Last Friday, I let you know that I was traveling to Northern Ontario for the surprise party for one of my Aunts’ 80th birthday. It was the first time in almost 20 years that I traveled north of North Bay, and my hometown in a six-hour drive north of that. While we didn’t make it all the way to my hometown, we traveled for seven hours in the car each way.
We had a wonderful time, and I really enjoyed seeing my family again. When you’re from Northern Ontario, your family often spreads out across the province to find jobs and in pursuit of higher education, and my family is no different. My Aunt still lives in Kirkland Lake, a former mining community.
Between childhood nicknames and a lot of laughter, I thought about the workers who built Northern Ontario. Most towns up there are paper mill or mining towns. Over time, some of the mills and mines have either shut down or significantly reduced their production capacity.
For people living in those towns, the question becomes whether to stay and fight for their jobs (a tough slog, considering they don’t control the means of production), or to go elsewhere to find work. Many chose the latter. I left to get a Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Ottawa, and continued on to graduate school at the University of Toronto. I fell in love and made a life here in Ontario’s capital. But I remain grateful to my family, who only one generation ago was toiling in either a paper mill or a mine to make a life for themselves and their families.
It felt good to reconnect with my roots, including the memories that came alive as we drove up and down Highway 11, something I did with my parents countless times when I was growing up in Kapuskasing. My life is very different now – I live and work right in the middle of downtown Toronto. And I love it. My eight-year-old self would never have believed that someday I would live right across the street from a hotel I used to stay at with my parents when we traveled from Kapuskasing. And as much as traveling North felt like going home, so did coming back down Highway 400 towards Toronto.
I feel lucky to have more than one place in this gorgeous province to call home. I’m curious – where is home for you? Have you made someplace a home that is different from where you grew up? What prompted the change?