Sunday, August 06, 2006

Home Again

I've been back in Vancouver for a week now, and I've increasingly realized that the saying is true, that you (or I) could never go home again. It's the little things that add up to make me feel displaced (plus the allergies that always hit me beginning day three or four of being back). The two cedar trees that used to stand on the boulevard outside my bedroom window are gone. When I came home last Christmas, they had already become ghosts of themselves. Their evergreen lushness had given way to blighted, brown, fragile branches. In the spring, the two sad figures finally were cut down by the municipality and trucked away. (Speaking of spring, how I miss the cherry blossoms that line both sides of the street outside – I suppose I might never see them in full bloom again as long as I'm a teacher elsewhere.) I have images of those two trees in the moonlight, on nights when I couldn't fall asleep. I would sit at my window and stare at them, at their silver gleam, and read the mysteries of the night off those majestic branches. And now they're gone. The grass has grown where their trunks had been, and it's as though they never existed at all. The new neighbours no doubt see nothing amiss.

Yes, there are new neighbours, and they have planted a hedge as a fence between their property and my parents'. Gone are the days when the neighbourhood kids could roam freely from lawn to lawn and toss a ball back and forth, running the full length of the front-yards of this half of the block. And, I hear that the neighbourhood Block Watch program is now defunct. The “block parent” still lives down the street in the little yellow house. She is the mother of three of my school-mates from elementary school. I remember when my best friend and I would sit in our “clubhouse” at the park, and little J would tag along, trying to entice us into a game, when all we wanted was to have some “girl talk” without him, and to pick crab apples and dare each other to eat them, core and all. (I wonder if J's lethargic dog is still around. Probably not.) Now, J and his brother and sister are all grown up, and I suppose their mother wanted to pass her duties onto someone who still had young children. Unfortunately, no one had risen to the challenge.

My favourite restaurant has closed down. My parents took me to another place that supposedly served similar dishes, but the fish I had was dry and flavourless. Perhaps I'm not being fair – things in memories always seem better.

Then, there are those things that have not changed at all, but still ironically lead to my sense of displacement (because I have changed). My bedroom has remained the same. I still have my dresser full of books (my clothes had always been a disorganized heap in the closet, leaving the “important” places for my books), posters from my school days, the metallic cranes I had hung off the light. To the eyes of a stranger, it must be difficult to assess the age of the room's inhabitant. There are childhood photos and a Disney poster on one wall, Party of Five posters and a tapestry from Tanzania on another, and strange watercolours (done by me during a particularly ambitious and artistic phase) and assorted framed certificates on a third wall. I won't even venture to describe the fourth wall – it's a mishmash of stuff reflecting my various idiosyncratic stages. As I glance around now, I see a hula-hoop peeking from behind the dresser. There's a three-quarter-sized guitar propped against my toy chest of stuffed animals. When I was eleven, I had convinced myself that if I bought a guitar, I would teach myself to play it. As with the violin, I discovered that I did not have the ability to self-teach, and only get frustrated now every time I make the attempt to pick at a few tunes.

So, I'm “home,” and I'm not and never will be....

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