’You became part of my newfound identity’: A tenant thanks her landlords-turned-friends

Before You Go: After a divorce, Sue Carter moved into a small basement apartment. She thanks her friends—and ex-landlords—for the new life she found.
Sue Carter
Tim and D’Arcy (Courtesy of Sue Carter)
Tim and D’Arcy (Courtesy of Sue Carter)

This is the first Sunday night since you guys left. I keep expecting a text from you, D’Arcy, announcing the menu for tonight’s dinner. That would be followed by a text by you, Tim, suggesting a few TV shows to watch.

On a typical night, I’d grab a bottle of wine and head upstairs in my pyjamas. I knew the door would be open but I’d knock anyway. First Billy (R.I.P.), your beloved parrotlet, and then Bowie, his loud-mouthed successor, would greet me in song. If Bowie ever starts singing Mamma Mia, it’s my parting gift to you.

Curled up in our unofficial assigned seatsyou two on the grey couches, wrapped in blankets, and me in the middle on the leather chairwe’d gossip about the week. The night’s viewing plan would be finalized; a movie, perhaps, or another episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

For six years, this routine grounded my life. My boyfriend teases me about our Sunday nights, referring to them as my “weekly party.”

I didn’t know you two well at first. We were connected through mutual friends and their family events. But as fate would have it, your renovation coincided with the breakup of my marriage, an event that emotionally and financially broke me. The life I’d envisioned for myself was gone.

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I wasn’t thrilled about moving into a 300-sq. foot basement, even one as smartly designed as yours. The last time I was a subterranean dweller, I was in my 20s. This felt like a giant step backwards, but also a much-needed time to pull myself together. Despite all those jokes about me staying forever, I never thought I would be with you for >six years.

My mom recently told me that on the day I moved in, she felt reassured when D’Arcy told her not to worry, that you both would take care of me. I didn’t understand how much I needed that care.

I was feeling isolated and unsure of how to navigate the world as a single person again. You became part of my newfound identity as you kindly opened your world to me, inviting me to neighbourhood get-togethers, art auctions and drinks with your friends. Life began to feel a little more effortless and my confidence started to return.

Our relationship soon grew beyond the confines of the Landlord Tenant Act. Endless summer weekends floated away in your landscaped backyard. Yacht rock became the preferred soundtrack to afternoon cocktails and dips in that hilarious blow-up pool that snugly fit the three of us until it was destroyed by hungry raccoons.

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I felt like the lucky recipient of an honorary membership card for a club I could never afford. I know how much effort was put into making your house such a tranquil retreat, complete with a gurgling fountain.

“We should really go do something outside the house,” one of us would say. Then everyone would laugh. Why would we ever leave?

We did take our lives outside the backyard. One of my favourite memories was meeting you in Porto on vacation.

I was a sweaty mess rolling my luggage up the cobblestone hill, when I suddenly spotted both of you waving at me from a café. We were an ocean away, but I was home.

Admittedly, I anticipated many more lazy afternoons and vacations. But I watched you both struggle through family crises and career upsets.

You were tired, not just physically, but in a deeper way that Sunday conversations could never cure. It was still a shock when you suddenly decided to quit your jobs in men’s fashion and broadcasting, to sell your gorgeous home and leave the city—and me—to spend more time with your families in Windsor and Winnipeg, to travel, and to restore your creative spirits.

I worried for my own fate in this untenable rental market, but I was more excited for your new adventure. I hope that the universe returns the generosity you have shown me. Dream big; you deserve it.

Your decision has inspired me to shake up my own world and seek out new rituals. This first Sunday night without you, I made a pot of chickpea stew and watched two episodes of The Morning Show.

It’s a small step, but one made possible because of you.

This article appears in print in the May 2020 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “Dear Tim and D’Arcy…” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.

The piece is part of Maclean’s Before You Go series, which collects unique, heartfelt letters from Canadians taking the time to say “Thanks, I love you” to special people in their lives—because we shouldn’t have to wait until it’s too late to tell our loved ones how we really feel. Read more essays here. If you would like to see your own letters or reflections published, send us an email here. For more details about submitting your own, click here.