Coming Home — Not What I Expected

By on March 09, 2011 — Comments Off on Coming Home — Not What I Expected

This is my first column in the local newspaper, the Vaughan Citizen, published last Sunday, March 5th. This is my original story; if you’re interested to see how a newspaper editing process works, click on the link above.

I’ve lived in Maple for seventeen years, however, when I arrived I never planned to stay. In fact, fourteen years ago, I said, “I’ll never buy a house in Maple.

We say, “Never say never…” In my case, this proved true!

Here’s the story of how I landed, somewhat reluctantly, in this town.

Initially I moved to Maple for convenience when the century-home next to the United Church (originally the manse) was available for rent. While I was charmed by the spacious rooms and generous curved balcony, I didn’t like the relentless traffic on Keele St. just outside my front door.

Many years ago when Maple was a quaint little village, the crossroads of Keele and Major MacKenzie marked the heart of the town. I’m not sure when the town council decided to make upgrades by widening Keele Street from two to four lanes. However, by cutting down all the mature maple trees that lined both sides of Keele St., Maple became a town in name only.

When I arrived in the early 90’s, I noticed very few people walking the streets. “No wonder,” I thought, “There’s nowhere to go…” The center of town felt empty and somewhat desolate. Abandoned buildings gave it a shabby, neglected feeling.

Though I loved the house, as a country-girl I felt somewhat adrift in a Toronto suburb with lots of cars and very little beauty. Then I had an idea.

“If I make a colorful garden, commuters would have something beautiful to look at on their way home…”

Energized with this vision, I dug up patches of lawn for flowerbeds and erected split rail fencing at the edge of the post office parking lot. In two summers the sunny garden was a riot of color, thanks to lots of horse manure and hard work.

As the garden was easily accessible, people would often stroll over after their visits to the post office, lean on the fence and chat with me as I worked.  In typical Canadian fashion, we talked about the weather, discussed rose maintenance and swapped seeds — all delightful, natural ways to meet my neighbors.

Then everything changed. The church elders announced their plans to build a seniors home beside the church. They would keep the house but eliminate the garden. My sunny sanctuary was to become an underground parking lot! Joni Mitchell would have wept…

Broken-hearted, I began plotting my exit.

By this time, I knew that I wanted to live near water and old-growth trees, to have space for a big garden and proximity to a wild area for my dog run free. I also wanted another century home with lots of character.

Given these parameters, I speculated about moving to Caledon. Then a mini-miracle happened.

A few weeks later, I walked into the local IGA (now Price Choppers) to find an ad with a picture of a very old house pinned to the bulletin board. Curious, I called the realtor. “Where is this place?” Though I’d walked most of Maple, I didn’t recognize the house. When he told me it was located on a ravine just north of Rutherford Road, I began to get shivers.

Within minutes, I discovered everything I wanted was right here, just minutes away. I fell in love — yes, it does happen on first sight — and two days later, the house was mine.

Now fourteen years have passed and when realtors call and ask if I want to sell, I laugh. “No way! I love my home.”

Looking ahead…

My ‘coming home’ story is about finding a place with lots of nourishment and room to grow. In future columns, I plan to explore the theme of Coming Home from many perspectives. Fascinated by the things that make us feel deeply comforted and welcome, I will ponder the role of beauty in making home, the many gifts of gardening, and what makes a suburb truly Home.

The delicious feeling of coming home can be generated by friends and families or the tail-wagging greeting of a pet. It can also be a quiet settling into a favorite pastime or retreating to a special place in nature. Sometimes we take coming home for granted, but in difficult times when we feel lost and agitated, how then do we come back home to ourselves? When we lose a loved one, a job, or faith in ourselves, how do we find our way home again?

If you are interested in these thoughts with me, please contact me by email. I welcome your feedback. Considering what Coming Home means to those of us in this community could make a big difference to living here together.

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Related Blog: Grey Heron’s History

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