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Serendipity: A Post-Script to The Grange Series

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Life is strange, isn’t it?

There my husband and I  were, a year ago, in a pub in Newcastle, Ontario.

We were meeting with our younger daughter’s future in-laws to plan the wedding. 

We were all nervous. The kids were totally in love and getting married.  But what if their parents disagreed — about everything?

Then my husband started telling jokes and everyone dissolved into laughter.  Loud, boisterous laughter. It broke the ice and everything went well.

There was a couple at the next table. Daughter and I went over to apologize for our loudness. 

The couple introduced themselves. The husband also gave me a book and introduced himself as the book’s author.

My daughter said: “That’s funny. My mom’s an author too!”

We all ended up talking. About books. And weddings. And marriages.

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Meanwhile, my blog series on Ebor House was a big hit at last year’s Doors Open Clarington tour.  The printed version was a fundraiser for Doors Open.

Blog Photo - Doors Open 2016 CR at Ebor House

This year,  I told co-chairs Marilyn Morawetz and Bernice Norton that I’d volunteer again for Doors Open Clarington: I’d write about another house. 

I had no idea it would be the home of someone I’d already met. 

Then life went nuts.  Over 3 months, Marilyn gently nudged me — repeatedly.

Finally, Hamlin decided to take a break from his busy schedule to help me out: he kindly agreed to drive us there and take the photos.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Sign and driveway Hamlin

When we arrived at The Grange, hosts and visitors warmly embraced and laughed together at the coincidence.

Nick and Wendy Boothman were the couple we met in the Newcastle pub!

It was a lovely visit.

Wendy drove us to see Screaming Hill.

Then Nick took Hamlin to photograph the barn and the grounds, while Wendy and I stayed in the house and talked.

It reminds me that one must leave room for the unexpected. And that the thing called serendipity is sometimes, strangely, within our gift.

Thanks to Hamlin Grange, Nick and Wendy Boothman, and Marilyn, Bernice and the Doors Open Clarington team. 

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Filed under A Good Home, Doors Open, Serendipity

Home at The Grange – Part 1

Would you leave a very comfortable house in the city – a mansion, even by Toronto standards – to live in a dilapidated 1800’s farmhouse in the middle of nowhere?

I, as you know, have lived in interesting places. But when former model and media manager Wendy Boothman told me what she did 31 years ago, even I was surprised. 

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In 1986, the Boothman family decided to move to the country. They found a large log house in perfect move-in condition. Wendy’s husband and children loved it.

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Wendy and Nick2 by Hamlin

But Wendy wasn’t sold. Without telling her family, she kept looking. She asked the realtor to show her a place in Kendal, a hamlet northeast of Toronto. They toured the property.

It was a hot August day and the poor realtor was in his suit and tie. I had no idea what 140 acres meant, so we ended up walking and walking.”

They also toured the house. Wendy said she loved the place.

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The shocked realtor replied: “Wendy, it’s so dilapidated! Look at the holes in the floors! You have 5 children and a housekeeper. You can’t live here!”

Husband Nick saw it next. An international fashion photographer and audio-visual director with a Toronto studio,  he was stunned.

“Woman!” he said. “You’ve finally flipped. I refuse to set foot in that house!”

Blog Photo - Doors Open The Grange Barn Inside and Hay Hamlin

Wendy showed him the huge wooden barn with cathedral ceilings. Then she drove him up to the highest point of the property and showed him the view.  He was impressed… somewhat.

“We’ll renovate the house to what we want,” she reassured him. “We’ll design the garden to what we want. But most importantly, the children will be part of the designing. They’ll decide on the pool, their rooms, and so on.”

Sounded nice. In theory.

“If you think the children are going to want to leave a Toronto mansion to camp out  here while we do all the work required, you have another think coming,” Nick protested.

This was a daunting challenge.

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Then Nick relented. “If you can sell the kids on this move,” he told her, “we’ll do it.”

One Sunday in August, Wendy and Nick took the kids on a long drive, turned off a country road and drove up to a hill with an impressive view of the area.

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The children asked:

“What are we doing here?”

“We’re having a picnic in the country!” Wendy replied, smiling. “We’re moving to the country, so we may as well get used to it.”

After the picnic, the seven of them trooped through the fields and peered into the forest, excited.

Walking down the other side of the hill, the children spied a house and asked if they could look inside — not knowing their mother had a key.

They saw the tiny rooms, the old kitchen, the holes in the floors… the whole catastrophe. 

But when Wendy took them into the barn, they were awestruck.  

Blog Photo - doors Open The Grange Barn Ceiling Hamlin

Wendy seized the moment.

“We can move into the log house… or we can get this place and design it together. Your friends can come on weekends. We’ll have horses – you can ride. Can you imagine if we had a pool on the side of a hill and gardens?”

They returned home to Toronto, and started drawing up plans together.

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They moved into the house on Halloween that October.  Wendy, who knew nothing about school buses, sent the 2 younger kids to the wrong school the first day.

That winter was full of challenges. For one thing, the house was freezing cold. 

Both parents still worked nearly 2 hours away in downtown Toronto — Nick at his studio, Wendy at her media management and design office.  Every morning, he drove the 3 older children to school in Toronto. Wendy picked them up every afternoon.

A year later, she decided to move her business to her home, creating one of the first “virtual teams” in Canada.

That eased a few challenges on the home-front. But renovating the house and landscaping the grounds would become a huge, 4-year project.

Photos by Hamlin Grange

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