Sitting on one of the window sills in my apartment, I survey my surroundings. Black reusable shopping bags filled with food, books, and other household items are strewn around the floor in the kitchen and living area; two black and country style kitchen chairs waiting to be placed, a white laundry basket filled with cozy blankets; two large cardboard boxes from IKEA are ripped open on the ground. I have spent the last two and a half hours building a kitchen island/table and it is still not completed. I’m tired, and sore, and wishing their was an IKEA fairy who could make all my furniture-building wishes come true.
I left my mom’s house in Ontario at three o’clock in the morning, hoping to stay ahead of traffic and the impending snowstorms set to hit both Ontario and Québec. Thankfully, my plan worked, and the majority of my nine-hour drive was on good roads; the only true obstacle I faced was my own exhaustion, which I fought off by having a quick nap in a parking lot just inside the Québec border.
Driving through the streets of Old Québec to my apartment building gave me goosebumps. I’m home.
When I last spoke with my landlord she stated that my apartment door would be open and the keys would be sitting on the counter, all I had to do was buzz the building concierge to let me in the main door. Parking illegally on the side of the road and putting on the hazard lights, I grabbed my laundry basket and another bag and went inside. I was about to buzz the concierge when a neighbourhood showed up and let me inside. Finding my apartment, I put my things on the floor and tried the door. It was locked.
An hour or so later I had my keys in hand; I tried unloading from the back of the building but I slipped on a patch of ice in the parking garage and discovered that the half a dozen cement steps were far worse than the four steps at the front.
Unloading the car was relatively easy. Most of my things were packed into black reusable shopping bags as I had very limited space, even with the back seats folded down. When the expected snowstorm hit, I grabbed one of two heavy boxes (each weighed about 50 lbs) from IKEA, slid it out of the car and slowly carried it across the road, praying I wouldn’t slip and fall into oncoming traffic. Once I was safely across, I slid the box through the front door, then sat down on the steps for a little break – after falling nine months ago, I hurt my back and It has not fully recovered. After a couple minutes I stood up, shimmied the box up the stairs and dug into my pockets for the keys to the main entrance.
Finding my keys I looked up to see one of my neighbours opening the door for me. He was a kindly looking gentleman; older, with silver-rimmed glasses, a slender build, and slightly rose cheeks. I thanked him and slid the box inside, at which point he addressed me in French, and I struggled to answer. He picked up the box as though it were quite light and offered to take it upstairs for me. Thanking him, we rode the elevator up to my apartment, deposited the box in my living area, and headed back down to the car for the other one. My back, however, was sore and tired and I needed to take a couple mins to rest, but was unable to do so standing alongside the car as he unloaded the second box. Noticing my struggle, he took the box, while I grabbed a couple lighter items, and we made a slow trip back to the apartment.
As we walked, we struggled to speak, but I learned that my neighbour was a retired architecture and horticulture teacher. It was a dream of his to live in Old Québec City, and he had moved into the building six months ago (next door to my old apartment!).
Once we reached the apartment, I sat on the window sill to rest my back for a couple minutes.
“I can bring up the other two bags, you can rest”, he stated. Embarrassed by my weakness, but grateful for his kindness, I hand him my car keys. “If I drive off with your car, you can just call the police”, he joked as he walked out the door.
I sat in the window, watching as he grabbed a couple bags from the car, flurries of snow falling all around him. He made not one, but three trips to my car and brought everything up to the apartment; and unexpected kindness that had me thanking him over and over again.
As he gave me the car keys I asked for his name, a little ashamed that it had taken me so long. “René”, he said. “Pamela”, I responded, and instead of shaking hands we decided on the customary informal gesture of faire la bise – kissing both cheeks. As René left he spoke French, most of which I did not understand, but in there somewhere was a friendly invitation to pop by sometime if I wish.
This is one of the many reasons why I love Québec City. I love the kindness of the people, despite my inability to speak proper French. There are so many rumours about people being rude, and I had honestly say, from personal experience, that it is simply not true. Québeckers are some of the nicest people I have met.
Once everything was inside the apartment, and I had found a legal parking space, I began to tackle the contents of the IKEA boxes: a kitchen island that will also act as a table, workspace and extra countertop.
Needless to say, my legs and back are sore. It has been a long day. So, here I am, sitting on my window sill -again – and surveying the kitchen and living area. It has been two and a half hours and the island is half built. I don’t have any spare parts laying around, which is good, but I am cursing myself for thinking this was a good idea.
Half an hour later, the kitchen island is done and I’m sitting on a chair an unpacking all of my black reusable shopping bags. I’d love to have a hot shower – because, wow, I stink – and crawl into bed, but my bed doesn’t arrive until the following day and my air mattress has a tiny hole somewhere, which means I’ll get a couple hours of sleep before I have to pump it back up again. So, instead of going to bed, I keep unpacking and cleaning and dreaming about the amazing sleep I will have once my new bed arrives.