Posted in (All Posts), Family, Homelessness, O Canada 🇨🇦, Personal Anecdotes

The Lights are on, but…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “home.”

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Reynolds’ House, 1970s

I had a really chaotic childhood. I spent my years moving from place to place, relative to relative, making and then losing friends one after the other. I didn’t know where I would be from one year to the next. I don’t actually know how many different homes I have had in my life. It would be impossible to count, but I’ve just made a mental list of 30 places where I can remember living since I was four. There are probably at least ten more that I can’t remember before that. The concept of “home” to me has always been a tenuous one.

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Tarys’ House, 1980s

Growing up, only two places remained constant in my life: my maternal grandparents’ home (The Tarys’,) and the house where my dad grew up (The Reynolds’.) The former was sold back in 1992, and my mom’s parents moved to a town five hours away. Prior to that, we had spent holidays and birthdays together in that house. That left only my dad’s parents’ home. It was my refuge in times of trouble when I was very young and after breakups as a young woman when I suddenly found myself needing a place to go. It was where I lived when I was in college and again for several years after my grandmother passed away in 2011. I moved out of that house a few months ago as it was prepared for sale. When I moved, I left a huge piece of my heart and countless memories behind.

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Reynolds’ House, 2016

The housing market in Vancouver is insane these days. Last month saw records being broken. People are lining up and warring over homes as soon as they go on the market. My grandparents’ house went up for sale a week ago today. Seeing it with the realtor sign out front hit me much harder than I had expected and less than a week after entering the market, it had at least seven offers and sold for 55 times what my grandparents paid for it in the 1950s. We lose possession next month, and I am positive this century-old building will be torn down a few days later. I have seen this happening in my old neighborhood for several years. I fight back tears every time I think about it.

This event has had me really thinking about what exactly “home” means to me. Unlike many of my friends, I’ve never had a childhood home. I bounced around and I lived everywhere. My parents separated before I can remember. I don’t know where I fit in or where I belong. My husband and I can’t afford the 1-million-dollar price tag for a house in Vancouver. We rent, and I don’t even know how long we will be in our present apartment.

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Reynolds’ House, 1990s

Sometimes I think about leaving Vancouver. I’m not sure what is holding me here anymore. That house was my rock. It was the one place I knew would always be there for me. It was a place where I could feel safe, in the bosom of family, surrounded by love and happy memories. Now, without it and the people I used to find inside, I am lost. I’ve been thinking about how insanely expensive this city is. The Economist recently ranked Vancouver as the most expensive city to live in North America. It’s getting to the point where it’s hard to maintain a good quality of life here in the absence of a huge salary.

marley-me-wallpaper-marley-and-me-2008-5807697-1292-916vanessa atalla-127Then, tonight, I watched Marley and Me. It’s a sweet, sappy film about a family and their Labrador Retriever. At one point in the movie, Jennifer Aniston’s character argues that home isn’t a place: home is wherever you are. She’s absolutely right. I need to let go of the material house, and learn to love wherever I am. I have a considerable amount of childhood emotional baggage surrounding stability, but it’s time for me to focus on what really matters, my people. I am lucky to have them, and they will be my home wherever we choose to go.

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