From the very beginning, and often through tears, we vowed that once we came out the other side of this tornado, once our lives got back on track, we would find a way to thank the so many people who came to our rescue and held us up while we struggled through all that had happened.There will be a party, we promised. And it will be big.
Saturday night, we made good on that.As soon as I had a move in date, I looked ahead for a housewarming party date and started planning. It was to be a way to show off our new home we had painstakingly created, and celebrate with everyone how far we had come.
It was to be our way of saying Thank You, to our families, our close friends, neighbours, the fire department and members of our inner circles…those who knew us best, before August 21 had ever happened, and those who we had grown closer to in the months since because of what had happened.Around plates of pulled pork, salad, homemade pickles, fruit and veggie trays, cake, cake pops and cheesecakes, our family and friends gathered, celebrated and reminisced as we played a slideshow of photos taken at our home pre tornado, post tornado and during the rebuild. We also had out a binder I had put together of all of the official notices, memos, mailings, cards and other memorabilia we had received in the days and weeks after the tornado, the “Not like any other Sunday” book that Jeff, Makenna and I all contributed to, and the issue of the Goderich Signal Star which had published my “6 months later” blog. And these cards, which I had made up at www.vistaprint.ca
The sounds of children as they played outside, in the basement and upstairs were mingled with the sounds of the adults’ laughter and first impressions of our new home throughout the afternoon. Joining us were a husband and wife that taught both Jeff and I growing up and later retired in Goderich who have been an immense source of support to us since the days following the tornado. It was neat to have them with us on Saturday and watch as they reconnected and relived the past with both Jeff’s family and mine. A close highschool friend of mine who doesn’t drink, at all, helped me prepare and mix up peanut butter cup martinis and ensured various guests were looked after while I was busy playing tour guide. Neighbours who had watched our house go up while continuing to live in their own on either side of it couldn’t believe what they saw when they stepped inside the front door. Perhaps my favourite reaction of the day was that of my Aunt, my mom’s sister. I have always admired and looked up to her, hoping to follow her example, especially when when it came to my marriage. She has worked over the years to create a beautiful home for her own family and has learned a lot about home renovations and decorating. Seeing her oooh and ahhh over my house, and the choices I had made as she lingered from room to room and went back a second time to double check things, was a huge compliment to me. The wheels were turning in her head as she considered how to make certain things work in her own home and she was genuinely impressed with what we had done. Not just acting impressed like a good aunt would, she was genuinely impressed and asking serious questions. I was really proud of that. Jeff felt the same way when her husband, my uncle, who knows a thing or two about food, had 3 helpings of the pulled pork and commended Jeff on how good it was. Having the approval of this aunt and uncle meant a lot to us. My cousin and his wife were there; the ones whose truffles started this blog series, whose wedding we attended while running on empty, who did so much for us in those first few weeks while planning their own wedding and have also been so supportive to us throughout this entire journey. Halfway through their pregnancy now, we are all anxiously awaiting the birth of the next great grandchild. There were babies, people in their seventies, and everyone in between. All together under our roof because they came to wish us well.
It was cool to finally have in one room, people from town who like us, had lived and breathed this tornado and everything since it struck for the past 8 months, alongside our family and friends who had known us our entire lives but really had limited knowledge and understanding about what it had been like for us. It was neat to hear our neighbours and friends from town share their stories and play back various situations with us infront of our family and friends who (hopefully) were able to gain an understanding of the chaos it has been for us. We also heard people from here in town commending us to our family members, commenting on “all we had been through” and “how well we had handled it”. Its always nice to be praised, especially by people that aren’t related to you and we appreciated the message they were trying to give our extended families. In some ways they knew better what we had been through then our families did, simply because they had lived it with us.
As evening started to fall and the children went home (mine went home with their grandma for the night), our family members began to file out and our friends from town filed in. Then, the party took on a different tone, but it was just as special.
It was time for us to pay tribute to, thank and recognize our friends who had become like family.
Its hard to centre anyone out here, as there are so many people who deserve the recognition. All of them were there for a reason.
There were a few different crowds under our roof, people that don’t know each other that well, but all had Jeff and I in common. Friends of mine, friends of Jeff’s, friends to both of us. Firefighters, retired firefighters, hair stylists and stay at home moms. Social workers, miners, plumbers and butchers. Daycare workers, accountants and cashiers.
We had so much fun.
And as I reflect back, I remember one firefighter in particular, taking the time to explain to others who didn’t know, how my brother rushed to Goderich as soon as he realized what was happening and couldn’t get reach us in the first hour after the tornado struck. He told the story of how dedicated Mike was, not just to Jeff and I, but also to the Goderich Fire Department and the town of Goderich. This firefighter even got a bit teary as he pointed to the sign mounted by the front door and explained to the captive audience how my brother, on the morning of our house demo, snuck up early to take apart the staircase that Jeff’s dad built in our old house in order to create that sign out of one of the treads – the sign that says “Home is where our story begins”.
This firefighter knew our story…intimate details of it...because he had been paying attention. He pulled me aside that night and told me how much he loved our home and the various prints/quotes I had displayed throughout it.
I truly love this man. He is a very special person who makes this world a better place and once he’s your friend, he’s a friend for life.
His wife, who “lazed out” and brought “just some bacon wrapped filet mignons” is equally as special. From the beginning she has checked in on me, encouraged me, built me up and made me smile. She captured many great memories on her camera phone that night and was seen laughing and chatting with everyone in attendance, whether she knew them well or not. Their two daughters are so lucky to have them as parents, and we are so lucky to have them as friends.
Sheila and Patti and their significant others were there too of course…Sheila taking care of the details like she does so well, and Patti chatting and reminiscing with everyone because she knows everyone.
And of course, Jen and Darren, whose house we lived in for 14 days. They were here too. Our friendships with them have completely transformed in the past 8 months and we were so glad we could finally have them over to our house.
True to our style, there were people socializing everywhere from our kitchen, to our office to our garage to our shed, now affectionatly known as "Shed A".
And it was so much fun.
We gave our last tour late into the night to our neighbours down the street who had just moved home that day. As we congratulated eachother on how far we had come, we also took time to discuss the hardships we still face. The fear of the weather. Ensuring our children are as well adjusted as they can be, given the circumstances. The haunting memories. The misconception that a brand new house makes it all better…makes us forget all the bad stuff, makes it all worth it.
I wouldn’t say a brand new house makes the nightmares, the fear of the wind or the lingering worries, worth it. She asked me if this place feels like home, or if we still missed our old house.
This house feels more like home as the days go on, but yes, we do still miss our old house. That’s where we became a family.
She asked me when I got past it. When I made peace with everything and moved on.
I’m not past it. I don’t know that I have made peace with it or if I ever will. There, in our brand new upstairs hallway with the lyrics to “you are my sunshine” framed behind me and over the laughter carrying up from down below, I answered that there is no timeline. There is no right or wrong way to deal with this, and that no one could tell us that a new house made it “all better”. We agreed at how insensitive it was to hear that "we should be over it by now". And agrred that the reason they try to tell us these things, is because they haven’t lived what we’ve lived.
Of course we love our home. Yes, we are lucky to have it, and there are people all over town wishing they could have gotten a brand new home too. They don't know the little details. They say this expecting they would have the same outcome we did. (I always want to say "you better make sure you have a good insurance adjuster then!") I reminded her though, that we have nothing to feel guilty about.We have earned it.
You don’t get over something like this, you learn to live with it. And we’re still learning, all the time.The four of us returned downstairs, surrounded ourselves with those who came to wish us well and welcome us home, and smiled.
On this day, we were surrounded by almost 100 people who stood by us through the last 8 months and were so very happy that we had made it to this point. This was our way of thanking and honouring them for all they had done and provided for us. And that’s what we did. Everyone came together for us and in one night, we gave them the party they deserved. One that, I think...will be talked about for awhile.
“Life takes us to unexpected places. Love brought us home”.
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