Last Sunday, I took my son and his friend to a longboard event. If you don’t know what a longboard is, think skateboard, but longer. Where skateboarding tends to be more about tricks and technique, longboarding is (as I understand it) more about speed. Hence the length. Though if you have a teenaged boy at home, I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know.
I should make the point right here, by the way, that this is not a blog about longboarding. It’s a blog about all the stuff that happens in life that you often don’t give much thought to — like chauffeuring your kids around all weekend — and how these non-events can sometimes turn out be kind of cool.
With that in mind…
My son Simon practically lives to longboard. Which is why, when he informed me on this stunningly beautiful Sunday morning that the longboard event he wanted to go to was downtown — and would basically suck up my entire afternoon — well… I still couldn’t say no.
“Downtown”, by the way, is downtown Toronto; we live about 30 minutes west of it. I grew up downtown, and if money were no object, my husband and I probably would still be there.
Money being the object it is, we live in the burbs. Actually, we like it a lot. Mississauga has been a great place to raise kids with just a little more space, in (arguably) a slightly safer environment.
And hey, we hop in the car and in 30 minutes (at 3 in the morning) we can be in downtown Toronto.
Which is where my son, his friend and I were headed on this perfect afternoon. The longboarding event was happening in Leaside, just off the Bayview Extension. And though I had a vague sense that it was in roughly the same neck of the woods as my old family home at Yonge and St. Clair, I was surprised how close we were. About 4 minutes by car. And I had 2 hours to kill while the boys did their thang.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been back in my old hood. Several years, for sure. Just to fill you in: I moved there in 1983 as I was finishing high school. Roughly 15 years later, by the time the house was sold, both my parents had passed away, I’d met my future husband, and was pregnant with my daughter.
It was, putting it mildly, a time of huge transition. And while I grappled with it then — and was glad to leave the house behind when my 2 brothers and I sold it — I have only the sweetest memories of it now.
In fact, now when I go back for a visit and walk down my old street and meander around the old neighbourhood, it’s a bit like time-travelling back to a life that I know was mine but sometimes feels like someone else’s.
A time when I wore a kilt to school and everyone still smoked and new wave was actually new.
A time when I dieted myself down to 129 pounds (I’m 5’10”) and would go entire days without eating because I was going out that night and had to fit into my skinny jeans — and they had no Lycra in them like jeans do now.
A time when my best friend worked part-time at the coolest hair salon in Toronto (House of Lords… duh) and I would meet her after work and we’d go across the street to Klub Domino. (Nuts ‘n Bolts and the Iguana Lounge were second- and third-favourites.)
When I landed my first real job, after graduating from Ryerson, at Toronto Life Fashion magazine. So cool.
When I landed my second real job at CFTO-TV, and over the next 7 years would collect some of the best memories of my working life. (God… TV is fun.)
When, 5 months after starting at CFTO, my dad would die of colon cancer. He had been so proud of my getting into television (“TV is where the money is!”), and he experienced so little of that part of my life.
When, 5 years later, my mum would die of breast cancer. “I’m going to beat this thing,” I remember her saying in a waiting room at Mount Sinai just after her diagnosis. She was strong, alright, but the cancer — at least this one — was stronger.
And when, just a year or so before the house was sold, I would wait by the window in what had once been my parents’ bedroom, and look up and down the street for the first sign of Steve’s red GTI. “It’s too soon,” some people had said back then, referring to the possibility that I was using him as a crutch after my mum’s death. (Fifteen years later, here we still are — much to his chagrin, I like to joke.)
And here I was again, on this blissful day, under a blue cloudless sky and a newly-budded arbour of old oaks, standing back in front of this house. Around me, people — all strange people now — walked their dogs and worked their gardens and drove by in their very nice cars. I tried to look casual, as if I belonged there as much as they did. I looked up at that window. I thought about how wonderful (but also how creepy) it would be to see my mom’s face in it. “You can come home any time, you know,” she’d once said to me not long after I’d moved out. I was in my own apartment at the time and had split up with my boyfriend. I was lonely. So mom had invited me back home. I never did take her up on it.
A group of people chatting across the street were now giving me funny looks. It was time to move on. Time to head back to the car and leave this part of my life behind again, at least for awhile. But that was okay. Because I was leaving to go pick up my son and take him home to my husband and daughter. Home to our dog and 2 cats. Home to a place where, in many ways, life was sweeter than it had been before. And the best part was: I could go back any time I wanted.