Mum, Dad and I had a day of checking out a few important Toronto sites today: the Eaton Centre (a big indoor mall); IKEA (our favourite furniture and meatball shop); and, finally, after a glass of wine and rested feet, Winners (a big discount clothing chain) and Whole Foods (a yuppie munchy crunchy organicky supermarket). Yes, a city in four stores.
For us, all of these stores were bigger and deeper than mere consumerist debris - the reasons to go to them were more about memories and human relationships than about stuff - all of the shops have been places where I have, in the months leading up to their trip here, imagined returning with my parents; imagined their responses to this place, these places. Have been very excited about the idea of them being here with me, have looked forward to hearing what they think about it all.
(And yet: tonite on the table in my lounge sits a rather large pile of newly-acquired things.)
When we took the subway to the Eaton Centre this morning, and emerged into the gentle sunlight while we passed between the train and shops for long enough for Mum and Dad to get a sense of where we were, Mum turned to me and said, "It's amazing that a city can work for so many people..." and inwardly, of course, I agreed. Yes, it is amazing! So many people - so diverse, with completely different lives and priorities and networks and schedules - who manage to live alongside one another, quietly and unconsciously intersecting with one another only in the baldest of city contexts: a streetcar, a road, a school, a footpath, a store, an event, an emergency. It's amazing, I was thinking, how all of these people manage to make it thir home, to make it work for them, to find opportunities to grow and excuses to stay stagnant. And it is amazing - I still believe that - but Mum wasn't finished.
"...and not work for so many others."