Going home

A man I know, who was born in the Caribbean but has lived in Canada since he was eleven, was telling me about his recent Caribbean holiday. He said that the wind on his cheek and the smell of the sea felt like home to him. 

A few days later I was shovelling my driveway. The snow had stopped, the stars were sparking in the night-time sky and tires squeaked as cars passed by. I thought: Winter is home to me. Toronto has had the sort of winter we used to have in Guelph when I was a boy. I vaguely recall the coldest temperature being –13F. In my memory there might have been more snow, but it has certainly been colder this season in Toronto.

Just as home arrived unbidden in my mind, so do my neighbours of those days. I’ve lived among lots of neighbours in numerous cities since, but I know that boyhood bunch best. There was Vic Burroughs who owned one of the first TVs. It was black and white but he’d bought a special piece of plastic to cover the screen that was supposed to produce a colour picture. The blue line on top and green across the bottom almost looked realistic if there was a cowboy riding a horse, but it didn’t work well for The Howdy Doody Show. His wife Hazel fed me my first piece of ice cream cake. No finer dessert have I tasted since.

Jimmy Gray wasn’t all there plus he had a speech impediment, the worst I’ve ever heard. I was one of the few who listened and it got so I could understand what he said. Then there was Rowlie Hillis, a dentist and a fisherman, who let me watch as he tied flies. Once when he and his wife were away, burglars broke in through a basement window. The door to the main floor was locked so the intruders gave up and broke another basement window to get back outside again. Burglars in Guelph were not that smart. 

David Smith sold chickens so had crates of them on his pickup truck cackling at all hours. The Cuttens, who inherited wealth, were running out of money but still managed to live in the mansion across the park. Joe Wolfond, who began business with a pushcart, owned half of downtown. I could go up and down the streets and tell you more, but you get the idea. The further away you are, in time and place, the closer you get to home.

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