Now Or Never

Ten people, one house: We met on Twitter and our families moved in together

Last year, Christina Crook and Elissa Watts followed each other on Twitter. Little did they know that it would lead to their families moving in together.
Some busy morning scenes from the Watt-Crook household. (CBC)

By Christina Crook

Earlier last year, Twitter recommended I follow Elissa Joy Watts: a self-described "Freelance Writer and Joy Scout." Sometimes the algorithm just knows. Within 24 hours of clicking her profile, I receive a direct message: 

Rarely do I investigate the strangers who begin following me on social media. I, like you, prize time away from screens and as such, find myself putting down my phone as quickly as possible most days.

BUT! Today my children are enjoying pancakes at my parents home and my husband and I are enjoying a lazy morning. I noticed that a dear friend, Darian Kovacs, follows you too and thought, "Do I know this person?" So off I went, chasing you around the internet. And HALLELUJAH! I am so glad I did. I will deliver a hug in person if/when we get back to Toronto.

Girl, you're on the right train. JOMO! YES! I love it all. Be blessed this Saturday morning (or afternoon, as the case may be.)

Within weeks Elissa and I are swapping emails, then texting like old friends. She sends me a photo of her wedding with the challenge: "Name six people in this photo." I can with little difficulty. It turns out we orbited around one another back home in Vancouver but somehow had never met. Her husband Steve's sister dated my brother in high school. We have numerous mutual friends. Elissa's dad worked with one of my younger brothers. We laugh at the sheer volume of serendipity surrounding our growing friendship.

Soon comes the turn in our story no one is expecting. 

On Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 12:08 AM Elissa Watts wrote:

Team Watts is coming to Toronto in the fall!!!!!!!!!!!!! STEVE landed a post-doc at U of T after all!!!!!!!!!! Shhhhhhhhhh. Papers aren't signed but I had to share. We get to be IRL friends soon. Xx

Elissa begins sending me all of her questions about Toronto — schools, neighbourhoods, parks, cost of living. The wheels in my head begin to turn. My husband Michael and I have talked about sharing our home with another family for years. It's not for everyone, but we've always felt the pull towards community living. So, it wasn't a stretch for me to send this email:

On Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 7:00 AM, Christina Crook wrote:

Hey Elissa, We live in the Junction which is on the west side, north from High Park. We adore our neighbourhood — it's filled with down-to-earth creatives and is entirely walkable. That said, it's a bit of a way to the campus but we have a U of T PhD student who lives with us and he doesn't find it too bad of a commute. We are big on community living — we currently share our home with two single people. (We'd happily give them notice to make room for a certain five-some though, just saying.) 

Big hugs to you this warm and rainy Monday,


On Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 10:05 AM, Elissa Watts wrote:

WAIT — are you serious?! Truly — are you serious? Because if you are, we'd happily carry on with that discussion. We're big on community living too and because we'll only be living there for a year, we've been hypothesizing about some kind of shared living experience. If you're serious about taking in a team of five, let's jam.

#tenpeopleoneshower #TeamWattstakesYYZ

Now the Watts are here living with our family of five. We're a few months into our experiment and we've been adjusting and crying and rejoicing and, oh, did we mention their newborn baby? It has all felt like walking on water, and then drowning, and then pulling one another up again for air.
Ten people - including a newborn! - can make for a busy morning. (CBC)

We thought our 6-year-old boys would get along famously. They didn't. We had to work at finding ways for them to connect. We thought the Watts would have enough room. They didn't. We had to re-configure the house all over again and give them an extra bedroom. We thought it would be challenging to distribute the household labour. It wasn't. Everyone simply pitched in and the work continues to get done day-after-day. We weren't sure how meal-planning would go. It turns out Elissa went to culinary school and is a master strategist so food prep and feeding the families have been streamlined and straightforward. 

'We're a few months into our experiment and we've been adjusting and crying and rejoicing and, oh, did we mention their newborn baby?' (CBC)

Little miracles happen every day. Steve and I walk the kids to school in the morning after making lunches, feeding 6 hungry children and helping get on dozens of pieces of snow gear. When I circle back to the house, I come home to a spotless kitchen. 

This is the power of teamwork. As we like to say around here, "Teamwork makes the dream work."