I’ve been thinking about doing a travel series for a while, but didn’t know where to start. Two cups of coffee in, it dawned on me: my small “revelations” are what make my work authentically me.
The series begins with a trip to my hometown. It’s a place I love to hate, yet would defend its awesomeness to the death. Literally. I grew up in Scarborough.
#5 Toronto: Nothing in Life is Not Mixed
I came back to Toronto twice in 2015. The first, a planned visit in the summer. The second, when I’d received news my father had fallen ill, again. And was back in the hospital. Again. What I’d thought would be a quick trip to offer well wishes and support turned into something else. He passed away two hours after I arrived.
My father and I had a complex relationship. I’m still mentally digesting much of it, navigating through the murky waters and rocky shores, while simultaneously practicing gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion. My relationship with my mother, while less tragic, is just as complicated. Throw in an extended family who thinks showering you with guilt is the equivalent of showing love, paired with having to do the “big purge;” going through every document and form, literally decades worth of bills, deeds, bank statements, old report cards, and deem what needs to be kept, what’s nice to keep, and what needs to go.
But it wasn’t all frustration and tragedy. I got to have a bonus visit with my amazing friends, who are the best people in the whole world. From picking me up at the airport at 1 am, to being the familiar faces in a sea of people at the funeral, to the simple things like sitting around and talking, going out for dinner, or watching a movie, they were there for me. During a very confusing and difficult time, I had amazing people to lean on.
And not just those friends, but also, my first friends, my cousins.
No one understands the complexities of your family like your cousins do. And mine are the best in the world. At the funeral, some 80 people I didn’t know came to the cemetery.
They pushed each other out of the way to pull roses out of the bouquet from me – instead of taking flowers the funeral director provided – to place on the casket. The once beautiful arrangement, “From Your Loving Daughter,” was now barren and ugly. The same people walked in late at the funeral home, in their Prada and their Gucci, drawing as much attention to themselves as possible, ensuring everyone knew they’d arrived and knew they had money. Whether or not they were aware I was the daughter of the deceased, they practically shoved me out of the way so they could show how respectful they were.
It didn’t feel like a goodbye surrounded by this crowd, so I waited for them to clear out before I could have a quiet moment.
It had just started to rain. I’d politely refused the umbrella offered to me and sat down, legs folded under me. “So. It’s finished now,” I said to no one in particular.
I looked behind me, and saw my cousin waiting in the rain. He’s been my best friend since we were little, as far back as I can remember. He was the only person still there, aside from the funeral directors.
“Everyone destroyed my flowers,” I told him, as though he hadn’t seen it for himself. “I put a red one on his coffin from my own bouquet, and then all these people I don’t even know tore it apart. I can’t even tell which one was mine.”
“Yeah, I know. People are dicks.”
We sat in silence a moment before he pulled a pink carnation from the, “Your loving Brother, Sister-in-Law, and Nephews” bouquet and handed it to me. “Here, take one of mine. It’s pink so it’s different.”
I smiled. I took it from him, and held it a moment before I placed it on the casket. “Thank you,” I said quietly.
“No problem,” he offered a hand to help me up and I accepted. We walked over to our cars. He’d driven from work, but the limo with my grandmother, aunts, and mother idled, waiting for me.
“Oh and don’t worry,” he said nonchalantly. “You can pay me for that flower later.”
I barked out a laugh, my first all day. “Thank you.”
Nothing in life is not mixed. I went back to Toronto because of tragedy, but I left with a renewed sense of gratitude for the amazing people in my life. It’s a city all of Canada seems to hate, but only because they’re jealous of how awesome we are 😉
No matter where I live, “Torono” will always be home. It’s where my mom is, my family, and my best friends. It’s the place I grew up, and the place I will always go back to.
Here’s to my city. Cheers for all the love <3