Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Homage to HQ

I take a look around the room. It's empty, and looks a lot smaller without my stuff. The wall where my couch used to sit doesn't look long enough. The dining nook could never have held a table and chairs. There is absolutely no way all the shoes and coats and laundry baskets could have ever been in the same hallway. This apartment is no where near big enough to have held the last five and a half years of my life.

Over the Christmas break, in between turkey, chocolate and presents, I moved. This is interesting not only because it adds a new kind of stress to the holidays, but it was the end of an era. With the handing over of keys on January 31st, I effectively ended another chapter in my life. I'm feeling nostalgic still, and now that I'm over the post-cleaning exhaustion, I'm letting my nostalgia run free over the page.

The old apartment, or HQ, as my friends used to call it, was the home I came to as an early twenty-something fresh out of school and ready to start my career. I was brand new to Edmonton and together with a recently discovered friend we went apartment hunting. We chose HQ because of the hardwood floors and in suite laundry. I stayed despite the fact it backs onto a noisy alleyway and it turns into a sauna in summertime.  Through a revolving door of roommates and dramatic changes in my own life, HQ was home.

I look around the empty apartment and memories come flooding back, good and bad. I came into this room carrying a box of personal effects and sat down to cry the day I got laid off of work. This is where I grieved my grandmother's death, a dozen broken hearts, and even more petty frustrations. Those are the tougher memories, the ones I'd rather forget, though they have made me who I am.

It was also here that I invited a girl named Brooke over for a sleepover. We'd gradually been becoming friends and that night instead of watching movies or playing games we stayed up until 3 talking about everything (except boys, surprisingly). That was four years ago. Since then Brooke and I have discovered we are the same person, should be best friends, became roommates/adopted sisters, and I'll soon be the maid of honour at her wedding. It's strange to think that before I lived here she wasn't in my life.

Brooke wasn't even the only friend I made in my years at HQ. This place has been the birthplace of many bosom friendships: Kyla - my Diana friend (yes that is an Anne of Green Gables reference), Bean - who lived at the Northern Division (her apartment was a few blocks north of HQ), Meggy - who along with my cousin/roommate Mika was a founding member of my writing group, and several others. Because of them life in my HQ years became so rich.

The shenanigans that ensued. The beginning of Cafe Chi; my writing group, which is still going strong four years later. The group Halloween costumes starting with Clue, carrying on to the awesome Disney villain collaborative, X-Men and steampunking. The murder mystery parties; usually written by Mika with themes like Greek gods, fairytale characters, and Batman villains/sidekicks. Packing up my dress up trunk in this move was an involved process, and I loved it.

The Pi(e) Day parties, the tea parties (in period costume, obviously), the writing parties with or without a lot of writing accomplished, the dates and date rehashings; both the good, the bad and the hilarious. The impromptu sleepovers with countless friends. On move out day, we had four spare keys to collect from various friends. This wasn't just the end of an era for me or my long line of roommates. When Bean came to return her key she took a look around the place to say good bye. She also brought pie, so I think you can all tell at least one reason why we're so close!

I sit and look around this empty room, trying to take it all in before this place becomes no more than a memory to me. There's an extra reason I am feeling so nostalgic, and he's sitting right next to me. He holds my hand and patiently waits for the landlord to show up so we can finish the inspection and go for lunch, and he's feeling nearly as nostalgic as I am.

Two years ago, Brooke and I invited a bunch of friends over one summer evening, including a boy named Scott, whom we had just met. A month or so after that, in this very room, he asked me out for the first time.

He sits with me and we point out places in the spotless room. Sitting on the couch was where we first agreed we were dating. Down the hallway is where we had our first kiss. That same couch was where we both said I love you for the first time, and countless other precious moments, maybe for another story, another time. This little place, with its narrow hallway, south facing windows and crazy neighbours was the setting where my love story unfolded.

I entered this place as a scared little graduate, desperately excited to see what life in Edmonton would hold for her. I leave it as late twenties professional, hand in hand with my Scott and still desperately excited. I cannot wait to see what memories my next home will see.

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