This is what I have learned:
Actually, you can go home again, but it hurts. It's also confusing and funny and chock-full of conflicting emotions. I'm glad I went. The thing is...
But wait. I'm getting ahead of myself. There's something else I learned. That is, if you drive from Manitoba into Ontario near the town of Kenora and make your way around Lake Superior, it takes three full days to get from there to Peterborough. I'm sure Ontario is bigger than Texas, and until Day 3, it's pretty much of a muchness. We weren't impressed. When we got to the Kawartha Lakes district, though, and the place names were familiar to me, my heart started beating faster, and then the 80 km speed limit got really annoying. Coming out, we drove the 401 through Toronto, Kitchener, London, etc. instead. It was much quicker, and it got us to Saginaw, Michigan on the first day, even though we stopped in Toronto for coffee with an old (British Columbia) acquaintance. Yesterday we drove from Saginaw to Escanaba, which is in a very scenic area on the northwestern corner of Lake Michigan. We should be having lunch in Wisconsin and maybe, just maybe, supper in Minnesota.
Now. Back to going home again. I became a (reluctant) vagabond when I was eight years old. I've lived in many places, enough that I think of myself as not really having a home. When I talk to other people who have a strong sense of home, I'm at once envious and baffled. However, I lived in Peterborough for over twenty years, my children grew up there, and it's about as close as anything gets to being home to me. Imagine my shock when, after being away for nearly twenty years, I got to Peterborough and discovered that (1) it had grown and (2) I couldn't remember my way around, even in the part of town where I used to live.
Then we went to the Parliament Buildings and climbed up to the top of the Peace Tower. From there you can see forever, or so it seems. I think this photo shows the bridge to Hull, Quebec.
The following day, an old and dear friend picked up my daughter and me and took us on a tour of the town -- and a couple of nearby villages -- to show me what had changed, what hadn't. We visited a wool shop in Lakefield, enjoyed an end-of-season coffee at a charming lakeside cafe, and did a lot of remembering.
While we were out gallivanting, Robin took a cruise through the famous Lift Locks. I think that was the highlight of the visit for him.
Altogether, the visit was too short, and my eyes have been leaking since we left. I saw people I had known and loved, found that I still knew and loved them. Even though things like being able to find my way home from the grocery store had slipped my mind, the important memories were still there. I had been away so long, I was nervous -- fearful -- about going back, but I'm very glad that I did.