Brad and I lived together in Toronto for fifteen years. That's the longest that I've lived anywhere. It's no wonder that I become an emotional jellyfish whenever I visit. There are things that still annoy me when I'm there but distance has faded the dislikes and given a rosy glow to the likes and everything in between has just been forgotten. It's those things, the forgotten things, that really sneak up on me and pull at me in a way that other things just can't. So, in my short stay there this summer* these are the things that I had forgotten and was shocked at the speed in which we reacquainted ourselves.
There was a time that I rode the subway every single day. I could recite every stop on the Yonge/University line by heart and in order. This isn't really a big deal. I'm sure most people who ride the subway regularly can do this. But there is one stop between College and Bloor that is a little less travelled. I spent the entire ride from Union to College trying to figure it out. Until the P/A system announced Wellesley, I drew a complete blank.
The girls and I would often ride the Bloor/Danforth subway together. Most often it was to go to the doctor's office. As you can imagine with three little girls it was pretty often. There is a section between Castle Frank and Broadview where the train leaves the tunnel and travels on a bridge over the Don Valley. The view is spectacular. Every time we rode the train, the girls would prepare themselves for the excitement of daylight on an otherwise black trip. The highlight for them was that we could see their preschool from the train. Even when they didn't go to preschool anymore, we still looked for it every time. As I was travelling this route a few weeks ago, I had completely forgotten about this leg of the trip. As we came out of the blackness of the tunnel and into the blinding light it all flooded back to me.
The smell of garbage in Toronto is ripe in the summer. Never is it worse than on garbage day itself. The only saving grace is the abundance and variety of really awesome stuff, sitting at the curb just begging to be taken. For free. I didn't know too many people who hadn't scored at least one gem because of curb-side-pick-up.
There was a man in our neighbourhood that I nicknamed the Cigarette Man. I'm not sure that anyone else called him that but whenever I referenced the Cigarette Man they knew who I was talking about. If he hadn't walked past me on the street, I would have never remembered him. Ironically, he didn't have his cigarette with him at the time.
Every summer the girls and I would pack a picnic and eat it in the beautiful park behind Queen's Park. We started doing it years ago and it just stuck as one of the highlights of summer. Maybe it was because we could feel the subway cars rumble under the earth while we ate. I had forgotten about this little ritual. I also forgot about the giant statue of Edward VII on his horse and how the girls announced quite deliberately and quite loudly to everyone in the park that yes, indeed, Edward VII's horse was a boy.
Everyday that the girls and I walked to school we had to cross the railroad tracks using a pedestrian bridge. I didn't forget the bridge and there's no rosy glow over the memory. What I did forget was the gopher that lived under the fence of the cement factory that we could glimpse over the railing of the bridge. We only saw him twice but we looked every time after that.
I took the train from Toronto to Waterloo while I was there. I love looking at the fields that just keep coming one after the other. Each one defined by healthy band of trees and brush between them. Watching the fields whoosh past the window from the speed of a fast moving vehicle was always one of my favourite ways to spend a summer afternoon.
There were other things but these were the ones that nearly knocked me over.
* I'm extremely sorry to all of the people I didn't get a chance to visit.