THE STORY OF US
When you see a family blog like this one, most often you can read the separate stories of each family member’s experiences. In our world, it seems much more apropos to share the story of us. Our pasts have been inextricably linked and quite simply, we grew up together.
Both of us were raised a long way from downtown Toronto, which is where we now call home. We grew up in Canada just outside the city of Windsor, in two different little towns. I grew up in Essex, and Christina was raised in Cottam (You can find them on Google). The county of Essex is surrounded on three sides by water and is just south of Detroit. Our proximity to a big US city meant that the majority of our news and entertainment was from the US.
Christina’s calm, quiet, responsible demeanor is rooted in her childhood. She is the oldest of three girls and was born to newly married parents who were only 20 and 22. Her grandparents (her father’s parents) were fixtures in her life. Before we were married a good chunk of time was spent with her Nanny and Papa Bezanson.
Cottam isn’t a very big place. It’s really a village that grew up around four corners, a grain elevator, a gas station and a convenience store. Nanny and Papa Mossop lived on the west side of town, and Nanny and Papa Bezanson lived in B.C. (“Back of Cottam”). Because Nanny and Papa Bezanson lived outside of town on a farm, their yard and barn stored most of the family toys. There were snowmobiles, motorcycles, go-karts, dirt bikes and tractors. The three girls had a motorized trike they could terrorize each other with around the farm. There was also enough room for a pool where the three sisters spent time diving for golf balls and generally splashing about.
Christina grew up quickly at 12 when her parents separated. The “big sister” took on additional responsibilities while their Dad toiled to earn a living as a talented machinist/mill wright/welder etc. at his new business in what was formerly the family garage. Christina’s elementary education was at a rural school, but as she grew up, she would be bussed to a central high school in Essex.
My father earned a living in the periphery of the auto industry, and my Mom was a teacher who took a hiatus from work to raise my sister and I. My family lived on the edge of town, and I was lucky that my Mom’s side of the family was still involved in the family farm. I had the ability to spend time and understand the richness bestowed by a family farm, but without any direct responsibilities. My family and I spent our summers in a trailer at Yogi Bears Jellystone Park. My sister was the athletically inclined one. My natural inclination was to hang out with the grown ups. I enjoyed spending time on the farm, and “helping” around the campground. Our family became good friends with the owners of the campground and I pitched in anyway I could growing up. I learned my work ethic growing up on the farm and at that campground.
School wasn’t particularly challenging or interesting to me, and many of you who know me may be surprised to hear that flying wasn’t in my family DNA. My first conscious recollection of airplanes was when my grandfather took me to an air show in Windsor. I enjoyed it, but was incensed that we started leaving as the Snowbirds took flight, just so my grandfather could avoid the traffic (something I better understand now as I can barely tolerate the traffic in Toronto). My interest in aviation developed quietly from there. I still remember the first aviation magazine I bought. It was flight training, and on the cover was a picture of a cub, on short final crossing a wooden fence to land on a grass strip. At 11, I purchased “From the Ground Up” (the default Canadian text on learning to fly) to start learning about flying. My first little airplane ride was a surprise gift from my Aunt and Uncle for my 13th Birthday. I got to go flying with Elsie Barnett in her Bellanca Decathlon leaving from her private grass strip that was just down the road from where my Uncle had grown up. I was terrified as we took off in a nasty crosswind, but by the time they landed, I was hooked!
Christina and I met when we were attending the same High School. We both were musically inclined and played in some of the same groups. Kurtis was a drummer and Christina played clarinet and saxophone. If you know us even now, you might be surprised to know that Christina made the first move and called me (boys are dumb about girls). That phone call sparked a relationship that has sustained us for more than half our lives. We were both 16 and I had just gotten my drivers license. Our first date was to an airshow (I know, I know). We got to know each other quickly and became kind of inseparable. As Christina came to be a part of my family, she would walk to my house after high school, while I was at my part time job, and often started supper for my family. I had spent the summer working two jobs so I could afford to earn my pilots license by my 18th birthday. My sights were set on being an Air Traffic Controller. Christina sifted through the options available to her and she decided she wanted to be a chartered accountant, and she wanted to attend University of Waterloo’s School of Accountancy.
Nav Canada took control of Canada’s Air Traffic Control system from the Government in 1996, the year I turned 18. I applied a week after my 18th birthday, 2 weeks before they stopped accepting applications and at the beginning of a nearly two year hiatus in ATC training. The two of us were determined to succeed together. Since things were delayed on the ATC front, Christina attended St Clair College in Windsor after graduating high school, and I worked a number of different jobs to keep busy until my opportunity in ATC would arrive. In February of 1999, I got the call and left home to go to Cornwall, Ontario for my basic ATC training. It was the first time the two of us had been apart since we had started dating almost 4 years earlier. It was hard, but I had a job to do. I had to be successful; both of us were counting on it! Thankfully I was selected to go to Toronto Terminal, my first choice of the options across Canada, and arrived in Toronto in July of 1999 to start my on-the-job training. On my days off I made the trek down the 401 to visit Christina. She quietly applied and was accepted to the University of Waterloo, and she got credit for her College education. The catch was she had to start in the fall of 2000. Things happened fast. I successfully completed my on-the-job training to become an Air Traffic Controller on August 9th, we got married September 2nd, and Christina started school on September 11th. Our parents likely thought that something was “in the oven”. We only told them we were getting married 6 weeks prior, and they didn’t know Christina was going to be attending University. We were married at 21, and the course was set for the adventures we have shared together ever since.
It seems to be a bit of an uncommon story today for people who meet in high school to stick together, and it’s uncommon today to get married at 21. When people express their surprise I tell them it worked because we grew up together. I think it’s true. Our commitment to each other at such a young age meant that we had the opportunity to do everything together. We weren’t yet distracted by careers, University or responsibilities really. We got to gaze into our adulthood and identify our goals together. I was as committed to Christina’s goals as she was to mine. She took as much pride as I did when I attained my Pilots and ATC licenses. And I shared in her pride when she got her University degrees and CA designation. We figured out how to share our goals, disappointments and success. We learned that finding a path together would help us grow stronger, individually and as a family. And, we learned that there is no greater gift in life than sharing your achievements and adventures.
Since we have been married, life has moved along at a feverish pace. We know that we’re fortunate to have achieved so many of our dreams already. When we look back to the time when we were first getting to know one another, we never would have imagined that we would be here now. We live in downtown Toronto in a great condo overlooking the city and lake, we have an airplane that functions as our magic carpet transporting us around North America, we have made friends all over and built many relationships that have become very important to us.
The reason we started this blog wasn’t to brag about what we have been lucky enough to do. It is to share our experiences, perspectives, successes and challenges along the way. It’s meant to serve as a journal of our experiences. Luck has been described as the intersection of preparation and opportunity. So many serendipitous moments happen each day, and we never know which ones will propel us towards our goals until we start to get there and with hindsight can turn around and look back. It is our hope that this blog will allow our family and friends to keep track of what we’re up to, and that someone reading this will somehow be able to leverage our experiences as a small part of their preparation when opportunities present themselves. The hardest part is taking the leap!