This week I am home for a holiday. There are several places I call ‘home’, the house I live in, the country I’m from, and of course my hometown. So I should clarify that I’m in my home country and home town. Pretty much my entire family still lives within about 100-km (sorry, back in Canada so I’ve converted over to metric!) of the house we grew up in. So a visit home is really just time with family.
I’m staying with one of my sisters. She has a very nice home in the far western suburbs of Calgary. It’s great to not have to pay for accommodations, and they treat me well. I rented a car (a Volvo, which I’ve been really enjoying) so I can run around wherever I want. I still know the city well and want to see people spread out over a 100-km radius.
This is my longest visit home since I moved in 1996. My mom is getting older and I want to spend more time with her than a long weekend allows. Before I arrived there was a flurry of emails arranging road trips, lunches, dinners, outings, so my time is fairly heavily scheduled.
But the packed calendar means I can’t do what I want most, which is have a week when I feel like I live here again. I was never a suburban girl. Calgary was a small city when I was young, and once I was independent I moved downtown where I lived and worked. Even when I was in university I lived downtown. My group of friends all lived downtown and we took advantage of everything that was offered – so we tried new restaurants, hung out in bars that were within walking distance of someone’s apartment, went to festivals, partied on the street during the Winter Olympics and on the rare occasions when there was a sports championship. That’s a long way from the western suburbs.
Last October I made a stealth visit to Calgary. Only one niece knew that I was coming to town and she made arrangements so I could surprise everyone. (She is an excellent secret keeper!) I came into town a day early and stayed in a cool new boutique hotel about 4 blocks from the apartment I lived in for several years. In the morning, I got up super early and went for a run past my old apartment, the butcher and green grocer. I wandered through neighbourhoods that I still know like the back of my hand. When I finally hooked up with my family we just stayed where I was and spent the day in little shops, bars and restaurants in “my” hood – around my hotel. It was the best visit because I was just hanging out in the city I know.
What I’m realizing is that it’s hard to go home again as a tourist. The things you enjoy as a resident aren’t available to you … the quiet nights sitting on a deck watching the sun go down, the little corner coffee shop where they have the best homemade baked goods, even just swinging in the playground at the end of the block. When you’re a visitor, you’re constantly asked, “what are you doing today?” and I miss just being able to do whatever. Your time is not your own when you’re a guest.
This isn’t intended to be whiney post because I am having a wonderful time.
I guess I just miss living here.