“A man without land is nothing.”
When Duddy Kravitz’s grandfather says this, Duddy becomes obsessed and begins the relentless pursuit of property that is his downfall. “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” is one of my favourite novels by the late great Mordecai Richler.
Many years ago, when I was still a wee lass, my parents told me I could have a particular parcel of land — river frontage, with a babbling brook, apple trees — a great place for a little house. Very rustic! And I happen to have friends who can appreciate rustic, so I always thought it was a good fit 🙂
It was sort of understood that when I went to settle down, I would build there.
That was a long time ago . . . the late 80’s, early ’90’s . . . and as everyone knows, settling down in the sense of marriage and children wasn’t really in my cards. Whenever I would be in a serious or semi-serious relationship, I would think about that land and whether or not I could imagine (or wanted to imagine) building a life there with the guy. Sometimes, I came close to seeing it . . . but in the end it always boiled down to trust.
I never trusted anyone enough to risk losing that land in a nasty break-up. I loved that land too much to let a man come between us.
I took friends there and showed it to them. Sometimes when I was going through a particularly hard time I would go there alone and just sit and listen to the brook and the river and imagine a life there. Occasionally, I even went there in the middle of the night, back when I was always out alone in the dark and I didn’t worry about bears.
I always liked the security of knowing that when the time came I would have a place. And it was a good place. A place I trusted.
My life started to fall apart in 1999 and over the next year or so I lost everything — my business, my boyfriend, the roof over my head, my health — everything. I ended up back at my parents. I ended up flat on my back wondering if I’d ever walk normally again. I bottomed out.
They say you need to hit bottom in order to start to climb back up again, and that’s absolutely true. I hit bottom and I wallowed for awhile but then I started to work my way up again. And the first thing I did was work on myself — my self-esteem, my relationship baggage and issues — and it didn’t happen overnight, but pretty soon I was a little better. I was okay being alone. I liked myself again. I felt strong.
And still I thought about the land. But now I had a different strategy. I wouldn’t wait to settle down with a man. I would live there on my own. I went so far as to design my little house on paper. I actually drew a floor plan. I got a job, started taking care of my bills, started writing and pursuing my dream of being an author — I was (I still am) doing okay. The road might be long and twisty but somehow, some way, someday, I’d get the bedroom loft in a little house by the babbling brook with a porch facing the river.
But a year or two ago, everything changed. It started with subtle hints from Mom . . . “Your uncle is crazy, how are you going to live with him as your neighbour? He’ll make your life a living Hell.” . . . “Why do you want to be so far away from the road?” . . . “Why not build at the river down here? Closer to the kids.” . . . Which turned into a flat out “you can’t have it I’m selling it” from Dad.
I was pretty hurt. I remember the first time anything was said, the first hint, felt like a punch in my stomach. I just couldn’t even believe it. I couldn’t believe after all the years, all the planning, at the very heart of it all they didn’t want me to have it. It’s no big secret that I don’t get along that well with my father, yet still I never dreamed he’d disinherit me, that he’d sell my place.
For many months I thought I’d be left out of the land thing altogether. My sisters had their places staked out already, my brother was supposed to get the family homestead . . . there was nothing left for me if they sold my river place. But then it became apparent I’d be getting the family homestead. My brother has learning disabilities and can’t live on his own. Somebody needs to take care of him. I’m in my 30’s. I don’t have any kids and family of my own. It doesn’t take a genius to read the writing on that wall.
So, my plan changed drastically then. I started to think about leaving the area. I searched for places to move. I thought about going to Asia, Hong Kong or Seoul. I did a lot of research on Ireland, France and Italy. I settled on Stratford, Ontario, for a time. It became this sort of desperate search for a place, any place, where I could escape the life I felt was being forced on me here, where I could go and be happy and never get homesick for that other quiet life by the river that I had planned in my head for so long.
Make no mistake about it, in the beginning I was on the run. I wanted to get as far away from my family as possible and never look back. But the more time that passed, the more I worked on self, the stronger I became emotionally and physically — the closer the location of my move.
I’ve settled on Sackville, NB. I’m going in a couple of months. I’m excited about the move. I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life, to making new friends, to being myself. So, why am I drudging up the past now, when I’m so excited about a future that doesn’t look anything like I thought it would? Why am I thinking about the land?
My sister is getting her land . . . legally getting it, I mean. She’s getting a new house, so they need to legalise ownership of the land. She’s lived there for years, but nothing was ever legal before. My other sister has legally owned her land for many years now. She owned her land when I still thought I was getting mine. And that never bothered me. I mean I don’t begrudge them their land, houses, happiness — whatever. It’s just hurtful to be excluded.
It’s just watching the papers get signed, hearing the talk about it all the time . . . it’s like rubbing salt into an old wound. It’s brought up old issues, I guess. I mean, I don’t want that land now. I really don’t. I have a different plan. I’m happy with my plan. I don’t want the homestead either. I don’t want anything. I’m off in a couple of months to begin the adventure of my lifetime and I’m never coming back again. I mean, I’m coming to visit. I may even decide I want to live in Chatham or someplace. But I’m never coming back to live in this house or anywhere on this road or in this town again. Never. No matter what. I’m very thankful to my parents for all of their help over the years, but I’m done. I need to go live my own life now. Who knows maybe I would’ve ended up leaving anyway and wouldn’t have wanted the land afterall . . . but I guess we’ll never know that will we?
The thing that hurts is that they didn’t want me to have it, plain and simple. They had no problems signing off huge chunks to my sisters, but not me. So lately I’ve been getting upset pretty often because it’s all at the forefront while my sister works out her ownership details.
Of course, in the Kellie way of doing things, I never said too much when the land first got taken away. I internalised everything, crying when nobody could hear me, plotting elaborate “I’ll show them” schemes, letting it fester. And to my parent’s way of thinking, my very few words on the subject bascially meant I was fine with the whole deal, gee it was practically all my idea to begin with.
Now, to their way of thinking after I’ve been quite verbal about wanting nothing, I should expect nothing. They don’t get it. But that’s okay, because this whole land deal should be done this week and then I won’t have to think about it everyday plus I’ve figured out what I need to do to work past this.
In my hurt and anger and urgency to make a new plan, I never stopped to mourn the old one. I burned the floor plan of my house in one of my cleaning purges but I never stopped to cry for the death of that dream. So, that’s what I’m doing now. I’m saying good bye to the dreams of yesterday, closing that door for good, so I can open another door and fully embrace my dreams of today.
Listening To: Got to be Real, Cheryl Lynn
Hair: Straggly Up-do