My Childhood Home

On a whirlwind of a trip, I spent two nights and one day in Toronto last weekend, though that only begins to describe how strange of a trip it was for me. I can’t remember having ever flown into Toronto before. My family always drives because our trip across the border is actually just a shopping trip for Canadian apparel and food. I have never declined the chance to see a Jays game either and did so this time only because I had seen them a week before. Strangest of all, though, was entering Canadian not as a citizen but instead with an American passport.

As far as logistics go, that doesn’t change much. Instead of filling out how long I was out of the country (3 years, I think?), I wrote in how long I would be visiting for. Instead of the immigration officer asking me what I was doing out of the country, I was asked what I was doing in the country. And maybe one might guess that I was born in Toronto because my reason for visiting was “family,” but that really doesn’t come up in idle conversation either. For all intents and purposes, I traveled as an American.

Many of my classmates and friends are likely offended by this portrayal. You say “bathroom,” I say “washroom.” You lost at hockey in the last Olympics, I won. By now, however, I know far more about being American than being Canadian. When I went to dinner with my cousins, they asked me a variety of questions about American life, like “Is marching band really like the movie ‘Drumline’?” or “How do you like the imperial system?”. A daily email with headlines from the Toronto Star remains my last connection to Canadian culture, which I generally don’t understand. As a case in point, when I was at Chapters, I was looking around for a quick book on Canadian history. If it hasn’t happened already, someone needs to write a book for emigrated Canadians who want to reclaim some heritage without really putting any effort into it.

I have accepted the fact that I’m more American at this point than Canadian. The label “Texan” doesn’t seem as offensive as it one did, and although I maintain that Houston is not an exciting place, I don’t think I would be honest to myself or fair to reject that bit. Country music is not intrinsically bad, “y’all” is actually a useful phrase, and conservative values actually do have some basis in thought. And although I’ll still listen to Ben Folds while working, point out that “you guys are dumb,” and remain the equally stubborn liberal I am, the stereotypical Texan has grown on me, which is a great lead-in for all the cultures in-between, both ideologically and geographically.

My memory of Toronto is somewhat foggy. I remember a few landmarks here and there, but renovations mean that even most of those are gone. As I was riding around in the car looking eagerly out the window for any remnants of what I knew, I concluded that I pretty much don’t know my hometown anymore. Driven around for a minute, I probably couldn’t tell you whether I was in Toronto or Vancouver, knowing the city to be Canadian only because of the French under all of the English. One truly doesn’t pay attention to directions or locations until driving, but I would hope to at least recognize what I call home a little better.

That afternoon, I walked the 5 minutes down to Hollywood Public School where I went to school for junior kindergarten and 3rd grade. I couldn’t wait to see the vast fields I ran around on, the towering walls for huge wallball games, and the hill we would sled down. As you might expect from any visit to a childhood memory, however, it wasn’t that. The field might have stretched 2 soccer fields. I was amazed that we ever crowded 15 people around that wall. And I bounded the hill in 4 steps. Sledding backwards perhaps wasn’t as hazardous as I had thought.

The obvious change is that I’m physically bigger than I was, surprised as you might be from my last post. To be less prosaic, though, the world was a lot bigger back then than it is now. When I had only lived in one city and only gone on a few, isolated road trips, my world was only a few suburbs in the Toronto metropolitan area, and my playground was that around the school, which possessed a disproportionate amount of my mental map and even more of my memories.

I agonized awhile ago about where I would tell people I’m from, and the answer is far trickier than it would seem. To add to the confusion, when I have been traveling away from school, the Bay Area is my default response since that is where I spend most of my time nowadays. And to layer on the difficulty now is what nationality I am. It frankly doesn’t seem fair to say “Canadian” anymore as I whip out my American passport and clearly have dated memories about what Canada is. And the stickers on my computer and preference for sports teams don’t quite scream red, white, and blue with bald eagles soaring through the sky, either. It frankly doesn’t matter, though, as those sorts of questions are no more than conversation starters anyways. I can’t answer any of those sorts of questions entirely honestly, but come story time on that, at least I have it all straight in my head.

PS: Hey drawmates, I’m not full of crap when I say “washroom.” Here’s my proof that I actually went to Toronto

Around Home

(I don’t have the dedication right now to edit that last one. Whatever. But I did write this one in my main blog. I wasn’t careful with this one at all, just kind of spilling and watching it flow towards the valley in floor, but I like it. Opinions? Better or worse than when I try to do a serious, clean article?)

Touring Toronto is strange. Even saying that is strange. You really can’t tour home, right?

“Tour” suggests that I’m going to a far away land to see things I haven’t seen and take a first look at new sights. I should know all of this, and I do have vague memories of places, but not really.

We went to look around the small town where my mom was born, north of Toronto. For a couple decades, my grandpa had a furniture and appliances store, with washing machines across the ground floor and beds, recliners, tables, and chairs on the top floor. I could run up and down the aisles and see fun stuff I’d want to use. Maybe I’d climb up onto the top bunk of a bed, or try out a chair. I could sit at the base of the stairs, turn on the biggest plasma T.V. in the store and watch “Live with Regis and Kelly.”

We pulled up to the back of the store, and I looked out at the store from the van as we waited for the weather to subside. The garage looked a lot smaller, but I figured that I was just bigger now, and had exaggerated it in my memory. When we got out and walked into the store, however, it really felt like everything was wrong. My grandpa had retired a couple years ago, and pretty much everything was gone. We stepped around in the main part of the building, where he had rented it to some people who had established a dollar store. It was a very nice dollar store, I must say, but very odd. I could recognize the places where there “should” have been tables and chairs, where the front desk “should” have been, where I “should” have looked at rows of washing machines, all cleaned to bright white.

We walked around the town, which wasn’t as meangingful to me. Maybe to my mom, looking at her childhood vastly changed, but to me, everything about that town was fixed around that one store. As I turned each corner, I had an image of what “should” have been there, only to be surprised with a small change.

It would be naive to assume that life stands still for just one person, but it nags at me that everything is just gone. I’m much too young to be nostalgic, but I now look back and wish I had taken the time to lean back in every recliner. Or maybe have a scavenger hunt with my sisters, hiding items in washing machines. Or maybe spread my coloring books across three tables. Or turn every T.V. to the same channel and get full immersion. Or spent a night in that top bunk.

Around Home

Touring Toronto is strange. Even saying that is strange. You really can’t tour home, right?

“Tour” suggests that I’m going to a far away land to see things I haven’t seen and take a first look at new sights. I should know all of this, and I do have vague memories of places, but not really.

We went to look around the small town where my mom was born, north of Toronto. For a couple decades, my grandpa had a furniture and appliances store, with washing machines across the ground floor and beds, recliners, tables, and chairs on the top floor. I could run up and down the aisles and see fun stuff I’d want to use. Maybe I’d climb up onto the top bunk of a bed, or try out a chair. I could sit at the base of the stairs, turn on the biggest plasma T.V. in the store and watch “Live with Regis and Kelly.”

We pulled up to the back of the store, and I looked out at the store from the van as we waited for the weather to subside. The garage looked a lot smaller, but I figured that I was just bigger now, and had exaggerated it in my memory. When we got out and walked into the store, however, it really felt like everything was wrong. My grandpa had retired a couple years ago, and pretty much everything was gone. We stepped around in the main part of the building, where he had rented it to some people who had established a dollar store. It was a very nice dollar store, I must say, but very odd. I could recognize the places where there “should” have been tables and chairs, where the front desk “should” have been, where I “should” have looked at rows of washing machines, all cleaned to bright white.

We walked around the town, which wasn’t as meangingful to me. Maybe to my mom, looking at her childhood vastly changed, but to me, everything about that town was fixed around that one store. As I turned each corner, I had an image of what “should” have been there, only to be surprised with a small change.

It would be naive to assume that life stands still for just one person, but it nags at me that everything is just gone. I’m much too young to be nostalgic, but I now look back and wish I had taken the time to lean back in every recliner. Or maybe have a scavenger hunt with my sisters, hiding items in washing machines. Or maybe spread my coloring books across three tables. Or turn every T.V. to the same channel and get full immersion. Or spent a night in that top bunk.