“Home is where you hang your childhood”

31 Jan

What do you like best about where you are, what makes it good for you?

And what do you like least?

Would it be easy (emotionally) to relocate?

I grew up in a small town on the St Lawrence River, where the sun burns the water every morning. An old town, hundreds of years old, with buildings that tell their own stories, ground once soiled with blood, backyards that contain old middens and packed dirt streets.

When I was a child, I haunted those streets, or at least the square block that surrounded my house. My father’s business a short walk from home, the river a 3 block running leap in the summer. The sun would warm the sidewalks as I’d walk up George St to the library, pausing to put my sandals back on at the door. Behind the house I’d dig for marbles in the not so clean “clean” fill my father had trucked in one day after we build a rock wall.

As I grew older, my love for that little town grew smaller. It became confining, suffocating, as small towns do. People know you, know what you’re doing, where you’ve been.

Unfortunately, in my case they also knew my mother and father. This limits the amount of trouble one can easily get away with.

After the cancer, after the community did the one thing it’s good for-feeding the mourners-we moved. As far north and away as we could. Somewhere new. A new start.

It was cold. It was isolated. As it turned out, it was likely the worst thing we could have done. But that’s another story entirely.

I left home when we lived there-16 on a greyhound bound for somewhere south, reading Plato, eating mediocre grilled cheese in Sudbury, avoiding a creepy skinny South Asian guy, meeting a guy I’d go on to date. I was 16, and taking chances and out in the world and not the least bit scared.

After living on my own for a year, renting a room from parents of a friend, I thought for a moment, during a sober moment, about my life.

I saw two roads before me. One led home to my father, who had moved back to that pretty little town. The other-not so hot. I had a vision of falling into more drugs than I could handle, and never falling back out.

I packed my things, and moved home on a lovely spring morning to a father who was surprised, but silently grateful.

Then high school, then falling in love then moving. More moving, through southern Ontario, my favorite places spinning before me. Again, a story for another day.

I ended up here, in The Armpit when my company moved and offered assistance to find a new job in Toronto, or assistance to move out here. I accepted the latter. I wanted something new. I wanted out of Toronto. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, the right path.

In a way, it was. We have two little girls to show for it that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

But it’s been 6 years, and I hate it here just as much as I did the first day we drove in, and everything looked dirty and disposable. (A lesson that one should always view the city before blindly moving)

I feel no connection. Anything historic seems to be torn down or altered, disrespected. History seems hidden within universities, not out in the open like it was where I grew up, where it was part of who you were growing up there. It’s too new, but yet it isn’t. It’s like an old woman playing dress up in her granddaughters clothing. It’s all wrong, and awkward, full of unimportant and poorly designed buildings, wal-marts and unnecessary sprawl.

It’s a city of no signs, symbolic or otherwise. Drivers need to know where they’re going, or risk accident. People need to know where they’re going, or become adrift. It’s a city with no soul, and it aches to live here. Where I grew up, you could feel the years in the stones, feel the lives lived and lost in the river. Here, they’ve ruined the river years past, disguised it as a ribbon of mud so maybe it will also forget itself.

I feel no connection to this place, since to have a connection, this city would need meaning. But like a teenager, it reaches it’s arms out searching, but never finding, it’s fingers so many places at once it’s lost count. I would feel nothing back a vague twitch thinking about my backyard if we were to leave.

I had originally wanted to be gone from this place by the time Vivian started school. And if it was just me then maybe we would be gone. But we have jobs to worry over, money to look for, a house. All the trappings of adult life. I could leave these things behind, but Mogo, the more rational of this pairing, glares at me when I mention it, reminds me not to be so stupid. It’s not so bad here he says. We’re secure-secure enough for now. We love our backyard in the spring-we love the beach so close, the islands so near.

I love that nature is right against us, pressing close each day. I love that slowly, we’re winning over neighbours, that Vivian’s school is mere blocks from the house, that we are surrounded by play parks. That a brewery is almost next door.

But these things are what make a life. They aren’t what make my memories. This is all Vivian will ever know-living in the whitest neighbourhood I have ever lived in, limited to one bookstore, one market. One of everything different.

I hope for the future. I hope this place will become more of what I want-I hope I can make it that way. I want to love where I live again, like we did in London, like we did in Toronto. I want my daughters to have the same sundrenched memories that I have, of simple slow days, of people pinching their cheeks, telling them that they’ve grown. I want them to dangle their feet in a river that feeds.

I want us to be happy here. But somedays, I think this place has made me forget how.

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6 Responses to ““Home is where you hang your childhood””

  1. amateurish January 31, 2008 at 11:22 am #

    Good questions – I’ll have to answer after some thought!

  2. Hannah January 31, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    I could guess from this what city you live in now… and if I’m right, I don’t blame you for feeling restless and wanting to move on.

    It’s not a pretty place. And there are so many pretty places on the east coast that it stands out for its industrial grime and general ick factor. It is truly a place where history and personality were sacrified on the altar of progress.

  3. thordora January 31, 2008 at 11:49 am #

    amen to that. KNowing that it once WAS a lovely place is what bothers me the most.

    Reminds me alot of Thunder Bay in some ways actually.

  4. Julie Pippert January 31, 2008 at 12:36 pm #

    This really got to me. As someone with a foot in one place and a foot in another (story of my life) I really understand having the comforts, but soul yearning for something more. This really got to me, too, “Drivers need to know where they’re going, or risk accident. People need to know where they’re going, or become adrift.”

    Thanks for answering.

  5. thordora January 31, 2008 at 12:43 pm #

    I miss my home. As I age, I can actually feel this driving urge to sit on the church wall again, to lean on the old maple in the backyard of my father’s home. I’ve spent so much time distancing myself from those things which have meaning to me, because they hurt, that now I miss them in desperate ways sometimes.

  6. marcelarhodus February 1, 2008 at 7:21 am #

    you certainly have a way to touch people when you write… such a talent!

    my parents and my family have lived all their lives in the city where they were born…. though my dad always had a thirst for adventure and knowing, he toured 29 of the 32 states in the country and I grew up listening to his stories of all the places he had been to. My gypsy heart was born back then… yet I have my roots solidly in that same city… just like you said in the reply to the comment before I too miss some things I thought I wanted without in desperate ways sometimes.

    I hope you get to have that what you wish for you and your family where you live… I really do.

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