Friends and Family, Inc.

We’ve aways been movers and we’re not sure why. It may be curiosity about the colour of the grass on the other side or we may be restless spirits, but after a few years in any place the call to hit the road becomes too strong to resist.

The downside is we have lifted ourselves out of a stable and secure community but the upside is we have a network of friends and family all across the country. We have a core group of friends and family we belong to and see on a regular basis. We also have old friends we see infrequently or lost contact with at some point, but the ability to easily reconnect is still there. The years just fall away. A big part of this road trip is not just seeing places we haven’t seen, but catching up with as many old friends as possible.

We’re staying with my parents in Fergus and using this as a base to visit everyone else. Fergus is about 90 km. northwest of Toronto; a pretty town filled with stone homes and big trees. When my parents retired here 30 years ago, Fergus was conservative and Protestant and they were CFA’s (Come-from-aways). Now, like many Ontario towns, subdivisions surround the picturesque core and are filled with residents fleeing Toronto in search of affordable housing. The growth hasn’t affected the feel of the town; I really like it here. And I love my parents’ home – many years of great memories.

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When we moved to Toronto from Montreal in the ’60s, we rented a home in North Toronto for a couple of years. Our very first neighbour and friend in Toronto was Don – he lived right next door to us. When he married Anne, they split their time between Toronto and their Nova Scotia home and Stephen and I developed a close friendship with them during the years we lived in Halifax.

We dropped by for a visit – (from left: Mum, Don, Dad, Anne)

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Not to be cranky about the fact that real estate prices have risen in 50+ years, but our stately old neighbourhood in North Toronto now embodies that aspirational, greedy ego-driven change. Just three doors down from Don and Anne is a black hole of “all-about-me” – a 3-years-and-counting project that has disrupted the neighbourhood and will dwarf and outstrip everything on the block.

We drove up the street a couple of blocks to see our home on Briar Hill Avenue – my coming-of-age home and neighbourhood. My parents bought this house for $27,000 in 1966 – a modest (by today’s standards) red brick home with a Toronto backyard, one bathroom and a shared driveway. We shared that driveway with our dear friends and neighbours – Penny, Mike and their boys Chris and Tim.  Penny – I look at that driveway and can still see you racing in or backing out – always on the run.

Our house is the one on the left.

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Stephen grew up in Oakville, but half of his family has lived in London for years. We spent two lovely days there, re-connecting with them all.

From left: Ted (our brother-in-law), Stephen, his dad, our nephew Tyner, his girlfriend Sara, Stephen’s sister Lee Ann, Stephen’s stepmum Nicole.

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We also spent time with Stephen’s sister Andress, her husband Mike and their two adorable children, Ben, 3 and Stella, 1. I took several photos of the kids but they were in perpetual motion, so all but this one was blurry.

Ben, barely restrained by his dad.

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Mike and Andress, in front of their new home. Kids are in bed, the kitchen is clean and the visitors are leaving – that sweet spot in the day of tired young parents.

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Off to St. Catharines for a whirlwind visit with three sets of friends.  Bey and Andy moved here from Gabriola three years ago; in part to be closer to family in Ontario. They traded an oceanfront home for a “pond”-front home – they now live right on Martindale Pond where they can watch the rowers practising and competing.

We walked from their home to Port Dalhousie for lunch. A view of the pond:

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Bey and Andy

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After lunch, we walked through Port Dalhousie (pronounced dal-oozy by the locals) and admired the older homes.  Here is one example of the many charming homes found in Ontario. More to come in the next post.

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We headed to Font Hill, an area in southwestern Ontario close to the wine district, to visit  Paul and Sue, friends we have known since our pre-child days. We worked together in Banff – Paul was GM at Sunshine Village and Stephen was the food and beverage manager. By then Sue had two tiny kids and I was pregnant.  In the two years we lived there both our boys were born and we had a lifetime of stories to tell – anyone who has lived and worked at a resort will know what that means. Life has taken us in very different directions – it had been 15 years since we had last seen each other. We arrived mid-afternoon and stayed the night, catching up on our lives and reminiscing.  We were happy to be able to meet two of their adult children and their partners.

This is what happens in the blink of an eye – your friends’ children grow up. We remember these boys as little kids.

Their son Colin, his girlfriend Michelle, Paul, their daughter-in-law Jessica, (with second baby Emmett due to arrive in a month), Sue, their son Ross. Missing: baby Henry, down for a nap. Also missing – their daughter Robyn and her family – they live in Oakville.

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Paul and Sue live on the property Paul grew up on – a bucolic paradise complete with two houses, a pool, tennis court and this: an old settler’s cabin Paul’s father had transported to the property.

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Paul also pointed out a massive willow tree he planted over 50 years ago when he and the tree were both little saplings. The tree is now about 80 feet tall.

We talked as though no time had passed between us and left knowing we won’t wait another 15 years before we see them again.

Back to St. Catharines to visit another set of friends we hadn’t seen in a very long time – Vera and Frank. We knew them from our Guelph days and while we went east to Halifax and then west to Gabriola, they moved into Toronto for several years and then retired to St Catharines a year and a half ago.

Another wonderful visit and catch-up, and a promise to keep in regular contact.

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We have many more friends and familiar haunts to visit in Ontario, both now and when we come back this way in late August.

I’m finding it a strange experience to be a tourist in my old province. Everything seems familiar – even places I haven’t been before – they have the “Ontario” look and feel. When we were driving south from Manitoulin Island, I experienced that moment of regret one feels when the holiday is over – similar to when we and the boys were coming back so many years ago.  The next instant I realized that we were not coming home from camping with our boys, we were on a different trip, many years later and our holiday would continue. A parallel reality follows me through Ontario – little pops of deja vu.

Next posting I’ll have photos of the architecture that is so distinctive in this province, and one of the things I miss.  This sight could be found in most of Canada, but it says, “Ontario” to us.

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15 thoughts on “Friends and Family, Inc.

  1. Kris McDonald June 12, 2017 / 10:47 am

    A perfect celebration of Canada 150…not only seeing the magnificent scenery, but reconnecting with family & friends. The kind, generous and friendly people around us are what this country is all about! How fun for you guys and those friends & family to catch up and enjoy each other’s company again. You have set a wonderful example to us all….time to dig out the old address book (before cellphones!!) and as the marketing ploy says “Reach out and touch someone”. We are so looking forward to your stop here in Eastern Ontario!!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind June 13, 2017 / 12:40 pm

      You’re so right – meeting up with fellow Canadians, whether they are friends, family or strangers, has been the biggest joy.

      Looking forward to seeing you on your dock!

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  2. Elisabeth Charlotte Dieryckx June 12, 2017 / 12:40 pm

    always good to re-visit old friends, nothing better! be safe and have a good time! love, Lis

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    • leavingourselvesbehind June 13, 2017 / 12:43 pm

      Thanks Lis- we are having such a great time getting together with everyone. We all reassure each other that we haven’t changed a bit!

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  3. Jen Reed-Lewis June 12, 2017 / 12:59 pm

    Love the pictures and your descriptions! I am originally from Ontario; everything looked so familiar. Enjoy the splendor; Southern Ontario is magical this time of year.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind June 13, 2017 / 12:45 pm

      Jen- I remember you telling me you are from Ontario and now I forget where! It is so lush and perfect right now and we just survived our first heat wave, so I feel indoctrinated.

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  4. Linda Whitely June 12, 2017 / 1:37 pm

    Hi guys. As usual loved the post! It really is heartwarming to see and visit old friends and family members. I too love that feeling like you’ve never been apart. I always think of the old days when families left for new countries “across the seas” and they never seen each other again. The art of letter writing was their only means of communication. How easy for us now! The people pics are so nice, what handsome relatives you have! We definitely need to see more of Ontario! It really is beautiful isn’t it? How’s your car? Liking it? What’s the plan now? Had a great weekend here. Went to Seattle along with thousands to the Blue Jays game. What fun! Did the Cascade Loop on the way back. Beautiful scenery and neat towns. Felt good to do a road trip! Looking forward to your next blog. Hugs.xoxo

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    • leavingourselvesbehind June 13, 2017 / 12:54 pm

      Linda – I think a lot of Manitoba must be like Ontario – as we drove through, the landscape started to remind us of northern Ontario – less grasslands, more boreal forest and lakes.

      We’re loving our car, but will probably be trading it in for a vehicle that is powerful enough to haul a small trailer – although not until next spring. Our homeless plan is refining as we go along!

      You went to Seattle for a Jays game – how fantastic to be in a stadium filled with rabid fans!

      You continue to inspire us.

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  5. Laurence June 12, 2017 / 2:16 pm

    Derrill says that the last picture of barn and silo reminds him of Alberta!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind June 13, 2017 / 12:58 pm

      Derrill is 100% right – that barn and silo could be found in so many places in either Canada or the U.S. I’ve taken so many barn and silo photos – each one a bit different.

      I wonder if we do a good enough job of looking after our farmers.

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  6. Nanc June 12, 2017 / 4:29 pm

    There is nothing better than spending time with friends that share history. Ginny, to your credit and exceptional communication skills we are all still your best cheerleaders. Can’t wait to see you both.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind June 13, 2017 / 1:02 pm

      Nanc – we have known each other for 50 years. There could be blackmail involved. :>)

      See you in a few days.

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  7. Heather Scott June 13, 2017 / 4:09 pm

    It was a delight to read about your visits with family and friends. How lovely that you are taking this opportunity to “go back in time” to reconnect with the people you have come to know over the years. On another note, I always enjoy looking at your pictures of houses and the charming one in Port Dalhousie beckons me to sit on the front porch with a favourite book!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind June 14, 2017 / 4:55 pm

      Heather, this feels like a farewell tour, without the final good-bye. It has been fantastic to see so many old friends – hopefully the years won’t pass before we see each other again.

      I love houses and architecture in general – there will be many more photos of homes in the upcoming blog postings.

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  8. Joan Fisher June 23, 2017 / 8:47 am

    What an amazing trip and wonderful to reconnect with everyone you ever knew.

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