Glenn and I were married in 1979. A couple of years later, we made the big decision to buy our first home and that led us down a scary rabbit hole. Questions, doubts, and fears consumed us. After traipsing through numerous homes, we opted to buy 649 Chamberlain Street in Peterborough, ON. It was close enough to GE  Peterborough for Glenn to ride his bike to work.

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It was an older home with character next door to a Laundromat. Years earlier the steam and moisture from the Laundromat had warped the beautiful hardwood floors. No problem, we carpeted the entire house in cream carpet, yes cream. What were we thinking? Oh, that was the problem, we weren’t thinking. A funny coincidence, we painted the walls….cream, just like the floor. At the time, I was pregnant with Jeremy and the smell of latex paint made me nauseous and all these years later, my tummy still goes flip-flop, when I smell it.

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Did I mention that Jackson Creek made its way through our basement? Water under the bridge, as they say. Actually, it was water under the stairs.

The purchase of house number two was an entirely different experience. For starters, we must have been living under a rock because we had never heard the mantra “location, location, location.” We looked at a house in a less desirable part of the city, but nobody mentioned it – least of all the real estate agent.

The house had a sad history. A young couple had bought it brand new. For whatever reason, the marriage failed, the wife moved out and the husband remained in the house along with a BIG dog. The house needed tons of TLC and we wanted to transform it into a happy place again.

Let me create a picture for you. The high traffic areas of the light—coloured carpet were black caused by never removing work boots. They had  painted the walls using only a roller — no cutting in with a paintbrush. In the living room they had rolled from ceiling to baseboard. There were blotches of mauve paint all the way around the stippled ceiling and likewise on the baseboard.

The BIG dog had been left inside for long periods of time with no one to let him out to do his business. I’ll leave that “aroma” to your imagination.  We took possession of the house a few weeks early to get it in move-in condition in February. We tore up the glued down carpet and replaced it comfy underlay topped with new carpet.


We thought we had been diligent about everything and then the snow melted.  Land sake’s alive! The state of the back yard defied words. It had not been finished. The sod extended about six feet from the house and the rest was a combination of weeds, bushes, dirt and clay. The icing on the cake? Black garbage bags dotted the landscape. Glenn and a friend worked long hours to clean it up and completed laying the sod.

Another surprise presented itself when the weather grew warmer. Sniff, sniff? What was that stink? The air smelled like manure. Did we live near a farm? No. The source of the odor wasn’t far beyond our back yard – the city’s sewage treatment plant. Some days were worse than others, depending on wind direction and speed.  It smelled worse on the hot, airless days of summer. Lucky for us, we spent July and August  in Nova Scotia which was neither hot nor airless.

Did we learn anything from the experience? Yes, the importance of “location, location, location.” What about the unfinished back yard and the stink from the sanitation plant?

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Maybe, but the knowledge never proved useful because those types of events only happen once in a lifetime. My advice? Do not buy a house in winter when the snow is a few feet deep and the sewage is frozen.

And as for house number three? Glenn bought it when I was away in Nova Scotia —  a story for another day.