“Do you believe in signs?” she asked me.
Cécile Sirois knew in her heart that she was destined to live at Crème. At the end of an afternoon in her new home- a spacious bungalow- and some great conversation over mint tea, I too believed it was meant to be.
Cécile isn’t an Ottawa native. When she drove across the border from her 35 acre property in Maine, through her former hometown in New Brunswick, past Montréal where she spent 10 years when her children were young, and on to Ottawa, she was overcome with memories- some painful. She was leaving a lot behind. Mostly, she thought of Fred. In 2014, Cécile’s beloved husband Frédérick Sirois passed away from a heart attack linked to his pancreatic cancer treatments. Cécile is quite brave, and speaks openly about that time in her life.
At Fred’s funeral, there were two mourning doves atop the church. The next day, as friends and family gathered at her home, a single dove stood at the door, peering in through the window. When Cécile’s daughter Michelle, who lives in Orléans, first visited the Crème Sales Centre, she called her mother in Maine to tell her she had a good feeling about Crème. There had been signs. First was the dove figurine Michelle spotted on a table. The project brochure had a photo of potatoes, meant to represent Crème’s community garden (coincidentally, Cécile’s family owned a potato and dairy farm). Speaking of dairy farms, the land that Crème was to be built on was formerly a dairy farm. The exterior finishes were modeled after an East Coast style, and for her, reminiscent of home. With both of her grown children and two granddaughters in Ottawa, and the promise of a place that was just right for her, she was able to make the move.
Cécile’s home features an open concept living space with a gorgeous gas fireplace, a master bedroom with ensuite bathroom, a full basement, and a spacious kitchen that her son-in-law (a professional chef) highly approves of. The flecks of brown in her pale granite countertops compliment the deep brown hardwood flooring. She enjoys watching the sun go down from her west-facing windows and back patio. She’s looking forward to spring, when the ‘Canada 150’ tulips she planted in the back garden pop up. She planted exactly 50, in honour of Canada’s birthday.
Seated in a comfortable rocking chair (the perfect perch for story-time) Cécile opened up about her past, present, and a future she couldn’t have imagined for herself a few short years ago. It’s a future she has embraced with grace and an infectious joie de vivre.
Could you tell me a bit more about your life before Ottawa?
I was the 6th of 11 children, born to Acadian parents from New Brunswick, although the hospital was under repair on the day I was born, and my mother had to travel across the border to the hospital in Van Buren, Maine. So I’m actually a U.S. citizen, by birth. I went to a college in Edmundston, N.B., run by nuns, and my girlfriends and I would escape after curfew to cross the border into Maine to have fun. I met Fred at a dance club in 1970. He was with another young man I had an eye on. When Fred started speaking highly of his mother, and I noticed he was a great dancer, I knew he was the one. Fred’s parents were American, but he was born here in Canada- opposite of me! We married in Drummond, New Brunswick. Our daughter Michelle was born in 1975, and son Bryan was born 10 years later in 1985. Fred worked at the Maine border, and then in preclearance at Dorval Airport in Montreal, and I worked for U.S. Air and Air Canada Jazz, which allowed us to travel to many places over the years. We fell in love with China when the country opened up to tourists again in the early 80s.
Had you and Fred made any arrangements for your future?
Fred retired in early 2013 and one day, while discussing business matters, he got on the topic of ‘when something happens to one of us, what will we do?’ He said to me: “One thing, Cécile: I want you to sell everything, and just bring your clothes and go wherever with the kids.” We owned a large 35 acre property and a lot of heavy equipment and vehicles. He got sick with pancreatic cancer not long after, in September 2013.
And both of your kids lived in Ottawa?
Michelle and Bryan went to university in Ottawa, and both met their spouses here. After Fred passed away in March of 2014, I went to visit the kids in Ottawa. I put my house up for sale that May. I sold all of it myself. In January 2015, I contacted real estate agent Geoff Walker and he rescheduled a vacation to stay and join me at the Crème Sales Centre. I got the unit that I wanted. We read a lot about Domicile and they had a lot to be proud of. I went to see The Kavanaugh also with my son. He had purchased a condo from another company and the approach from the other company was so different from how Domicile made us feel.
What are some of your favourite features of your home?
I like the windows. The exterior brick is the same as at my parents’ house where I grew up in the country. Everything flows very nicely, especially the kitchen. It’s aligned in a functional way. The open concept is great for my entertaining. The luxury finishes are very nice. It used to take Fred an hour and 45 minutes to shovel the driveway at our old home. It’s a blessing that I sold. This is just the space I need.
In Maine, I used to entertain a lot, and I missed that. This past Christmas was the first big gathering at my new place. It really made it feel like home. In the basement, we had room to play games, dance, eat food, and then upstairs on the main floor it became more quiet, with enough room for everyone, and the blessing at the table. The downstairs was for the party! I had 22 people over, and it was very comfortable.
Are you close to everything you need?
I love how close everything is. I’m only a few miles from a Movati gym which I just joined. I discovered Domaine Perrault Winery not far from here. All the stores I need are about 5 minutes away. Easy access to the highway is also very helpful. I am excited to try snow-shoeing soon, as there are many trails.
When it comes to décor, Cécile’s pin might drop somewhere among Rustic, Country, French-Canadian, and Traditional. In an attempt to define the lovely space(s) she has created, I realized that her home, perhaps more than any other condo I’ve been to, is a Storyteller. She hasn’t been there long- not even a year. But the ample space in her bungalow meant she could bring the family piano, the grandfather clock purchased in Montréal, and a carved wood coffee table from a trip to Hong Kong. There are photos of her grandchildren on the walls, of her son and daughter’s weddings, and of her own wedding day in 1974.
Two of her sisters are gifted artists, and their landscapes and stained glass pieces, some featuring her former acreage in Maine, are hung throughout the home. One of her brothers built her a case to house her most precious possession: the folded American flag she received at her husband’s state funeral, on behalf of President Obama. A small figurine of a dove has been carefully placed in the front window. Her new home offers her space to commemorate many stories from her past. And there is still plenty of space for the future.