The theme of this trip for me has been the reminder that this is no longer home. A number of things have made me long for a return to our previous life, but I have also been aware that this is most definitely not my existence anymore. And we have done more this year that mimics old patterns, so it has been quite obvious.
Yesterday, after a quick stop at our favorite coffee shop (including the purchase of 5 pounds of our beans), we visited the retail center of our old neighborhood, a place we used to walk to regularly in good weather. We parked in the parking garage, drove up to a slightly higher level, knowing we would easily find a space while other people trolled around lower levels to fight over parking spaces. Trips to Whole Foods and the bookstore to get a few items we can't find in Toronto (or are ridiculously cheaper in the States). Walk to the subway to go downtown. Train ride into the city, watching out the window and pointing out the same old areas and new developments, comparing our expectations with the new reality.
Our first stop in the city was my old school. Our visit coincided with a fun school event, so I decided it would be a good way to catch up with a few people at once. I saw a student I first taught in 6th grade--6th grade!--driving by. I talked to several old students who are just now finishing their junior years; one more and they graduate! I ran into a friend and former colleague who I had heard was going to be moving to our neck of the woods... and found out they have just signed a lease on a place a block from where we live. She and several other people I liked working with are leaving at the end of this school year. I didn't recognize more than half the students there (since more come to this event from the lower grades). We didn't stay very long, and after we were off to our next destination, I said to Trillian, "I think I'm done with [the school]." It was great to see the students, and I was particularly touched by the reception I received from a student I taught in three different years, who struggled greatly in my class, yet bounded up and gave me a huge hug. But they're not my students anymore.
After visiting a couple more places, we headed back to the retail center to get a snack at our favorite Mediterranean place and then cupcakes for dessert. And then before driving back to our friend's house, we did something we had avoided last year--we drove by our old house. When we had sold it, we were pretty sure the buyers were going to add onto it and then try to flip it. We imagined them driving heavy machinery over the garden we were growing in the side yard. And painting over the distinctive colors. But there it was, pretty much as we left it. Same colors, no major changes--though the fence had been fixed and our rose bush was gone. That last one hurt a bit--the rose bush Trillian's mother sent us when we bought the place with its riots of enormous peach blossoms--but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Because it's not our house anymore.
There's a part of us that would love to move back here and try to pick up where we left off. But we also know it wouldn't be the same and that there are plenty of problems we'd face (Trillian right now is saying that she would die from the pollen and that is reason enough not to move back).
So we head back tomorrow to the life we have right now. It's not the life we had three years ago and not the one we'll have three years from now. Toronto's still not home, but right now it's more home than any other place I can label on a map.