On a Tuesday in mid-January, I was called suddenly and unexpectedly to Alberta when my 89-year-old aunt fell seriously ill. Since her illness had come on so quickly, I had to pack and go very quickly. In fact, before I could even get to her bedside, she had died.
The next five days passed in a whirl of emotions and administrative responsibilities as my sister and my cousin and I made arrangements to memorialize my aunt, sort her belongings, and begin the executorship of her estate. Five days later, on a Sunday morning, I found myself back on a plane to Toronto, still feeling overwhelmed with what had just happened and what still needed to be done, but relieved to be heading home again.
It wasn’t until a few days later that I reflected on how surprising it was that after having lived in Toronto for only two months, I already thought of it as “home.” I had lived in Edmonton for nearly forty years, and in Western Canada for at least 45, but after eight weeks it seemed I was already adapted to my new spot half a block off Yonge near Eglinton.
I thought back to when I moved in the opposite direction at the age of 14, from London, Ontario to Edmonton. I had gone there against my will, when my mother died and I was left to relatives I barely knew. I swore I would return at my earliest opportunity, and every time I went back east for a visit, which I did every two years or so, I renewed my vow. It wasn’t until I was finished university and newly married, enjoying a holiday in London with my new husband but looking forward to getting back to our place in Edmonton, that I realized that I had finally started thinking of the West as “home.”
Perhaps my rapid adaptation this time is because I grew up in Ontario, but I don’t think that’s it. Perhaps the fact that I chose to move to Toronto rather than being required to do so has made the difference, but I don’t think that is the entire explanation either. I feel that I have reached a point where I think of where my stuff is as home, no matter where that is. Where my stuff is now is in Toronto. If it were in Timbuctu, that would be my home.
However, just because Toronto is home doesn’t mean I know very much about it yet. I’m still learning. I keep discovering new things to like: such as the fact that for three dollars I can get onto a bus and then a subway and then another subway and then another bus and one and a half hours later I am at the airport. A cab takes half the time, but it costs $50.
I may be the only Torontonian (!) who is still in love with the Toronto Transit Commission system which took the amazing step last week of making an apology to the public for its past sins, promising better service and more pleasant and helpful customer relations in future.
I also continue to eat my way around my new city: I have found a great Mexican restaurant (Chimichanga on Yonge, just north of Eglinton) and my friend Mari-Lou took me to an authentic Hungarian restaurant where she ate regularly when she lived in Toronto many years ago: the Country Style on Bloor east of Bathurst, where we had a tasty chicken paprikash with home-made spaetzle.
If I moved here in part for the weather, I picked the right winter. We have had a few days of cold, but for the most part it’s been so mild that even long-time Torontonians are remarking on it. I have walked out in the morning and thought that the streets and sidewalks had been dusted overnight with hoar-frost, then realized that what I was seeing was the rime of the salt that was sprinkled weeks ago on then momentarily slippery streets.
Of course, it’s only February.
Speaking of stuff, I am really looking forward to consolidating mine in Toronto before too much longer. I have a tentative commitment to do some work in Saskatoon and am going to combine the trips. I am tired of “camping out” in my apartment.
Aside from that, it’s good to be home.