There are certain recurring dates that I encounter at different corners of my life through same-day birthdays, anniversaries and less joyful events. I always thought that these dates carried a special meaning sometimes clear to me and sometimes obscure. Different milestones and events had coloured certain days like January 13th in black and others such as August 23rd in red and March 9th in both. Footnotes are constantly added in the little date boxes of this unwritten calendar and the colours are frequently updated to match newer multilayered and more complex realities. Until this year March 16th was the official on-paper link between my great grandfather and I, bridging centuries and affirming — via a shared birth date — something very important to me, yet indefinable. Today March 16th will gain another layer of meaning, becoming the date that I have to let go of Jenn.
My friend Lizzi aptly coined the term “soulie”. Jenn is an upgraded soulie. But how can someone transcend the already elevated status implied by the term?
By becoming a symbol.
Jenn and Al were the first local friends that we’ve made ten years ago, several months after moving to Canada. We could spend hours together laughing, debating and just getting each other, feeling completely at ease — the way belonging is supposed to feel. Our friends balanced off some of the hardship that comes with the “immigration territory” and became a symbol of absorption, the embodiment of home. Not many things are effortless when you relocate and the unknown lurks everywhere. Immigration makes words and context escape you. A routine task becomes a strenuous exercise: your eye is searching for visual hooks on the supermarket shelf, when you realize that you don’t know what the product that you’re searching looks like, because your mind translates butter into silver packaging but all you see here on this shelf is gold and red and white stripes. Your eye isn’t conditioned to automatically convert the size of the coin to a number and you feel like you’re holding up the line. You don’t know what’s close and what’s far and if you’ll ever be able to make friends with this different breed of people whose context you don’t share and every bite of the food tastes like “not home”. You attend meetups to make friends and nothing is effortless, but then there’s this sudden out-of-the-blue friendship which is. And just like that the foundations of a home are laid.
My bond with Jenn stretched beyond some factual similarities and the shared circumstances of both of us being non-Torontonian. Jenn was a proof that it was entirely possible to have an emotional-world-view-and-perception-twin somewhere on the other side of the planet where they grow up in a completely different cultural and religious climate but spread roots and branches without even suspecting that you’re also out there growing roots and branches that create such similar patterns. And this affirmed something wonderful and significant and not entirely definable and it went something like: it isn’t nationality, religion or race that breed emotional twins, but something else far more nuanced and intricate.
A few months ago Jenn and I and the newest addition to our friendship, her endlessly fascinating little girl had met. I could tell that my friend was nervous when she started telling me about a business proposal that Al was entertaining which would involve relocation. I knew what I had to say to make this easier on my friend and I tried to say all the right things. I later realized that by equating our friends to our home I burdened them with a heavy responsibility and I knew that releasing them was the only thing to do, but letting go of a home is hard.
People say that you don’t choose a home, a home chooses you and there was a strong element of fate in the way Jenn and I met overcoming strong reservations and acting in a way that stood against the very core of our nature, accepting an invite from a stranger in an online meetup group we both were part of, to meet at their home outside of Toronto (don’t try this at home, kids) with a small group of other participants some of whom also became close friends.
For several years Jenn and I, both March babies, celebrated a joint birthday halfway in between our two dates. Today as I celebrate Jenn will be boarding a plane with her little girl and a car seat to travel across the country and I’ll be sad that I can no longer pretend it’s not happening, but I’ll also know and feel that this March 16th date of her move affirms something important, yet indefinable about our connection. This date had already bridged centuries and will now also bridge geographical distance. A home is something that you never really leave.
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