With an inflatable plastic cushion positioned under my tender stitches and our freshly born son safely strapped into his new car seat, we headed east. Goodbye Toronto. Hello Ottawa, my new home. The year was 1992. I was 39 years old and the Jays were just about to win the World Series. The next nine months – my maternity leave, would turn out to be the happiest time of my life.
It was complicated. We had been married for some time but Warren had been transferred to Ottawa and I had not followed. I had a great career in Toronto. I owned a home. This maternity leave, while not a permanent solution, was offering us a chance for the first time to live under the same roof as husband and wife. Our new baby. Matthew – well that was just a wonderful, wonderful bonus.
Doubting friends and family were greatly relieved we were finally together. That summer they literally showered me in pastel little sleepers, tiny socks, and receiving blankets. Every weekend I would pass these along to Warren. It was entirely his responsibility to set up the new baby’s room in Ottawa. While my belly expanded, Warren filled his nights with “nesting” activities; assembling the crib, hanging teddy bear murals and washing all in-coming with Ivory Snow. He thought of everything right down to the zinc cream and baby wipes. The room stood perfect and waiting; a testament of Warren’s love.
Life in Ottawa as a new mother; and as a wife, felt like dress up / playing house. With few distractions Matthew and I settled into a comfortable routine. Matthew’s morning bath, selecting his outfit for the day, a walk up to Bank Street and shopping in their lovely boutiques and food stores. It was all fantastic. On Tuesday we did a mom and tot class at the library. I learned to cook that winter. Most days at noon, I would switch on the TV and catch a half hour program called: “The Urban Peasant” James Barber factored large in our life at that time. I copied most of his suggestions and felt very grown up and gourmet.
Our apartment was on the ground floor of an old mansion in the Glebe. Our front window faced out onto the Rideau Canal and a grassy parkway with paved sidewalk that went on for miles. It was in this beautiful setting that I witnessed my first hoar frost. Ottawa was frozen under a thin coating of ice; a jewellery box of sparkle in the morning sun. There was tons of snow that winter but I don’t remember it ever snowing. Every day seemed sunny and bright.
One of our favourite activities was skating. It was so convenient. I could tie my skates on the front steps and just pick my way across to the frozen canal pulling Matthew in his red sled. The poor little guy looked like a sausage in a blanket buried under multitudes of scarves, and woollen covers. He was definitely protected from the crisp winter air. It was a glorious season of beaver tails, poutine and hot chocolate.
Little memories now mean so much. I was so content even ironing my husband’s white business shirts. I recall enjoying setting up the board in the kitchen. Beside me in his squeaky swing-on-matic my son would watch. The clock ticking away the late afternoon minutes while we waited for Warren to return.
Yes, it was those quiet, private times I cherished the most. Just Matthew and me. Our days were filled with rings on our fingers and bells on our toes; or blowing kissing on tummies and bubbly bright smiles. I’d pull up a chair beside his crib and just sit there watching him sleep. I’d study at his eyelashes, his fingernails, his little twitches and sighs.
Those blissful nine months were all ours. I treasured my solitude and the opportunity to bond with my little man. Never again would life be so simple or defined just by love.