If you ask Ron Maron what has surprised him most about living in Nova Scotia, he’ll tell you the wind.
“That was the surprise coming up here. I never registered that when you live in a peninsula out in the ocean it’s going to be windy!”
That’s what you get when one of the things you are looking for in a retirement home is “on the water” and instead of Florida or the French Riviera, you choose Nova Scotia. So how did a psychotherapist and an elementary school teacher from Buffalo, New York, end up in Wallace-by-the-Sea?
“My grandfather was from Canada,” explains Ron. “He was a dual citizen. He came to the States when he was about 17. He’s the one who taught me very quickly to love Canada; he took me on fishing trips and all sorts of neat things. And living so close to the border, before we moved here, I imagine I’d been to Canada well over a 100 times.”
His wife, Mary, says a friend once told them that you don’t retire from something; you retire to something that you can do for the rest of your life.
“We decided we could go wherever we wanted to go and live wherever we wanted to be,” Mary says. “We felt a pull to Canada because of Ron’s grandfather so we looked into it, to see if we could become permanent residents. We didn’t want to do seasonal, we wanted to really be in a place, put roots down. We wanted to be here all the time.”
According to Ron, the couple considered both Nova Scotia and British Columbia. “How we determined here was we took a vacation and the topography and people are wonderful up here,” he says. “There was no need to even examine BC.”
Mary remembers an evening out for dinner in Darmouth as a turning point. “Ron asked the waitress, ‘If we decided to move to Nova Scotia, why should we do that?’ She didn’t just flippantly come up with something; she really gave it some thought before she answered. She said, ‘It’s the people.’ ”
Ron asked that question over and over during that vacation and received the same answer every time.
But they didn’t really believe it until they saw it in action.
In the fall of 2004, the Marons received word from the Canadian government that they had been accepted as permanent residents so as soon as Mary retired and they sold both their cabin in the woods and their home near Buffalo, they packed up their station wagon and their dog and headed north.
“We were ready to have some kind of adventure,” Mary laughs at the memory from their big move in 2005. “Not too many people are looking for houses in January! Wherever we stopped, we met the most wonderful realtors. They weren’t just trying to make a sale. That also lead us to believe we were on the right track.”
On that earlier vacation to Nova Scotia, they hadn’t even bothered to drive was far as Cumberland County but this time, they couldn’t avoid it.
“We had to drive through here to get where we wanted to go, which was the South Shore,” Ron explains. “I had seen this house [in Wallace] on the Internet so I said let’s go see it. It was one of the first houses we saw but we had fifty, sixty more houses we wanted to see.”
By March, they realized the South Shore was too crowded and touristy for what they wanted so they put an offer on the first house they’d viewed, the big house on a sprawling lot on Route 6 on the eastern edge of Wallace overlooking the bay.
This is when they understood just what that waitress and countless others had been talking about.
“I don’t think Maritimers realize how friendly they are and how quick they are to include people,” Mary says. “We moved in at the very end of March. Now some of our stuff that was in storage was coming in a big moving van. Huge semi. These guys looked at our driveway and knew they couldn’t even make the turn to get in; if they did, how would they get back out again? So they had to park down by the road. Now think of that long driveway and how all of our things would get here. Well, we found out right away that day what nice neighbours we had because right next door – ”
“Remember, we haven’t met any of these people yet,” interjects her husband.
“We call them the two Shirleys; they had been talking to each other. They were very anxious about what in the world was going on with these Americans! Their first thought wasn’t, ‘What’s going on?’ Their first thought was, ‘What can we do to help?’ ”
Ron takes up the story. “So we get a phone call from our next-door neighbour asking if we’d like to borrow their pickup truck. We hadn’t even met them.”
“The moving guy saw me driving it over and gave a huge sigh of relief,” Mary remembers about using the pickup to transfer their belongings from moving van to house. “That just told us early on that people who hadn’t even met us were willing to welcome us.”
Right from her first day driving a pickup truck, Mary, a lifelong suburbanite, took country living easily. She learned to drive a four-wheeler and snowshoe in the winter; she tends beautiful gardens and enjoys watching the wildlife that traipse through the yard ; and she revels in the space that puts the ocean on one side of their house and woods on the other.
“We made two pacts when we came up here,” Ron says. “One, if no one liked us, that was okay because we really, really care about each other. Two, Mary has never really lived in the country so I told her that there were only two rules she had to follow: Never lie, and always do what you say you’re going to do. Those are the country mantras you have to live by.”
Mary says they have never had any regrets.
“We absolutely love it here. There has never been any moment of looking back and wondering if we did the right thing. We entered into this as something we wanted to do, a very conscious decision. It’s part of life’s adventure for us and it continues to be that way. We never know where it’s going to lead but it’s been absolutely wonderful.”
Remember their original need to put down roots as part of their retiring to something?
“We could have remained permanent residents,” says Mary, “but for me, it was rounding out the whole thing and putting closure on it to become Canadian citizens, which we did in 2009. Our citizenship ceremony was in the Maritime Museum. Going through that ceremony and looking around at the other people in that room made me realize that these people had come to Canada from all over the world and that everybody had a story to tell. We could go back anytime we wanted to our country but some of these people could never do that. Some of them had been in Canada for a long time, they had children born in this country and now that those children were grown up, the parents had decided to become Canadian citizens. It was a very welcoming kind of feeling that day.”
Ron ranks their move to Wallace high on his list of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“The first best decision I’ve ever made was to marry Mary,” he says. “The second best was to go to college. The third best was to move here.”
|The quiet Americans in one of Mary's gardens.|