Canada 101: Home Sweet Home

I have lived in the United States for 23 years, but Canada is still home. I think of Toronto as being “where I’m from”, even though I have lived in a lot of different places and not in Toronto for decades. I love being in Canada. Anywhere is Canada. I’m here for a week with my son and after 5 days I am already dreading having to leave. My family is here and seeing them for so short a time is very difficult.

When I got my green card I had a Canadian flag tattooed on my bum so that no matter where I was, I would be sitting close to home. I love the tattoo and the meaning of it, but it is nothing like actually sitting in Canada. This country is a truly wonderful place and I am proud to be a Canadian. If you are Canadian you know what I mean, and if you’ve never visited, you simply must. It is beautiful here..

We flew into Toronto on Sunday afternoon, rented a car, and drove to Montreal. It was a great drive and a lot of fun. My family is in Toronto and Montreal so I wanted to have a fun experience with my boy. Our chances to vacation together will get less and less so to be in the car for a few hours talking, laughing, and enjoying each other is a great thing. We hit the road and it was really wonderful.

We had the best time in the car and even though by the time we got to Montreal I was exhausted, it was worth it. We arrived to my mother’s house and it was amazing. My sister, niece and nephew were there and my heart swelled up from pure happiness. I love my older sister and her kids. I was with my sister when her babies were born and this trip I took our “kids” out for a cocktail. It was surreal.

We spent three days with my mom and it was great. She cooked for us, which is a treat because the woman can cook. She is a professionally trained chef, but it is the favorites of my childhood that are the home run. From beans and rice to butter tarts, there is nothing better than mom’s cooking. She serves breakfast while asking what we wanted for lunch. She is a classic Jewish mother.

We spent our days talking and sitting and just being together. My mother played with my hair, joked with my son, and from the moment we walked in the door told us she was sad we were leaving. Literally one minute after walking in she was saying how sad she was to see us go. It was hilarious, predictable, and touching. My mom is a funny lady, as is my sister. They have golden hearts and are very special.

My sister is a hairdresser and made a point of mentioning my grey hair as soon as I arrived. She insisted on coloring my hair, of course I let her, so I now have no grey hair. Bonus. We went to visit my Dad and it was hard. We just sat with him for a while and filled him in on what was going on with the family. We cried uncontrollably and I am certain he didn’t understand anything we said.

I speak with my dad everyday and it breaks my heart that he is not here to see our kids grow up. He didn’t meet all of his grandkids, which is tragic. He was an amazing grandfather and I am blessed he knew my son and my son has memories of being with his Grandpa Bob. It is hard to come home and him not be here. I will never get used to that. The only thing that makes it easier is seeing my little brother.

We left Montreal and headed to Toronto where my brother and other sister are. My brother is a remarkable man and I love him very much. He was very close with my dad, and the youngest, so my father never got to meet his kids. He is an amazing dad and I marvel at him with his kids. He is funny, loving, and involved. Our father would have been so proud of the man and dad he has become.

I spent Thursday in Toronto with my son. I love this city and walking around was great. We are only here for the day, so we wondered around with no plan or destination.  It was the first time in all my visits home I felt a real change in the city. The amount of people panhandling was overwhelming.  Young and old, sober and high, there were a lot of people in need of help and it was sad.

Between being asked for money, the rain, and my son making Rob Ford crack jokes, it wasn’t as fun as usual. I still love it here, but it felt a little less Canadian somehow this time. Maybe it is me who has changed, but there was definitely something different about the city this trip. Could be that for the first time my son said he felt like he was coming home to Canada so things shifted.

He has only ever come here with me, but now he knows the city well, travels on his own, has close relationships with all my family, and no longer needs me to bring him. Perhaps the change is that I have always brought my baby here, and this time I came with a young man who is independent and here by choice, not because his mom took him home. It has been an interesting transition for me.

Last night we came to the lake for the weekend. I drove out with my brother’s mother-in-law, while my son stayed in the city and went to hockey with my brother and nephew. He did his own thing, got to the lake long after I did, and it was a little weird.  I am in Canada but still being forced to face my empty nest in Los Angeles. It is hard, but also exciting and a little sad. My baby is grown up.

I look at my brother’s young kids and I can’t help but see how quickly time has flown by. My nephew is 10 and niece is 7. Today my niece is going to paint my nails and do my hair. We will paint, do arts and crafts, and have a girly day while my son is off doing his own thing. I can only hope I don’t cry, shmoosh her too hard, and get through the day without my nephew telling me I hug him too much.

It will be a great weekend even though it is cold and raining. I will soak up memories and go back to LA refreshed, speaking with a Canadian accent, and hopefully one step closer to accepting my son as an adult. It has been a while since I came home and I am grateful to be here now. Canada is a special place and time here allows me to slow down, breathe deeply, smile wide, and keep the faith.