Last November my parents made what is hopefully the last big move of their married life, and left Vancouver for Montreal.
After a tearful goodbye at the airport, I got on the bus that would take me to a Skytrain station, and so on to Surrey, where I had been living for the past year – during the week, anyway. I still went “home” to Aldergrove most weekends – even if they consisted mostly of cleaning up and clearing out while the realtor brought around prospective buyers. As long as my parents still lived in Aldergrove, that was home to me, no matter where I laid my head during the week.
Don’t get me wrong. I will be eternally grateful to this good friend of mine who had offered me not only the extra bedroom and bathroom in her spacious townhouse, but also the space on the landing for my reading lamp, chair, and books; half her linen closet and kitchen storage; and the entire back end of her garage for all my extra stuff. Not to mention the fact that she herself is quiet, orderly, undemanding, and eats anything I cook for her (even the weirdest Pinoy food). I knew that when I got back to “our place” all would be clean, tidy, and peaceful. But as I made my way back to Surrey on that November day, feeling like an abandoned orphan, I was amazed to find that I was also homesick. I wanted to get on the bus that would take me over Langley’s long green hills to Aldergrove. I wanted to walk down the street from the bus stop and see the yellow siding and gray shingle roof peeking through the trees that separated our yard from the neighbour’s. I wanted to open the front door and find everything and everyone still there where they belonged – including the dog (and she had been dead for a year).
When you live someplace for a long time, you tend to put down roots, and it’s a wrench to pull them back up. Or worse, leave them behind: the neighbours whose children grew up along with your siblings, all the wonderful folks at church, the cashiers at the supermarket who know you by name, your fellow regulars at the gym, the waitress at the corner Japanese restaurant who doesn’t have to give you a menu because she already knows exactly what you’re going to order. The roses and peonies you set out in the garden; the cotoneaster, now running riot, that started out as seven small plants; the lilac bush that over the years became a tree. In the garden outside and in the empty rooms within are the ghosts of small children now grown up and gone, laughter over long-forgotten jokes, and echoes of conversations around a dining table that’s been packed up and moved away.
You know you will always remember them, and wonder if they will remember you.
And after a while you realize that the only cure for homesickness is to put down new roots and start being happy where you are.
To me, the word home will always bring to mind a picture of our happy little yellow house. Fortunately, my parents gave me the blueprints and tools to duplicate it, wherever I happen to be.