been unable to find and little black bugs we can’t get rid of.

It is paradise.

My husband, two sons and I live most of the year in a comfortable home in a small Ontario city that is perched on two lakes. We have all the necessary comforts and room enough for us and the dog. The house started out as a two-bedroom bungalow but has grown with our family’s needs. It has a nice yard and garden, though certainly nothing worthy of a magazine spread. We like to think we live simply, but every corner betrays the need to declutter our overabundance of “stuff.” It was never in our long-range plans to own a second property, let alone in another province, but a summer holiday in 2005 changed our course forever.

The tourism people of Newfoundland and Labrador launch a wonderful ad campaign each year. The stunning images and toe-tapping music intrigued us and we made plans for a family trip. With two boys aged seven and five at the time, we boarded a plane and headed east, about as far east as you can go in Canada. From the moment we caught sight of the rocky coastline on our descent to St. John’s, we were enthralled. For two weeks, we toured the area in our cherry red rental van, continually surprised by the beautiful vistas around each curve. A highlight for the boys was the whale-watching excursion, which brought our boat perilously close to mammoth humpbacks. For Mark and I, the stunning landscape, kindness of the people we met and relaxed pace made for a most satisfying holiday. There seemed little doubt we’d be back.

In the fall of that same year, I had an idea: What about buying property in Newfoundland? My husband and friends will attest that once an idea takes root within me, it becomes something of an obsession. And so I began looking at real estate pages online. Casually, you understand. Just for fun. No, I would tell myself, this was a crazy idea. It’s too far away. But then, didn’t we know many families who owned properties in Florida to which they went each winter? And that’s in another country! It is land after all, I would reason, a fine legacy to leave our sons. With no hope of us ever being able to afford a vacation cottage in Ontario, maybe it wasn’t such a crazy idea. The wheels continued to turn.

A few affordable properties caught my eye. By now, my husband Mark was on board and eager to get more details from the real estate agent. I had a moment’s pause. Could we really do this? Well, not without actually setting foot in the cottages we were considering.

A weekend trip is not unusual for many couples. An easy three-hour flight meant it was manageable. But for us, this was an incredibly big deal. I remember landing in St. John’s under grey skies and wondering what we were getting ourselves into.

A white-knuckle ride down the coast in pursuit of our real estate agent finally landed us in Renews. At the time, the population of this outport community was about 400. It boasted a post office, a general store, a church, a parish hall and a scattering of houses. We looked at two that were for sale.

The first was a roomy two-story house close to the rocky shore. While it certainly had potential, it needed too much work.

The second place was considerably smaller. But what it lacked in floor space it made up for in land — high up on a hill with almost two acres of rolling meadows. The afternoon sun poured through the windows, which offered a glorious panoramic view of the town and the harbour. It had a warm, cosy feel to it, and we immediately felt at home.

When we met the owner, who offered us tea and cookies, I voiced the question that had been preying on my mind: How would the residents feel about people from Ontario buying property in their community? His response was priceless.

“My dear,” he began in his charming Newfoundland accent, “once they get to know you it will be like they’ve been waiting for you to come.” That clinched it. Papers were drawn up and the deed was signed.

In the eight years since we bought our little yellow cabin on the hill, it has become our sanctuary. Each summer, we look forward to breathing in the sea air from our deck as the clothes blow on the line. Neighbours became friends, and over time, like extended family. We keep in touch throughout the year and have forged an enduring bond with them.

Renews, Newfoundland has a very special place in my heart. It will always be our family’s beloved second home, waiting for us to return, open the windows and wake it up after a long winter’s sleep.

~Joanne Webster

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