To my cozy yellow laneway house, its various guests and inhabitants, and all the events that took place while I called it “home.”
I don’t own a house key. Which is weird, at least to me. House keys feel like one of the most basic things you can own, and right now the only keys in my possession belong to a storage unit in Vancouver, a luggage lock attached to my backpack, and a key to a hostel locker that I’ll have to give back in a few days. Reality sets in – in strange ways.
I said goodbye to my favourite little laneway home the morning of July 1st and I’ve been settling into this new reality ever since – slowly at first, as I packed up my things – faster now, as I move between new cities every few nights.
This is a love-letter to the place I lived for just over a year and a half, a bit of a love-letter to some special events that happened in my life during the time I lived there, and of course, to my roommate – the second one – & a best friend, the one who dances in my Instagram stories.
The house is a little yellow building backed onto the alley and surrounded by overgrown plants. In the summer, it’s like you’re walking through a jungle to get to the front door. The first summer I pushed plants out of my way just to make it down the walkway. Nevertheless, there’s a small concrete patio lined by trees, an adorable little loft above the kitchen, and an upstairs bedroom with 3 large windows that became my incredibly cozy nook. A guy I briefly dated took pictures of the walkway in an effort to prove that where I lived said a lot about my age. It never bothered me. I romanticized my mattress on the floor, small home, and overgrown backyard for months.
Neighbourhoods have a big effect on how much you like where you live. For one, anytime I search for a home from now on I’ll be adding “walking distance to London Drugs” on my criteria. Beyond that, I’ll need to find a park.
The park near this house was everything. I ran into it the first spring when going on long walks in the evening was just becoming a habit. It was a post-breakup sanctuary; a place where you’d bring wine and blankets and books and pull yourself together when you needed to feel strong being on your own. It was the perfect vantage point for soaking up a good sunset and watching a baseball game in the field at the bottom of the hill. It was also the place for bringing pizza and ciders and best friends and lying on the grass until the darkness set in.
I spent many evenings here in all sorts of states. I chased sunsets and even a rare Vancouver thunderstorm down 35th Ave just so I could catch a better look from the hill. The walk to the park along 35th also included two of my favourite homes in the neighbourhood, one of which had a “Free Art” stand out front. After an incredibly lonely and difficult day back in March, I found a print of a heart (the organ – not the shape) in the stand created by someone with the same last name as me. It’s the only piece of art I ever took from there, and I carried it home as though it would one day mean something far more than it did.
My roommate (the roommate – and one of my greatest friends) and I spent an incredible amount of time here our first summer and into our last days of living together. We discussed relationships and the somewhat painful awareness of always being “home” and “away-from-home,” no matter where we are. We talked about anxiety, depression, and what to do when your self-confidence hits a newfound low. Most importantly, we discussed how to fight off the Sunday Scary’s and that sometimes all that means is saying yes to watching the sun go down the night before work starts up again.
I moved into 2038 37th Ave E in November 2017. It was my third time moving my things in a month – from my boyfriend-at-the-time’s to a student house with various friends, and then to the laneway house – and I was ready to settle down.
When I first moved into the place I was on my own for several days. I got to decorate and arrange the cupboard space. My first roommate, a woman in her 30s who was only going to be in Vancouver for several months, moved in. With differing schedules I barely got to know her, but I found some amusement in coming home to hear various stories after she had started pouring her Gin & Tonics.
Around this time and as fall morphed into a Vancouver-winter, the loveliest friendship story evolved. Jord, a stranger at the time, moved out West to which her best friend (Tess), and my best friend (Manda) (who happened to both be housemates in Ontario) encouraged us to meet each other. We met for tacos and spent a brief period of time playing the polite, calm, cool, and collected kind of role. Over time we went from new friends who would run into each other at the gym, to spin class buddies, and then planning Bachelorette screenings in my home where we eventually lost our playing it cool identity.
Fast forward to May 2018, and Jord became the roommate. Our little home was quickly lit up with laughter, spontaneous dance moves, and more beer bottles than before.
A collection of some of my favourite memories.
- The video of Jord & I post-hike, dancing to Shawn Mendes on the concrete patio.
- “Games night,” or the night we scattered friendly faces over our tiny living room and laughed at a story about how someone once upon a time put a tampon in their mouth to check its absorbency.
- The day of the Vance Joy concert – the most perfect summer day there ever could be.
- Sangria on the patio after yet another Ontarian landed in BC.
- Drinking ciders in the backyard with snow still on the ground.
- The road trips Jord & I took – to Tofino, to Portland, to the mountains, to the beach (and the music we played along the way).
- The collection of Ontarians that held each other while we cried and then danced all night in the living room and the bar.
- The time my mom came out for a week.
- The time Jord went into my room and came down fully dressed in an absurd outfit dancing to Backstreet Boys.
- The sunset drive to drop off a cooler.
- Endless park nights, beach nights, and neighbourhood walks that lasted longer than an hour.
- Every time it snowed.
For a little while our home became the stopover for many people passing through or setting up home for themselves. Friends and family visited and left. Other friends came and stayed for a little while, moved into the city and built homes of their own, and then they too left as well. Regardless, our tiny home became home to more than just the two of us – eventually three of us – but still more.
Anyone who’s ever lived with roommates knows there’s ups and downs. It’s not a secret. Not something to be ashamed of either. When our house became a house of 3 rather than 2, we ran into some sturdy walls. Climbed them, and ran into a few more. It’s the nature of things. Each one of us with a drastically different kind of relationship with the other person, we knew it wasn’t going to be perfectly smooth sailing the day we decided to take the plunge. We didn’t know what we were going to encounter either.
So for about three months we tackled our own problems within the small space available and occasionally tackled problems that weren’t our own as well.
Scatterbrained with great intentions and a kind heart. A DIY kind of guy who will continuously change his mind. We heard his name in a rap song and now we’ll never stop singing Monte will you be my baby daddy (I’m like yeahhhhh).
If the walls could talk.
- They would have seen my breakup coming – would have warned me that he stepped foot into the house less and less.
- They would have talked about the one awkward birthday gathering.
- They would have told me to stop crying, more than once.
- They would have spoiled secrets that should never have been kept in the first place.
- They would have said this space is small so don’t forget to step outside when it feels hard to breathe.
- They would have said that my room in the summertime is way too hot.
- They would have laughed at several house guests.
- They would have warned us when the ants started taking over the kitchen floor.
- They would have agreed that counselling is a great idea.
When I think about Vancouver (which is often) I still think about going home to that laneway house. I picture my walk home from a job I no longer have and the walk to the park I no longer live near. It was a bittersweet departure, but the right timing for an entirely new adventure. Come November, I have no idea where I’ll end up living, but I hope it’s somewhere near a London Drugs and a park with a decent sunset view. Perhaps this time I’ll be ready to invest in a bed frame.
To my killer roommate & a lovely best friend, I cannot thank you enough for a spectacular year and a bit. See you soon for a lengthy park night, or 10.
To the little yellow laneway house, you were one for the books and I’ll hang on to all of your quirky memories.