The Toronto Fringe ended and what was supposed to happen was this: I was to get on a plane, go home, see my nephew and niece-in-law tie the knot, visit with friends and family and spend a week at the Winnipeg Fringe.
What actually happened was this: one of my bosses ( I can't quit my day jobs and pay rent) decided it was preferable I holiday in August. If I went home it would be for two days, max.
Also, the Monday after the wedding, which would have been Day 5 of the Winnipeg Fringe, my worldly goods and chattel - well, most of it, at any rate - which had come out of a storage locker in Winnipeg on the previous Wednesday arrived on my doorstep in Toronto. I spent last week, not at the Winnipeg Fringe, but doing something I longed to do and dreaded doing, something I had both worked hard to make happen and avoided: I unpacked my baggage and settled into one place for the foreseeable future.
My plans for celebrating my nephew and niece-in-law's joy (and my family's) and spending time with hometown friends and my Fringe buddies from all over the world got buried in a pile of paper and packing lists, as I re-established a permanent home in Toronto.
When I lived in Winnipeg, for a good part of the time, I lived with my (now-ex) fiance. I left that city and that apartment, in large part, because his ghost haunted every corner of the place.
I felt frozen in time. Like a shark, I knew I either moved forward or died.
This week, as cards he wrote me and gifts he gave me came out of boxes, as I found a picture taken of us on the weekend of our first anniversary that used to sit on my dresser in our old bedroom, as I repositioned furniture we'd bought together in another city into different spots in my new singleton apartment, as I discovered I'd given him his books and my bookcases and kept my books and a few of his bookcases, I realized this: no matter where I go or what I do, his ghost will haunt me for the rest of my life. Not in a bad way: I just came to realize that no amount of moving was going to change what happened. We were supposed to get married and we didn't. We were supposed to spend the rest of our lives together and we won't.
Five years later, as I emptied box after box and positioned the furniture in my new, lovely apartment I also realized that I am not good at letting go of things - or people. The surplus is in a pile in the hallway and I'm giving it away. It needs a new home that's not mine.
I also realized I now have a reasonably well-equipped kitchen again and one of the things that gives me joy: having friends over to dinner and cooking for them on a regular basis will be possible once again. Books and art and sweaters I'd loved and forgotten about reappeared like long-lost friends. For the first time in nearly three years, I slept in my own bed. It felt right and good.
My dad has also been gone for five years now. I put his picture in one of those bookcases and I heard his voice, " Sweetheart, it beats hell out of the alternative." Yes Chief. I think of him every day, hear his voice in my head every day. I know I will until I die.
For the past three years, I have performed Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" at Dalnavert Museum in Winnipeg at Christmas. It is a gig I look forward to with great joy. At the end of the play, Scrooge says, " I will live in the past, the present and the future and strive to let the Spirits of all Three live within me."
As I unpacked, I was with Scrooge: haunted by the ghosts of the past, dealing with the present and not really sure what the future looks like besides amorphous and somewhat overwhelming.
This week, I'm having dinner in my new home with a friend who has been instrumental in helping me make this move. Like me, she went away and has returned to an uncertain and precarious future. We are both trying to move forward, in late middle age, with purpose and hope.
I have work I like. I enjoy my health, a nice place to live, family, friends. I live in a safe country. It's lonely sometimes and scary sometimes but it is not so bad.
I'll paint the furniture on my balcony that used to be in my kitchen and in the instance of the table, my grandmother's kitchen before that. I'll plant more flowers. In the mornings, I'll have coffee outside before I walk along the harbour to meet my colleague and her daughter to drive to work together for one more week before she moves from an apartment on the water to the house she and her husband have spent the summer renovating. They moved back here too - from Chicago.
Not long after I returned here, I met a man who was similarly in transition. His marriage and his last job were both over. His dad had died the year before.
Like me, he put everything in a locker and went away for awhile and like me, he came back here to start over, one more time. For a while, we were both crashed out with friends, hanging out, two souls adrift. Then our respective ghosts came between us. We quarrelled and I lost track of him. I hope he can unpack the past, deal with present challenges and embrace the future with more joy than trepidation. I hope he finds what he needs, whatever that may be.
I needed to stop moving. I needed a home of my own again.
After two and half years, twenty-five beds here and on the road, some false starts and failed experiments, I am home, "home at last, home for good and all, home for ever and ever," to quote Dickens.
My ex said that to me when he moved in. The future, I have learned, is an uncertain thing.
Me and my baggage, all of it, are for better or worse, once again in one place. A few friends helped me do this. You know who you are and I need you to know how grateful I am for your love, your faith and support.
That's not to say I won't go back on the road. I will. I will do it from a base of operation. I am done with being homeless. I plan to stay here and to do my best to make that plan go forward.
I have two plays that need to get written, furniture that needs painting, pictures that need hanging and friends I want to cook for. For the next while, I'll stay home, cook, redecorate, plan my next production - and write.
Oh yeah, and go to movies and the theatre. When I come home from the shows late at night, I'll sit on the balcony and look out at the city skyline and feel happy and lucky to be here, to be home at last.
Next week, I'll write about something I've seen, I promise.