I grew up in Newmarket, a suburb of Toronto about 45 minutes north of “the big city”. With the Greater Toronto Area making up roughly 10% of Canada’s population, its 3 million residents make it the biggest city in the country.
From 2006-2011, Ligeia and I called Toronto home, easily walking anywhere within its downtown core. Although I will always refer to Toronto as where I’m from, we now live elsewhere and I find myself thinking about all the things that I miss about Ontario’s capital.
1. The Food
First and foremost, I long for the varied cuisines of Toronto’s restaurants. In one day, I could enjoy a typical Guatemalan breakfast, grab a lunch special in Little India, and feast on authentic Ethiopian fare for dinner. It’s amazing how criss-crossing the city can give you the feeling of traveling the world. From Chinatown to Little Tibet, and from Greek Town to Little Italy, Toronto serves up bona fide dishes from every corner of the globe.
2. Easy Being Gay
I miss how easy it is to be open and out of the closet as a married, lesbian couple. Toronto’s City Hall has our official marriage record filed somewhere and the knowledge that the government recognizes my marriage fills me with pride and confidence. Perhaps others feel similarly, as the LGBT community is strong and broad. I miss playing softball in the summer with Notso Amazon league and hockey in the winter at Moss Park. Heck! I even learned some dance steps with Ligeia with Rainbow Ballroom.
We lived two blocks east of Toronto’s gay village on Church St. and we celebrated Pride Week each year we were there. After traveling to places where being a lesbian is criminal and/or unsafe, I definitely miss the ease of simply being me in Toronto.
3. Our Balcony
I miss our apartment’s balcony. For the entire time we lived in Toronto, we rented the same apartment on the top floor of a 15-story building. Our west-facing unit afforded us views of gorgeous sunsets. At night, I miss the unique skyline of the city, dominated by the ever-changing LED colors of the CN Tower. I miss the breeze that balcony constantly provided, regardless of how high the temperature climbed. I’m glad I didn’t take that balcony for granted those 5 years, and I most certainly miss that today.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
I miss watching the Toronto Maple Leafs, with my fingers perpetually crossed for a win but never surprised with a loss. Without a championship win since 1967, despite having a fan base that has sold out every seat for every home game thereafter, I miss the culture of commiserating with fellow Leafs’ fans. There’s a permanent understanding between Ligeia and me: if the Leafs make it to the Stanley Cup finals, it doesn’t matter where in the world we’re living, I’m allowed to return home and either celebrate or further mourn my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.
I miss going to High Park, the 400-acre green space on the western edge of Toronto. Seeing the cherry blossoms in full bloom in the early Spring was beautiful, even with the throngs of other like-minded photographers. In the Autumn, I miss witnessing the trees changing their rich, green summer wardrobe for their bright yellow and red one. I miss the fun winter activities in the park, like skating, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. It’s a great place for a picnic or to watch the geese in Grenadier Pond. In any season, I miss High Park in Toronto.
These are the five big things that I miss about Toronto. I could continue with locations like the Leslie St. Spit or Allan Gardens. I miss the Scarborough Bluffs and the vintage look of the electric-powered streetcars. I miss going to an afternoon Blue Jays game, sitting way up in the upper deck directly above home plate. I miss the lively Harbourfront festivals during the summer and taking a ferry across to one of Toronto’s three islands. I miss being able to walk from one end of downtown to the other completely underground, and safe from wintry weather, through the PATH.
Next time you’re in Toronto, please say hello for me.