We are taught to minimise damage. Australian children are smothered with suncream, long-sleeved shirts and hats with a flap at the back, to cover the neck all the way to the thoracic vertebrae. Between 11 and 3, stick under a tree. That’s what my childhood was all about. We were not permitted outside at morning recess unless we had the required hat on our heads. Of course we didn’t loiter under the trees, with the sharp Eucalyptus leaf fragments or gumnuts beneath the shade of the foliage. We played basketball, as the bitumen under our plastic sneakers steamed as it melted under the blazing sunshine. Maybe the hat rule started late Primary School because my hair used to get bleached yellow every summer from standing in the sunshine.
Dan and I tried various tactics to minimise the inevitable grief of leaving our new friends and home that we didn’t expect to meet or to feel like it was home but, over the past two years, has. We booked business class flights home, to maximise the chances of a bit of sleep in our week of flying home to the other side of the planet. We tried not to say goodbye, instead, “See you soon!” or, “Until next time!” We booked the return flights for our ticket home (it came as a return ticket) for next May. We made plans to meet people in Sydney for New Year’s.
I’ve been awake since 05:30, when Bec got up to go to her Crossfit training. I raced out to hug her goodbye. Then I couldn’t get back to sleep. When Alastair got up a few hours later Dan woke up, so we hugged him goodbye and went upstairs to our apartment to shower and finish the cleaning. When Julian got home from Crossfit at 9 we packed our suitcases in his car, tidied up the apartment and went downstairs. It felt like a funeral. We sat around in muted silence, checking our emails and Facebook.
For lunch we walked into Yorkville at ate at Café Nervosa. I called Rogers on the way to unlock my cellphone, so I could purchase an Australian SIM card. They hadn’t told me when I replaced my handset one month ago that my request to unlock the handset from their network would be denied, until 90 days had passed. I will have to buy another new phone. The minimally apologetic service operator at considering my issue resolved unthinkingly began to close the call with the standard, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” I lost my temper. “You haven’t actually done anything for me so you can’t possible do anything else!” Goodbye Rogers. I hung up. Cut my losses. I have a new paperweight in the shape of an iPhone.
Julian drove us to Toronto Pearson. The Pan Am games has resulted in a temporary “HOV” lane on the Gardiner: if you have 3 + bodies in the vehicle you get to speed past all the traffic. This made Julian smile. Except he was a bit choked up that we were leaving. We’d forced him to watch Muriel’s Wedding with us after we’d eaten lunch and were waiting to go to the airport. It’s one of my favourite films. I thought he’d like it but I hadn’t realised how cruel the caricatured characters were to Muriel and how many sad scenes there are. He was mostly horrified.
We yelled out goodbye to everything as we left downtown. Goodbye Rogers building! Goodbye Jarvis St! Goodbye CN Tower! Goodbye Toronto!
Dan had hoped we’d get to pass through U.S. Border Security quickly and sit in the lounge because of our Business Class booking. Instead we waited longer in the queue for immigration, Dan got selected for extra screening and the lounge only considers Europe or Asia as an international destination worthy of sitting in the lounge. Our flight has also been delayed. Secretly I’m not so sad about any of this as I currently don’t want to leave. I’m sure in a few weeks I’ll think of Toronto as our two years of living here was just a dream, as our immediate experience of life back home consumes our mind’s eye. I don’t want to forget but I will. At the moment my heart feels ripped out of my chest, so maybe some scarring will help. We watched Inside Out yesterday so accept that sadness should be embraced and that some memories can be happy and sad.