Where Is Home?

When I was still quite young, living with my parents, I asked my mom if she missed her home. You see, my mother was a war bride from the Netherlands who came to Canada in 1946 after marrying my father.

Every winter she never hesitated to express her extreme dislike for the snow and cold temperatures.

She mourned that Northern Ontario had no “spring” and would leap from winter to summer with only a short interlude of slush and mud.  Trees and shrubs seemed to transform overnight from naked to fully dressed.

And summer?  Mosquitoes, black flies, and other little flying vampires made the outdoors an itchy miserable existence.  I was quite confident that my mom hated Canada and would have liked a do-over.

cochrane

Lake Commando, Cochrane

Her response however surprised me.

She pointed out that she had – at that point – lived in Canada far longer than she had ever lived in Holland.  This was her home … and no, she never thought about going back.  Her life was here.

She then gave a long description of what she loved about her home in Canada … besides her family and friends …. she listed the fresh northern air, abundant clean water, wide open spaces, and the relaxed easy-going lifestyle.  These were all things she felt her original homeland was lacking.

That conversation came back to me recently and its relevance to my own life came into focus.

I’ve always thought of myself as a Northerner first.  Although I never returned to the North after I left home to attend university in the South (I know some of you will find any reference to Canada as “south” to be funny),  I still felt like I was a Northerner at the core.

My childhood and formative years were spent in the North.  I believed that experience created a unique DNA that would never change – figuratively speaking, of course.

cochrane2

This summer I was back in my hometown for a class reunion.  My classmates and I were all turning 60 this year and came together to celebrate this important milestone.  On that visit, as I spent many hours catching up with both old and new high school friends, I realized that I had lived away from my hometown for MORE than DOUBLE the number of years I actually lived there.

Later that same weekend, I spent an afternoon with my younger-older brother.  He toured me around all the back country roads, sharing all the local ‘landmarks’ that everyone seemed to know, but I had somehow missed in the years I lived there.

abitibi-ferry

Ferry crossing the Abitibi River.  In the winter, this becomes an ice road.  I knew it existed but I had never seen it … nor do I think I could ever find it again.

I discovered that my hometown was a place I didn’t know at all.  I must have been sleepwalking for the 19 years I lived there.  In my defense, teenagers tend to be oblivious anyway, and perhaps I was worse than most.

However, it really hit me this past weekend as I was buzzing around downtown Toronto … I wasn’t a Northerner at all – not any more.  I am a city girl to the core and Toronto is my home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 Approaching twilight at Nathan Phillips Square, City Hall

As I zipped up and down familiar streets, this feeling of being home wasn’t simply because this is where I currently live, but because this is where the vast majority of my adult memories lived.  The streets had landmarks that meant something to me.

toronto-dance-school

Toronto Dance School – formerly St Enoch’s Presbyterian Church (1891)

It’s unlikely I will ever move away from Toronto – at least not any time soon.  However, if I ever do, it will be interesting to discover whether my new concept of *home* will remain here … this place where I married, where my sons were born, and where we grew together as our own family unit.

Either way, one thing I know for sure is that I’m at home right now.  My memories recognized it much sooner than I did.

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in Family, Memories, Random Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

96 Responses to Where Is Home?

  1. LB says:

    Nice essay, Joanne. It is funny when you realize that you live longer than where you are “from”. How nice to love your “adopted” home so much.
    That photo of the structure arching over the river is stunning!!

    Like

  2. I have a little plaque on the wall in my kitchen that says ‘home is where you’re loved the most’. I hang onto that notion of home. Lovely post Joanne x

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  3. reocochran says:

    Oh my goodness, Joanne! I love the Nathan Phillips Square reflection which is perfection plus beauty instilled within itself.
    There was a lot of interesting features in your doors post today. The wall with murals was great, the dance school from the originally Presbyterian Church and the water scenes were fantastic!
    On an aside, I have lived half my life in my chosen home for my three (now) grown children. I spent five years in one town, five years in another and from high school until I married eight years in another house. It worked out for them to stay in one town, creating roots I never felt for a location although family is always a portable source of roots. ❤

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Thanks Robin. How we define home is such a personal thing … and one that seems to change over our lifetime. I’m now fully starting to appreciate that.

      I’m lucky that my sons have chosen to stay relatively close to “home”. I can’t imagine how much it would make my heart hurt to have them move very far away. My concept of home is clearly attached to them and my network of friends.

      Liked by 1 person

      • reocochran says:

        I think of people that feel they raised their children to fly far as very special and they should be proud of them!
        On the other hand, my heart hurts when I think of not being able to drop by their homes, come for dinner unannounced or miss grandchildren’s events.
        I was glad my parents retired the year I began my family so they also could come by (by driving two and a half hours) to see the grandkids, and in the summer their lake house was our playground.
        We are blessed, Joanne! ❤

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  4. Love this post, Joanne, and I’m sure you know already that this is an idea I’ve had to grapple with myself not so very long ago….it’s quite a question actually for me….the home where I had my little family of four or the new home where we are a family of three and four comes to visit with our new fifth family member. Up until quite recently, I’ve always called our old place “home” but lately there’s been a change in my brain because I now find myself calling this new house home and our old house “our first home.” I’m sure it gets quite confusing for the average listener….I even manage to confuse myself sometimes! LOL.

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  5. So sweet and smile-inducing. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

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  6. Margie in Toronto says:

    I was almost 4 when we emigrated to Canada and my mom never really settled. My dad had family here but my mom had no one. My Nana would come to visit every few years but no one else could afford the time or money to come. Finally, when I was 17 my dad took all of us, mom, dad, and 5 kids back to Scotland for a couple of weeks – and I believe the intent was that we would move back if that’s what mom really wanted.
    Well, of course reality sank in – she was now used to a different way of life and different living conditions. The first night we were there she told my father that she wanted to go “home” – the first time that she’d ever called Canada home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Wow! That is a great story. I guess it shows that we tend to cling to these inner mental stories, only to discover later that the dialogue was wrong!
      How nice that your mom eventually discovered ‘home’ in her heart!

      Like

  7. Pingback: Thursday Doors – Growing Up | No Facilities

  8. Suvi says:

    What a lovely post. I am sure your mom has interesting tales to tell. Have you been to the Netherlands? To seek your relatives perhaps?

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  9. Donna says:

    Very interesting post, Joanne. By the time our youngest son turned 18, he had lived five years outside of Toronto, seven years in the interior of British Columbia and five years in Beijing, China. He is now 28 and has added 2+ year stints in Vancouver, Newfoundland, Manchester and Singapore. I have watched as these changing environments and cultures have added to his respect for others, and his resilience. I believe that each place that we live (and travel to) is an amazing gift that stays in our soul longer after we have left.
    Donna

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    • Joanne Sisco says:

      That is such a special gift for a child to grow up having experienced so much of the world! When I was a child, that was my fantasy life 🙂
      I agree that exposure to different cultures is a positive thing for anyone at any age.
      I’m guessing you define home in a very different way 🙂

      Like

  10. Helen C says:

    Very interesting subject, Joanne. I was thinking about this recently and was going to write about it but I kept putting if off. You said it much better 😉 Your post motivates me 😉 Thanks, Joanne.

    Like

  11. Rebekah M says:

    This is a subject I think of often. Interesting read, and all the comments too.

    I was just a few months shy of fifty when I moved from Sweden to Canada. Hence; Canada can never be «home». Saint John is my adopted hometown, and I love it to pieces. If I live here to be 100 … not until then I will have lived here longer than in Sweden LOL. All joking aside, I think I was too old to feel this is my home. Not in a bad way … it’s just the way things are.

    Having said all that … if/when I go back, I will miss Saint John so badly — I can feel it now when I think about it.

    It’s been twelve years here now, thirteen in May next year. First five years in Quebec City. There, I had the language barrier — I never managed to learn French in five years, and constantly felt ashamed.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      The feeling of home and belonging is a strange and deeply personal concept.

      Don’t feel about the 5 years trying to learn french. After 13 years of french in school and married to a Quebecker for 33 years, my french is still abysmal :/

      Liked by 1 person

  12. jan says:

    I too left home at eighteen and only returned there to live briefly – I’ve lived in the SF Bay Area almost 40 years! It’s home. The town I grew up in is now a city and very little feels familiar.

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  13. Lynn said what was going through my head so I won’t repeat it. I find this interesting because I’ve lived in this town since I was four so it was and still is ‘home’. In the four years before we moved here, I lived in two different Melbourne suburbs and in Kentucky so I don’t feel any ties to any place before here. The Husband must really feel at home here – in his whole life he’s only lived in two suburbs and they’re right next to each other! 😀

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  14. Lived during the school year in the city and during the summer on the farm. The farm will always feel like home. 🙂 Have you visited the Netherlands? It is a beautiful place.

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    • Joanne Sisco says:

      You were so lucky to have been given both worlds from childhood! That gives you an objective view of both worlds 🙂

      I visited the Netherlands once when I was a teenager. On that visit, I finally got to meet all my mother’s family.
      Someday I would like to return. Traveling with your mom isn’t quite the same 😉

      Like

  15. Summer Daisy says:

    Lovely post, and I love the photo too ♥

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  16. nrhatch says:

    I feel at home here in Florida . . . Every other place I’ve lived just led to this shore. Here’s to Home Sweet Home, wherever we find it!

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  17. Tippy Gnu says:

    Kind of interesting about geographic distinctions. Living in Toronto, you sure seem like a Northerner to me. On the other hand, I live in Southern California, the most extreme Southwestern region of the continental U.S. However, I’m not considered a Southwesterner, because that’s reserved for people who live in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.

    But Ohio is considered part of the Midwest, as well as the Great Plains states. But it seems to me like Utah is much more “midwest”.

    So whoever came up with these distinctions doesn’t seem to know much about geography, in my opinion.

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  18. Sue Slaght says:

    Joanne that definitely gives me pause for reflection. I’m not much of a homebody that’s for certain. When we are on the road we have discovered that home pretty much is wherever we are. I think our base in Calgary will likely always be here and certainly when people ask where home is this is the city I say immediately. Yes I shall be pondering on this all day.

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  19. boristoronto says:

    Great post and thanks for sharing your Personal story. I myself was not born in Toronto, or Canada for that matter but in Europe. Came when i was young about 9 or so. For the longer time i used to refer to where I was born as my home, not until I actually went back to visit relatives when I was 18-19 did it hit me. That is not home and I dont belong there. The town in which my parents grew up and I was born is not mine, nor is their country mine. It does not apply to me, Ive spent 2/3 of my life in this city and and country and its where my my fondness memories live.

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  20. Very interesting. You & I have a very similar life experience. I was born and raised in Amos, Abitibi on the other side of the border from Cochrane. I moved out to attend university and only came back once between degrees then moved out for good. I have only been back to visit family and now that my parents have both passed away and only my sister lives there we aren’t going anymore (my sister comes down). I am truly a city girl to the core and could never live in a small town again…(Suzanne)

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    • Joanne Sisco says:

      I really enjoy going back to Cochrane. I don’t know many people there – my brothers, of course, but I enjoy visiting.
      As odd as it sounds, I usually go alone and I enjoy the drive by myself. It’s good thinking time 🙂

      Like

  21. Home is where the heart is.

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  22. Lynn says:

    Hmmm, this one really got me thinking. As someone who has not moved far from where I grew up, I have always called the area I live in home. Having said that, I do think when you raise a family, if the majority of that time is spent in the same place, this becomes home for you. It is the place we hold in our hearts for it contains so many memories of our time together as a family. I think that is what home means for me.

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  23. Lovely post! The photograph of the City Hall pond/water feature 🙂 is beautiful!

    Like

  24. Ally Bean says:

    I relate. I left a small town farther north, knowing that I was a city/suburban girl at heart, but never expecting that I was a midwestern girl. I aimed for the east coast, but ended up in the midwest, a stone’s throw from the south. Not getting what I dreamed of has made me who I am, so a good thing?

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      That’s an interesting thought, Ally. I find that contemplating the path that brought us to where we are is always interesting.

      Sometimes I play the what-if game with myself …. what-if I had gone to a different school? or what-if I had not become friends with a certain person? The path of my life would have changed dramatically. Inevitably I always conclude that I would have missed the best things in my life – my family.
      So, yes … for me, the path that brought me here was a good thing, even if I never envisioned it in my youth 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  25. bikerchick57 says:

    Nationally, I’m considered a northerner. Here, in Wisconsin, we tend to say “we’re going UP NORTH for the weekend,” which can mean anywhere north of home or Milwaukee.

    I feel the same about Appleton as you do Toronto…I’ve lived in this area the majority of my life. While the hometown holds fond memories, Appleton is my home.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      haha! That’s funny about being a Northerner and going “up north” for the weekend 😀

      There was a time when I thought that I would eventually return to my hometown. I realize now that it’s never going to happen. If I leave Toronto, it will likely be a smaller community close by.

      Like

  26. Heyjude says:

    An interesting subject Jo and one that I have come across twice this week – I don’t know if you have come across Dina and her partner Klausbernd and their two lovely Bookfayries, if not you will love them and Dina’s wonderful photographs, but they touched on the meaning of home and I think you’d enjoy reading about what they have to say on the subject. https://toffeefee.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/home/
    As I commented on that post, it is difficult for me as I have moved sooo many times. If asked I always say I am from Yorkshire as that is where I was born and I was brought up as a Northerner – though not as northern as you! The longest time spent in any one place/house was in South Yorkshire (18 years) where I raised my kids, but I hated it there. It was not my home and I couldn’t wait for the kids to be done with schooling so I could leave. I feel more settled where I am now, but that might be because for the first time in years I am not hunting for a house. Is this home? Time will tell. And as we grow older does home have a different meaning I wonder?

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      hmmm – maybe I read more into Klausbernd’s discussion of home than he intended. I interpreted it to be a discussion about the higher level concept of “homeland” and the fanaticism that can (and is currently) arising in some countries about “protecting” the homeland with isolationist policies.
      … or I could be totally wrong. You’re right though, GORGEOUS photos!

      I’m glad you’re feeling settled in your new home. I think you’re right that we go through various stages of life, and as we get older, “home” starts to mean something different.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heyjude says:

        KB can be very serious and his take on home is very different to that of Dina – but they do write a good post between them all (you have to include the bookfayries as they have all the ideas) sometimes, as in this one, controversial as the comments show. Today I am very cosy in my home as the wind and rain and sun all do battle around me 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  27. I totally get it – I do not consider myself a Southerner – I’m a Midwesterner because that is where I spent my formative years. I have no desire to live there again, this is home – but Iowa shaped me. My husband grew up in Germany and moved here when he was 30, this is his home and he does not want to go back there to live, but it shaped him and he will always be a “German.” We have to embrace where we live (which we all do eventually), but not forget where we came from. Lovely post!

    Like

  28. Phil Ryan says:

    This is a great post, Joanne (aren’t they all). You never fail to get the brain cells turning.
    My dad, a southerner (London) and my mum a northerner (Leeds) married in 1946 and as he was still in the navy (until 1948) there was probably little dispute in setting up home in Leeds. In England northerners are viewed as friendlier, warmer, better looking people (dad must have been an exception) and yet we all ended up leaving, many heading south. My dad’s parents were immigrants from Ireland so maybe it’s in the blood (or Leeds is a… ) but we’ve all settled in our new locations and wouldn’t return. I’m proud of Leeds and when quizzed about my accent am happy to boast of my roots. Wouldn’t go back though, life’s about moving forward.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      I guess I had never thought about the North-South divide in England, but I imagine it is also a very big differentiator.
      I had always believed that one day I could/would move back to the North where the pace of life is very different from the city.
      I don’t think that anymore. My real roots are here. Although I wouldn’t go back now, it’s still a part of me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Su Leslie says:

    This is really thought-provoking Joanne. I have lived in Auckland for most of my life — but in three separate stretches. This latest is the longest (16 years, all of it in the same house) and although it’s where I went to primary school and university and where I’ve raised my son it doesn’t really feel like home these days. Familiarity doesn’t bring comfort anymore. I think I’m ready to make a new home somewhere else, and am wondering what home really means.

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    • Joanne Sisco says:

      It is an interesting concept, isn’t it Su? *Home* can have a great deal of emotion attached to it, and mean so many different things to different people … each one being right.

      It sounds like maybe you’ve grown wings and now have a great need to stretch them.

      Like

  30. I get it! My early childhood was spent living on a USMC base then in the desert counties, and camping and, hunting in the mountains and countryside most week-ends. My Dad was and is an “outdoors man”. My Mom is a “city gal”. Imagine my psyche! 🙂 I feel pretty well balanced actually.

    We hiked up in the High Country of the Sierras, hunted and fished in the nearby deserts, rivers, mountains,and canyons almost every week-end when I was 4 to 14 years old.
    My Mother brought up as a high class “city girl” loved fashion, culture, music, the arts, and a career. I have always thought she is oh, so glamorous! I loved playing in her clothes, shoes, and make up when I was a girl, but wanted to have it all! All the glamour of the culture, clothes,language, make-up, and be in the mountains near the streams, birds, wildlife, and near the quite places where I found my center/zen. Thank you Dad! He was extremely disappointed that I couldn’t win a ribbon or trophy at shooting competitions, but he appreciate my gift for cooking and baking! 🙂 Not to mention that I was a really great clay pigeon pully operator! Just sayin! Even when distracted by that handsome Irish kid who shall not be named! Cough, cough!

    All grown up now living Happily Ever After with He-Man 35 years in and counting…I want to live in the city, but I need to be near the mountains and country so I can spend time there, to help preserve it, hike, camp ,relax, rejuvenate, and find my center/zen place, but I don’t think I’m tough enough to live in it full time. Home for me is the city. Drop me in any city and I ‘d be fine. Drop me in a jungle…I’d be sweating it, scared, and chomping at the bit to find my quite place then get me out to the city where I’m most comfortable!

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    • Joanne Sisco says:

      Wow! You really did have the best of both worlds! How wonderful that your father shared his love of the outdoors with you.
      Maybe my small town roots explain my need for the quiet of green space and proximity to water.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. mukhamani says:

    Thank you for sharing, yes, home is where the heart is. 😊

    Like

  32. Glad you found your home, even if it just so happens that you were born there! I don’t think
    I’ll ever feel like L. A. is my home.

    Like

  33. It’s so great for you that you’ve reached a time of comfortably belonging where you live. We are so lucky in a world where so many people are still struggling to belong somewhere. A high school reunion where you’re all turning 60 – bet that was interesting!

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      That’s such a good point, Carol. We are lucky to have a concept of home when there are so many displaced people right now with a general sense that the world doesn’t want them.
      I hadn’t considered that angle at all.

      Our high school class has been getting together about every 5 years since we turned 40. I credit one particular woman who continues to live in our hometown. She organizes it and hosts it in her own home. Every time we get together, the group seems to get a bit larger as more people hear about how much fun we had at the previous one. This year we had classmates come from as far as Alberta and Wisconsin to attend.
      We don’t wear name tags and it gets really comical when meeting a ‘new attendee’ for the first time in decades!

      Like

  34. Mrs. P says:

    Great story and reminiscing! Your mom’s response was great and I love the city hall photo! ❤

    My hometown has changed so much since I left it 10 years ago. I watched the nearest large city go from orchards to a big city. As a child the people from San Francisco used to call the city of San Jose a "wanna be city", meaning they could only hope to be like San Francisco. Nearly forty years later San Jose became the heart of Silicon Valley which has spread so much that the city I lived in is now the home of Google and just a bit further north is Facebook. To say the landscape has changed is an understatement. It's bizarre to see my once typical suburbia transformed into a metropolitan area.

    Like

  35. Lovely post, Joanne. I did laugh when you said you were from the “south.” I thought Canada had a north, a more north, and a northernmost! Ha ha. I love the last line and your whole reflection on your sense of home. BTW – My mom is from the Netherlands too 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  36. I live only a few miles from the house I grew up in. Although I went to college away from home and worked for awhile in another city, this has always been my home. Sometimes I think that’s pretty boring and maybe not very adventurous, but it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else. Fortunately, there are planes, trains and automobiles that allow me to explore other areas (including beautiful Toronto), but I still love coming home.

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      … and that’s the truth of it, isn’t it? As much as I love travelling and exploring, going home is a good feeling 🙂

      I don’t think it’s boring to stay relatively close to your original hometown. It sounds more like that’s where your heart feels it belongs. That can only be a good thing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  37. I had a similar experience some years ago when I realized I’d live in Cleveland longer than anywhere else in my entire life. What a great thing to realize that you are at home! Enjoyed the post.

    janet

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      I remember your post about Cleveland and you’re realization that you had been there for so long. Like me, you had decided it was time to start really getting to know your city well.
      It is a good thing to feel like you’re actually where you’re supposed to be 🙂

      Like

  38. Meghan says:

    I love this. Oddly, I still feel myself to be a northerner too, but I left when I was 8! I also feel that Vancouver is my home as well. I’ve reflected before that this is one of the ironies of having multiple ‘hearts’ – you’re always and never at home 🙂

    Like

    • Joanne Sisco says:

      oh – that is interesting …. having multiple hearts.
      I can see how that would be a unique issue for you compared to me since you’ve lived in so many different places.
      Maybe you will always be a “wanderer” … or, maybe it’s just taking you longer to find the place to plant your roots 🙂

      Like

  39. joey says:

    How lovely. Home is definitely here, where I was born and raised. Maybe you didn’t really pay attention when you were young, because that was not your place?

    Like

  40. Interesting subject. Funny, I still my hometown the tiny village I lived in for only seven years when we arrived in Canada, between Kirkland Lake and the Quebec border. I’ve been back a couple times and I still have an attachment to the place. I guess it helps that childhood friend bought the old family home. Still it’s not home. I suppose home is where the heart is and that where I am too.
    😀 ❤

    Like

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