A home somewhere

During my recent stay in hospital, with frequent anaesthetic dreams, I fully bonded with a house that I did not own, would not be owning, and had not visited in half a century. It was on a certain street, in a small town in Ontario, dangerously near Toronto but still technically independent of it. It was the closest I could get to a place called “home.”

Whether this label applies to house, street, town, country, I don’t know. The population of the town had climbed to just over 10,000 in my childhood (having doubled to accommodate a new subdivision). It now has another name, and after merger with every little town in its neighbourhood, and more subdivisions, it houses 60,000 souls.

But let me consider only the shadow of that little house: three bedrooms, living and dining and kitchen, workshops in the basement, gardens front and back. The neighbourhood had children in most of the homes that did not contain old people; I remember at least two dozen in a one-block radius. Each is vivid; I can recall adventures. I liked some more than others.

We (my parents) sold this house in 1970, coincidentally just when my father took a new job in another town, and I went off to Asia on my own. It fetched $14,000 and change. They bought a bigger and more solid house in their new town, for the same price.

The people we sold it to were “young professionals” — childless, upwardly mobile, double income (no kids). Never having moved, now they are retired in their seventies. The house became their “nest egg,” as it swelled to one hundred times the value (a million-and-a-half); socialized medicine will spare them ruinous last-minute expenses. Their heirs needn’t fret.

I could, of course, fill a bulging scrapbook with recollections of this Edith Street, and the families who lived there; and this, although it was a typical, perhaps even boring, middle class town. My love for it, even in memory, is intense, and in my imagination I can still visit innumerable secret places, and former hiking and bicycle trails, made holy in my childhood.

From the Wall Street Journal, I gather that there is a “new generation” of real estate operators, who are buying up what were previously owner-occupied houses, transcontinentally. These will thus become trading commodities, to be bought and sold on the “free market,” in competition with those who want to own a home, in a neighbourhood, and perhaps remember their own childhoods. These people must become increasingly “tenants,” as prices continue to “rocket” (unless they suddenly collapse).

The tenants will risk less, invest less, and have the government to decide their rights. There will be far fewer complications, especially sentiments, when they decide to move on.

It ┬áis a variation on the theme of “destroying our ancient edifices to make ready the ground upon which the barbarian nomads of the future will encamp in their mechanized caravans.”