This week, I am home.
I grew up in a largish but sleepy city on the Canadian prairies. Suburbs, car culture, indoor shopping malls, long cold winters with plenty of snow and sunshine, lots of festivals and a tight-knit arts scene, large university.
But for the last 12 years I’ve lived in Toronto – one of the three biggest cities in Canada (Vancouver and Montreal are the others).
I remember being amazed by the number of pedestrians when I first moved there. You don’t nod and smile as you pass, you avert your eyes, because there are just too many people for it to make sense to nod and smile at everyone. The sheer number of restaurants, of full subway cars and buses, that Toronto can support still astounds me. And the diversity — half of all Torontonians were born outside Canada. It’s hectic and vibrant and wonderful.
When I come back to the place where I grew up, it feels like home and not home. Familiar and strange – and stranger every time. The infrastructure is always changing – big box stores and suburbs continue to sprout up, and other businesses I remember have closed. There’s now an LRT (surface-level rapid transit) running down the nearest major artery to the house where I grew up. The streets look wider than I remember, even though they mostly aren’t. The downtown core doesn’t shut down at 6 PM anymore — people actually live there now, and the whole vibe is different.
It’s harder and harder to stay connected with people from “home” when this city in my head has stayed as it was at the turn of the millennium. I still gravitate towards the restaurants and coffee shops that were my favourites as a teenager and young adult…even though newer, hipper places have opened since, and my local relatives’ and old friends’ preferences have changed.
Of course, so have their lives – even those who stayed here (or moved away and then back, as several have). I have to remind myself that time doesn’t stand still just because I left. I’ve stayed in touch with my local high school friendgroup, but we’re not schoolgirls anymore.
And I’m not a prairie girl anymore. (I love my adopted city — the architecture, the vibe, the food, the public transit and walkability.)
Except I kind of am and always will be. (I will always miss prairie sunsets and Alberta-style barns and the squeak of snow on extra-cold days.)
Over to you. What places will you always miss? What do you love about where you live now? Why could you never move back? Or if you HAVE moved back, what’s different now?