I haven’t thought of myself as a city girl for a long time, even though I was born and raised in the city. The neighbourhood we live in now could almost be described as rural. There is no shopping mall, and only one grocery store. There are no fences – regal trees that tower like gentle giants separate our properties, offering privacy and shade in the summer. There are no sidewalks or street lamps either. On dark winter nights, the moon, the stars and the glistening snow light my way home.
We moved here almost two decades ago to board our horses at a nearby barn and ride the beautiful, forested network of trails. We stayed because we grew to love the small-town lifestyle.
Unlike us, my friends love the vitality of city life. They love the cafés, museums, street concerts, noise and energy of streets teeming with people. So much, that now that their kids have left home, a few have made the leap and bought units in the condo towers sprouting in the city. They kept their homes in the suburbs for now and have the best of both worlds, spending a little time in each.
Their condos are new, modern and beautiful. They have gyms and common areas worthy of a décor magazine spread. And the heart of the city beats at their doors. “It’s great!” they say. “Plus you don’t have to worry about cutting the grass in summer or shoveling snow in winter.”
I’m uncomfortable in crowds and I get antsy when I don’t have a clear view of the skyline from the ground. I don’t enjoy shopping and we eat out only occasionally. But I do miss being close to my friends and family and their rave reviews had me doubting what I should want at this stage in my life.
“Maybe we should think about moving to a condo in the city,” I said to my husband. I knew the suggestion would be strongly rebuffed and he didn’t disappoint. Still, I kept toying with the idea. Then COVID-19 hit and we had to shelter-at-home.
Our house isn’t big, but the design makes good use of space. The rooms are airy and comfortable. We each have our own home office. If we want to watch different TV shows, one of us can stay in the living room and one can go to the basement. We can drink our coffee in the back yard in the morning and enjoy a glass of wine on our front porch in the evening. It’s well-used, can use some updates, but it’s comfortable and it makes quarantine bearable.
I started reading about condo dwellers who usually stepped into their homes only at the end of a long day. Suddenly, hundreds of them were home all-day, every-day, in the units of their multi-storied condo complexes. The beautiful common areas, pools and gyms were shut tight. Noise complaints and wi-fi demand surged. Going outside meant stepping onto a small balcony or taking precautions needed to ride the elevator down to the lobby during a pandemic. That’s when I realized that COVID-19 was teaching me something about myself.
For many people, these are minor inconveniences during an exceptional time. A small price to pay for a safe but temporary way of life. But I would feel trapped and even more miserable during this exceptional time. I am just not ready for condo life in the city, at least not yet. So until further notice, this country mouse will stay right where she is.