20 years ago tonight I was spending my last evening at 257 Pacific Avenue in the High Park area of Toronto. I had quit my job of seven years at the Daily Bread Food Bank and was heading to PEI with my partner (now husband), Steven. We had been together for 18 months. Soon into our relationship we talked about moving out of Toronto, probably somewhere in rural Ontario, but we changed course after a trip to PEI in August, 2000.
Being the only child of older parents (both turned 79 in 2001, my father on that April 30th), I felt a great pull to return to PEI and help them. My father was in the beginning stages of what turned into dementia, and my mother was taking on more and more responsibility, but finding it a challenge, though she was and is remarkable for her age. I was 34 and had been away from PEI for 17 years, but it was time to go home. Steven was game, so that was that.
We gave away tons of stuff before we moved, much of it to a centre in the east end of Toronto who helped people transition from homeless shelters to apartments. Friends took bits and pieces, then the movers came on April 29 and gathered up what was left. I arranged with the woman who was taking over the apartment for her to move her stuff in on April 30, as long as we could sleep there (on the floor, we were so youngish!) that night in the bedroom with our two cats, Emma and Digby.
I left the apartment in the afternoon while the new gal moved her stuff in, and went to say goodbye to friends. When I returned, the cats were freaked out by being locked in the bedroom, so we had a tense, meowy evening. I tried to get some sleep as I was going to drive us straight through to PEI (Steven has never driven). Steven was out with some pals for a goodbye dinner and he got back rather late.
After a little bit of uncomfortable dozing, we got up on May 1 at 4 a.m., shoved the cats into a carrier in the back of my red VW Golf, pointed the car east, and drove away. If you haven’t driven 1,700 km in one day with 2 yowling cats, you are missing the trip of a lifetime. By the time we reached Quebec City in the afternoon, the cats had collapsed into eternal despair and mercifully slept for a bit.
We arrived in Foxley River around 12:30 a.m. May 2, and collapsed at our family cottage where we would live that summer. My mother had left supper in the fridge, but for possibly the first and last time in my life, I was too tired to eat. Our neighbour called us at 8 a.m. the next morning to ask if we had seen their dog, and so it began on PEI, just as if I had never left.