Moving house and heart

We are moving in June, to a new city, Montreal, and new kind of housing, a condo about half the size of the house we've had for 25 years.

In less than a week I've experienced the euphoric thrill phase, the buyer's remorse phase (oh no, the table will not fit!) and, after five days, what I hope is the final state: reckoning with reality, which means timetables, checklists and enlistment of all the people who will help us.

Pie Guy, missed every day
Just two days before the purchase, our sweet, reserved 15 year-old tabby had two days of sudden, irremediable decline, and we put him down after tender goodbyes and a last snack of his adored roast chicken.

Many of you know how it is: animals are full family members. We are bereft but grateful for his years of love.

The house, the cat: deep attachments divest; new experiences wink from around the corner. Heady excitement one moment, shaky the next.

Was the heart of the house
Leaving friends shreds my heart, as does leaving our kitchen (especially our AGA!), garden and the features of the house that were gifts from my parents. I feel as if I'm leaving part of them behind.

But Le Duc and I wanted to make a change, and, empty-nested and able-bodied, it's time. There are bolder moves for couples to risk, though this 500km hop to the northeast with a noticeably different culture, will stretch me plenty. 

Moving here in spring
We'll live in a vast, graceful (deconsecrated) church converted to condos, close to commenter lagatta's home; she has already provided me with neighbourhood tips.

My brain refuses to acknowledge letting go of the treasured and familiar, but it will get there. Might take extra chocolate. 

And yes, cats are allowed.


Susan said…
My condolences on the loss of your dear cat. We are cat lovers also and lost our 17 year old calico some years ago and know the sweetness of remembering these dear family members.

I am so excited about your bold move! And the repurposed church is just lovely. I hope when you get all settled, you will share more photos.

You have some wonderful adventures ahead!
Patricia said…
Condolences on your loss Duchesse -we don't have pets but I have seen first hand how sad people are when a loved pet passes on. Indeed part of the family.
I'm very excited about your move to Montreal - I think it will give your posts that little extra 'je ne sais pas'! We will move back to Canada this summer after 4 years in Budapest - we'll be sorry to leave, but glad to be back, not too far from Toronto this time (Barrie). For us it will (hopefully) be a move to a bigger house - I've had enough of the postage-stamp-sized sink and fridge!! :0)
Fuji said…
So sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved cat. I know he'll be sorely missed.
Good luck with your new home. One chapter ends and another begins, so wistful...
Julianne said…
So sorry about the loss of your cat. I have lost so many pets and it is so heartwrenching each time. You are a brave lady to make these changes. Change is difficult for me, and I am always so impressed with people who can just move forward bravely. The new place looks wonderful. Hope you will post some pictures. Best of luck on your new adventure.
Unknown said…
That is incredibly cool! It sounds wonderful! I'm so envious - a bold move and a new life! If I'm ever able to retire (in the good old US legal industry that is a question) I'd love to do something bold and exciting too.

At the same time, loss of a pet is so hard. However, the move would have been traumatic (cats so hate to have anything change) and kitty's time had apparently come in any case. I'm sorry, though - they are members of the family.
La Loca said…
I'm sorry to hear about your beloved cat. Your new home looks wonderful, though.
I had heard the sad news of the demise of lovely old Pie Guy a bit earlier, since I was providing Montréal tips as Duchesse's post mentions. I'm such a catnut - as my web handle indicates - that I had a bit of a cry, doubtless because two neighbours, one of whom is a close friend, lost their own pussycats very recently. M's cat Décibelle (she had a very loud meow as a tiny kitten) was only ten years old and had a similar sudden decline. Interestingly, both of these cats died just before major structural work would mean their humans would have to leave for three or four months.

Both cats were actually euthanised, but no, neither of these cat people would ever dream of doing so for reasons of convenience. I was supposed to be taking in at least one of the cats.

My own darling Renzo is the love of my life (see previous post, though not "sexless marriage", "long-distance relationship" with few conjugal visits). He is the same age as Pie Guy and I'll be very sad when he gives up the ghost, though I treasure every day with him as he went missing for 5 weeks 2 years ago.

As for move: What Duchesse's photo cannot show is that the Holy Condo (also known as "Les Condos du Bon Dieu") is opposite le Parc de la Petite Italie; a square with mature trees, a gazebo, benches and this time of year, a very small skating rink mostly for children and their parents.

Pity about the AGA! It couldn't be moved? Though quite possibly the condos already have built in appliances, to save space?

I'm not really a chocolate person, but there is good chocolate at Jean-Talon Market (Marché Jean-Talon) and in nearby Mile-End and Outremont. Here is one of many write-ups, in English: This is not quite up to date - Sami Fruits (cheap but not the best produce) has moved a bit eastwards to the St-Michel district and there are various new boutiques along that row.

And one wee edit: 500km east, or more precisely, northeast...
Susan B said…
Oh, I'm so sorry about the loss of your kitty. It sounds as though his last moments were filled with love.

So many changes all at once! It sounds as though you're being realistic about the inevitable mixed feelings: excitement, loss, anxiety, anticipation.

Your new building looks lovely!
Northmoon said…
My sincere condolences on the loss of your beloved cat. I know from sad experience the price we pay for our animals' love - they depart all too soon.

I will be interested to follow your move to Montreal. I am starting to think about retirement in a few years, and the decision about staying put or moving to a smaller town. The work that would be involved is daunting; I wish you all the best with your relocation. Hope it goes very smoothly.

And I'm glad to hear you say cats will be allowed in your new place. There are too many abandoned cats in North America, nice to think that one more might find a good home.
Mardel said…
My sincere condolences on the loss of your beloved cat. We are cat lovers as well and each of our feline family members has been dearly loved and greatly mourned.

And yet your move sounds so exciting. I can well imagine the combination of thrill, dread, and sadness that will come with packing up and moving. I am going through a bit of that, although in comparatively slow motion, as I move my house into half the space but the same house and anticipate moving within the year or two. Where is variable depending on various factors, especially my husband's health, which also makes it likely that we will be moving to be near his children in a place considerably less au courant even than our current location, which does not thrill me, but I've come to accept that little is permanent in life.

I'm glad you are seizing this opportunity.
Duchesse said…
Susan: 17 is really something!

Patricia: Thank you and LOL, I hope you mean "je ne sais quoi" b/c "je ne sais pas" mean "I don't know".

Fuji: Wistful is a perfect word for it.

Julianne: When I first broached the topic over two years ago, Le Duc said "no!" but he gradually warmed up and now seems to think it was his idea.

Artful: Bold is relative, we have friends retiring to the Philippines so we feel kind of conventional.

Jane W/ Thank you. We opened the NYT Dining section this morning to see a cat who looks just like him, which was bittersweet.

lagatta: If we could move AGA, we would! The setting is one of the things I liked best.

And thanks for edit, I was thinking backwards, there to here!

Pseu: That Wardrobe Challenge was serendipitious, now I have to apply the same paring down to the "stuff".

Northmoon: Yes, will be adopting an unwanted cat. While cost of living would be less in small town, we knew we wanted to live in a city. I will maintain some clients and Le Duc simply moves his business; he can work from anywhere.

Mardel: Hope this move will accommodate aging in place, though we are both able-bodied now. That's why I picked a bldg with elevator (only 5 floors) rather than buy one of the many, many walkups (traditional in Montreal) that I looked at. You have some window on the future; these considerations are ones many in our age group are just beginning to come to grips with.
Demi-pointe said…
Shifts, changes, loss and leaving behind. When your world rights itself again, it will have a new but different balance. Perhaps some of the worry is because the time and energy that was used to cultivate your garden, home and family is not as plentiful now (I have that concern). How can the roots possibly grow to be as deep; how can I possibly enjoy it all as much? What stove or pet could possibly be as good as the one I left behind? We face it all every day. Tomorrow is not today - it is new and different. Wishing you the energy and patience I am still waiting for.
Patricia said…
Condolences on the loss of your dear cat. We lost our beloved dog in the early morning hours before we moved last March. It was sudden and tragic. But friends and family remind us that this was her home, as was your cat's. We now have a loving puppy with her own unique personality. While I still miss my old gal betimes, my new "baby" brings me joy, as she will for years.
Tiffany said…
My condolences also on the loss of your beautiful cat - we are hopeless pet lovers (two cats, two dogs) and are familiar with the sadness when you lose one.

And good luck with the move. The building is beautiful and I'm sure you will enjoy setting up your new home, even if there are bittersweet moments.
Susan said…
Would you tell us more about your new condo? I am trying to picture what it is like by looking at the outside of the church building. Do you have a lot of windows? Is it modern in styler or traditional? How many condos are in the building? Are there public areas to enjoy?

Also, on what basis did you and Le Duc decide you wanted a new adventure? I have to say I'm a bit envious.
Patricia said…
Duchesse - sorry, how embarrassing!!! I do know better than that, what was I thinkingÉ :0)
Duchesse said…
Susan: You can see closer shots of the exterior here:

The building won design awards. The edifice is old, the interior modern. No of units: 62. There is an addition to the back of the church; we have a unit in the original building. Floor to ceiling windows and big balconies; beautiful finishes.

Only public area is lobby and heated, inside garage. There is a charming small square directly across from the condos. Location is very urban.

We decided when we realized, here we are with a big house, now empty-nested. Do we want to tie up so much equity in a house and maintain the place?

Le Duc can work from anywhere, and I'm semi-retired. He's francophone and would like to live in French again. I can get by in French and will improve. His family lives 1.5 hrs from Mtl instead of 6 from here.

And we wanted to live in "the most European city in North America".
Duchesse said…
Patricia: De rien!
materfamilias said…
I'm so sorry about your cat. His spirit will surely be woven through your memories of the home you are leaving behind, but perhaps that's easier for him than having to adjust to your new home.
As for your move --
Congratulations! This looks to be a wonderful new spot that you will soon nestle your way into. I've never lived in one home for 25 years, so I can't imagine the tugs yours will exert as you pack up -- oh! that Aga! -- but I can easily fantasize about moving to Montreal. And, selfishly, I'm quite sure your blogging will benefit -- you will have even more of that certain flair . . .
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: I'll be learning to cook all over again. Who knows what my blogging will be like, I may be comatose for awhile :)
itztru said…
Being just across the border in Stowe, Vermont, I look forward to discovering Montreal through your eyes! Condolences on the loss of your cat. Sounds like you are leaving a lot of memories behind (been there, done that on my move 3 yrs. ago), but rest assured you'll be creating new ones!
Duchesse said…
itztru: Thank you; your condolences are comforting- as is your testimony to rising above a major move.
Kristine said…
So sorry about your cat. I've lost several pets over the years and it never gets easier, but I would never have given up having them.

Congrats on the move. So hard, but yet, so exciting. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about Montreal!
Susan said…
Thank you for the links to the additional photos. It is a lovely place! And, I like the idea of living in the most European city in North America. You two are going to really enjoy a new wonderful city.
Anonymous said…
My condolences, too, on your beloved Pie Guy, a most handsome fellow, with a great personality I'd guess.

All the best with your move, and the necessary downsizing. Remember whatever you dispose of is just "stuff" -- you won't miss it once it is gone.

I am currently clearing my mother's house; she died a few months ago. I have been re-gifting and recycling belongings collected over 50+ years. It is better to do this oneself.

Your new condo looks wonderful. Very wise to chose one where you can age in place. I hope you settle in easily and make friends quickly.

When you are exploring downtown Montreal try Boris Bistro (named for the owner's dog). Its courtard is a lovely space behind an old building facade - open to the sky - delightful in summer.
Duchesse said…
Anon@2:42: Aging in place was key consideration, why we chose bldg with elevator and apt. on one floor. Will try the bistro, thanks!

Clearing one's mother's house- such a profound activity. Handling the things she treasured as well as the day to day. I have some objects given by friend's children, things I remember from their homes when growing up.

Yes, you have to do it yourself and it is a spiritual exercise. For me, it was a deep excursion into the family's essence.
Anonymous said…
I am coming to this late as I have had trouble accessing your blog a few times recently. I am sorry about your cat, I have lost a few over the years -though I have three at the moment - and it is always really upsetting.

The building you are moving to looks wonderful; I hope any sadness at leaving your memories behind is alleviated by the excitement of exploring your new city and settling into your new home. I am intending to move in about 18 months when my youngest finishes school and I am already thinking about clearing out some of my clutter. 6 months is short notice!
Duchesse said…
Alienne: Thanks for persisting! Though the "move" window is abut 4.5 months, we had been considering this since last spring, so there's been time to mull over the aspects. Sounds as if you too are beginning the process.
coffeeaddict said…
So sorry for your loss, but from your post I can see you are handling it bravely. Nothing makes me angrier than seeing a pet suffer and an owner too whimpy to do the right thing. There it had to be said. As hard as it may be it's the only humane thing to do. I only hope that the time comes for me to take our kitty to the vet I will be as strong and brave.
Also congrats on moving, the church - condo looks picturesque, it will be a treat to live in such a romantic looking building. Best of luck with the move.
Duchesse said…
Coffeeaddict: It is natural to try to hold on, but when time is short, a skilled vet can help the family understand that the animal will suffer. I guess some people will not listen but every friend I have known has come to the compassionate choice.

le Duc said that when he saw the vet examine our cat and begin to cry, he knew it was time.
Anonymous said…
Such an interesting new home in an exciting new city. Still, even the most positive changes take a toll on our emotions. I can imagine how the loss of your pet is making you more aware of all you will leave behind. I, too, am facing a move--at a much slower pace, luckily, as I tend to resist change. I'm sure that you will adapt to transplantation with your usual grace.

By the way, I know how devoted you Aga owners are to your hearth/stoves, and that it's more than just the cheery enamels you love, but wanted to tell you that Viking makes a condo-sized gas range in that gorgeous deep cobalt finish. Not the same, but maybe a small consolation? Best of luck, Duchesse--

Duchesse said…
C.: Thank you for your empathic acknowledgment! The apt. has a Jenn-Air gas range which we will live with and assess. At least it's a good start.
raels said…
Duchesse, I love your blog. This is my first time commenting - congratulations on your move (how exciting!) and condolences on the loss of your special family member. I am a cat lover without a cat at present - the loss of my dear Muffin was too much to make me consider another companion at this stage. However, time heals all ... I hope when our time comes, our memories will be as lasting as those of our pets! Move forward, go with love,
Zanetra from Austr
Duchesse said…
alia: Thank you so much for commenting! Yes, the loss is heartwrenching; in our case, we will welcome another cat after we move. Everyone chooses his or her time to enter a new relationship, animal or human. As a friend said, simply, introducing me to his new partner a year after his beloved wife's death, "La vie continue".
s. said…
Toronto will be the poorer for your absence.

Very sorry to read of Pie Guy's passing.
Duchesse said…
s: Thank you. I'll miss many aspects of living here.

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