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you can come home again

At 7.15 this morning – which was actually 12.15 for me – I went downstairs and opened my front door, and there, lying on the sill, were the Saturday Star and Globe and the TV Times. I went into my kitchen, made coffee and oatmeal, and ate breakfast reading the paper. Now I’m full and warm, sitting in my favourite chair under a blankie, looking out at the daffodils with the cat beside me. If that’s not heaven, I don’t know what is.

The flight was delayed nearly 3 hours – how I felt for the travellers whose 8.30 a.m. Air Canada flight was delayed 8 hours! – but once we were on, it was seamless, if long. I’d snagged a few of the free magazines United Airlines had on display at the departure gate, including The Critic, which I adored and may even subscribe to, witty, sardonic, lefty British voices opining about the arts and life in general. I listened to “Calm Baroque,” a lot of Bach, hooray, and watched Oppenheimer, which I know should not be watched on a small airplane screen, but which made a big impact nonetheless. Extraordinarily thoughtful and intelligent, with of course superlative performances from Cillian Murphy – haunting, unforgettable – and Robert Downey Jr. and the others.

My father told me he was ashamed of the fact that he, an American G.I., cheered when the bombs were dropped on Japan, because it meant the war was over, and his brother Edgar, a radio operator on B-23’s in the Pacific, could come home. Dad  became a pacifist and spent decades fighting against nuclear proliferation and for peace. The way the film clearly yet dramatically outlined the complexities of that time was brilliant. Deserved the Oscar.

After landing, I sprinted through Canadian immigration and made the UP Express to downtown, about to leave, with a minute to spare; outside, the sun was shining and Toronto looked great. I barely recognized parts of it, the growth has been so fast. As people strolled on a late Friday afternoon in the sunshine, it looked like the prosperous, multicultural, vibrant city it is. I was proud of it. I’ll be hit with its many, many problems soon enough.

As I got out of the taxi from Union, a young woman was checking out the Little Free Library. In front of my house, the forsythia is radiant, though very early. Tiggy greeted me. The house has had two tenants, one a rental and the other my friend Alanna, and it looked fine. The garden is reviving; my daffodils are out. The bird-feeder is empty, the fridge is empty, there’s a great deal to be done. The reality of coming home hit me: it’s joy, but it’s also responsibility. The kitty litter, groceries, cleaning, bills. In my mail was a Vacant Tax Assessment for $12,000; I thought I’d filled out the form saying my house is never vacant but must have done something wrong, so immediately sent in a complaint to challenge it. The pile of laundry, mine from the trip and the tenants’ bedding and towels, is enormous. Anna wrote, “Welcome home, but I just received a friend request from you on Facebook.”

My mother-in-law liked to say that it was good “to get the stink blown off you.” I had a long hot shower and got the stink blown off me. Put on my pyjamas and ate the tuna sandwich I’d bought at Heathrow for supper, with a bit of the white wine Alanna left in the fridge. Stinkless, at last.

I’m still chesty, coughing, clogged, but it’s so different to be sick at home. I know where things are, how to get what I need. There’s homemade chicken soup in the freezer. My kids are nearby, as are my friendly neighbours. I CAN CHANGE CLOTHES! I wore the same thing, grey jeans and orange wool turtleneck with several layers underneath, for nearly the entire trip. It was bewildering to look in my closet – so many clothes! Why do I need all that?

You can’t go home again? Nonsense, Thomas Wolfe, you certainly can. Look, there’s a robin on my grass. The cardinals just flew by. The paper is full of Canadian political wrangling, unchanged. The world is dire, we know that, but there’s enormous comfort in the familiarity here, in the yellow tulips both Alanna and Sam left for me. Blessings.

I’ll have more thoughts about the trip, but for now, my cat and I will be sitting here.

1. Final view of London – the Piccadilly line to Heathrow. Much as I extoll London transit, the tube can also be very crowded and hot and noisy. 2. My first view of Toronto through the UP window – that morning it said 90% chance of rain in TO. The weather people’s dire predictions have been entirely wrong for this whole trip. I was showered with rain exactly once, in Towcester, for ten seconds, running from the Tesco grocery store to Penny’s car. 3. Greeting me, kind of, before turning and stalking off. 4. Forsythia, bicycle, Little Free Library, and next door, Monique’s yellow house. Bliss.

Thank you again for coming with me. When you travel alone, it really helps to make sure that someone, somewhere, knows where and how you are.

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4 Responses to “you can come home again”

  1. Welcome home, Beth. I’ve enjoyed following along on your travels. I know the delicious feeling of coming home after a trip, no matter how wonderful the trip was. That feeling of being in the place you belong is very powerful.

  2. Trevor says:

    Welcome home Beth – thank you for this wonderful itinerary and commentary. I know many of the places you’ve visited but you bring them to life in your own inimitable way, despite your hack and wheeze. Nice to see your Toronto home and cat too. I hope your illness resolves. Best, Trevor

  3. Curtis says:

    Happy to know you’re home safe after an eventful and fulfilling trip. Hope we feel the same sense of joy when we return in a couple of weeks’ time.

  4. Beth Kaplan says:

    Thanks for your good wishes, Pearl and Trevor. It does help me, when travelling solo, to take note of what I’m seeing and doing to record it for the blog. So it’s my pleasure to take you all with me! Now back to boring old day to day. Hooray!

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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