Going Home

Where the Red Kite Flies Blog Post 6

June 2022

Family photos

After a long two and a half years, I’m finally ‘home’ in Canada to see my family. I’m currently in Victoria, British Columbia to see my parents and sister and her family. Then me and my Mum are heading to Toronto, my hometown where I spent my first 20 years, to spend time with my brother and his family. 

‘Home’ is a funny one to me. For some reason I can’t quite fathom, I find it jarring when people refer to me going ‘home’. The pedantic side of me would say that I don’t have a ‘home’ anymore, the house I grew up in was knocked down some years ago to build what they refer to as a ‘monster house’. And as soon as I declared that I was moving to England at the age of 20 and leaving my childhood home, my parents began planning to pack up their lives in Toronto and finally moved to Victoria on the west coast, where they had been longing to move for many years but were put off by the fact that I would make it difficult for them. (Refer back to the photo from Blog post 4, I was a difficult child). 

My parents moved into their house in Oak Bay, Victoria in October 2001. Since I’ve been visiting them there for over 20 years it does still give me a lot of those going-home feelings. They have much of the same furniture I grew up with, our childhood photos decorate the walls. I have my own room. Lovely parents that they are, when I moved I left much of my stuff behind so they moved a lot of that stuff across the country with them. So when I come home I can peek into boxes and find photos I took capturing my teenage years and birthday cards and general ‘stuff’.  (Side note: My brother and sister also ended up looking after much of my stuff. I recently found out that my sister’s partner’s parents also have some of my stuff, passed on to them when my sister moved out west too. I must do something about that.)

Being back here, surrounded by relics from growing up inevitably makes me think of my childhood. Back home in Malvern, at the beginning of every year for the last four, me and my friend Mark have met to make to our lists for the year. These lists are comprised of things we want or feel we need to do that would contribute to our happiness. On my 22 for 2022 list is to “rediscover something from childhood”. My perfectionist self wants to choose the perfect thing for this but there are so many options to choose from. I’m currently tempted to go rollerskating. Not rollerblading, proper, old fashioned roller-skates with big, chunky wheels. I spent hours on these as a kid. I remember fondly how me and my friend Alanna invented the game of roller-skate tennis which we played in the middle of my street. 

Whilst I enjoyed sports in a freestyle kind of way, when it came to lessons, I had to be bribed to do them. I think I simply resisted anything that didn’t feel like my idea. From a young age I had figure skating lessons at our local ice rink and got a quarter (25 cents) to put in the toy machines after each lesson. While lessons ignited my spirit of resistance, I think I actually loved the freedom of skating when it wasn’t something I was being taught. One of the great things about growing up in Toronto is that we had actual, definite seasons. The summers were hot and the winters were cold. So cold that there were times when my parents put the hose out in the backyard and created an ice rink. We three kids had hours of fun, see video at the bottom of the page.

Photography was not something that I needed to be bribed to do. I believe I have the fairly standard photographer story of how I was given my first camera. I have a sister, Christy, who is 6 years older than me and a brother, Paul, who is 4 years older than me. My grandad had decided that he would give each of us a camera on our 8th birthdays so I waited anxiously for that birthday to arrive. I was delighted with my little 35mm point and shoot camera. The fact that it soon started to double exposure most frames did take away a small amount of excitement but even when couldn't be fixed, I kept using it. After my 8th birthday, my favourite birthday present was a roll of process paid 35mm colour film, which back then cost about $10.99 for developing and a set of 6x4 prints. These felt like the most precious of objects to be given. 

Whilst I loved photography, I don’t think it occurred to me to be a possible career choice until I was 16 and started at the Alternative High School I’ve mentioned before in previous posts. There I developed a love of black and white printing and the interest in photographers' work began to slowly develop. I came across an exhibition of Man Ray’s work at the Art Gallery of Ontario (known as the AGO) and later became (this might seem like an unusual and possibly controversial choice) taken with Helmut Newton’s fashion photography. 

How I adored the AGO growing up. As a teenager struggling with anxiety and depression, that place was my saviour. With depression can come a numbness to everything, both to joy and even sadness. They had a fantastic selection of the group of seven paintings, a famous group of seven Canadian artists from the 20s and 30s, with Lawren Harris being my firm favourite. Standing in front of those paintings I felt something close to contentment that wasn’t overly prevalent in my life at that time. (For more info see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_of_Seven_(artists).

When I’m in Toronto, visiting the AGO is top of my list. It could well fit my criteria for rediscovering something from childhood. Skating might need to wait until my Christmas visit 'home'. But as is often the way, without planning it, the perfect childhood activity landed in my lap. My niece declared she wanted a sleep over with me in a homemade fort. It turns out my niece (age 9) is a bit of a mini-me and she too is a planner. Over a 24 hour period we made lists of the things we'd need and when it came to the sleepover itself, plans were draw up to architectural standards. We overlooked one crucial detail though: we'd forgotten flags, and a name for the fort. And so 'Fort Awesome' flags were made bright and early post fort sleep.

Fort Awesome, June 2022

With this trip back to my homeland, delving into childhood memorabilia, spending time with my young nieces and nephews and also this past year working on my project based on adolescence, the experience of growing up has clearly been on my mind. I was recently listening to one of my favourite podcasts, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, and she talked about a topic that she returns to now and again: how what you enjoy as a kid can inform what you enjoy later as an adult. And it can also inform your career or work choices. 

I have asked the kids/teenagers/young adults involved in my 'Where the Red Kite Flies' project what they think about this idea and if anything they did as younger kids influenced either the things they love doing now or their career choices. We’ll have our first guest blog with writing from some of them coming very soon.

Backyard skating, 1980s

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