After skyping and packing until 3am, today began with a 6.30am wakeup to get a car to JFK airport. Once there, I went through the usual rigmarole of check in and was luckily able to secure a decent seat – 15A – window, towards the front or so I assumed. I waited at the somewhat quiet gate until my flight was called at which time only a handful of the people waiting got up to join what could scarcely be called a queue. My carry on wheelie bag was tagged ‘valet’ and taken from me to be stowed somewhere other than the overhead compartment. It was all a big confusing until I turned the final bend of the boarding corridor to see the little toy plane which didn’t even have overhead compartments! 15A was indeed a window seat, also an aisle seat, it was the second last row!!!
Luckily, my lack of sleep paid dividends allowing me to just pass out after take off. I awoke to the captains announcement that if we looked out the left windows, we could see Niagra Falls below. Suddenly awake and aware that I was about to touch down in Toronto!
On this trip, airports have been difficult for me. Passing through those gates always used to feel like stepping through into my life the way I wanted to live it. Now, it feels a little more like being shut out so when I tell you that touching down in Toronto and seeing the first ‘Welcome to Canada’ sign made me smile, its no small thing. More than that, knowing my friend Dawn was just on the other side waiting for me made me positively beam.
Clearing customs seemed to take a torturously long time but when I finally pushed through to the arrivals hall and saw Dawn, I was overwhelmed. At our first embrace, I cried with a feeling of friendship and safety. I was introduced to her partner, Sue, for the first time and was instantly welcomed with a warmth that let me know straight away, I had found home away from home and family away from family.
It was a perfect spring day and I was treated to a scenic drive back to their home in Waterloo via Guelph and Elora while we chattered away, mostly about comparative politics, with picturesque rural scenery providing the ideal backdrop. We stopped in Elora for a little forest walk (complete with first Canadian squirrel siting for the trip) and a cooling beer in the village. We then made our way through Mennonite country stopping at a covered bridge known as the ‘kissing bridge’ for the discretion it provides to young mennonite couples who should be doing no such thing. Sue pulled over so I could take my happy snaps when, right on cue, a horse and buggy came thundering across. Apparently a rare treat but not the rarest…
Back on the road we were driving along lamenting the evils of conservative governments, when something trundled across the road in front of us. Before I could say “Wombat! Hang on, I’m not in Australia, whoa! I’m in Canada, I’m so engrossed in conversation, I totally forgot! But if I’m in Canada and that’s not a wombat, what is it?”, Sue shouted out “Beaver!!!”. She further added that it was only the second one she’d ever seen in the wild so I was feeling very lucky indeed.
We arrived in Waterloo where Dawn and Sue further spoiled me with a delicious dinner at a local restaurant before going back to their beautiful apartment with views overlooking the surrounding area. I was made to feel instantly at home and not only had my own room but my own bathroom… with a bath! They told me that the local water was a little hard but judging my the feel of those towels and the complexions on both my hosts, I simply can’t believe there is anything but pure softness flowing out those taps!
Sue had an early start the next day so turned in but Dawn obviously detected the rawness left by the letting down of my guard in this safe haven they’ve so generously taken me into. She grabbed a bottle of red and two glasses and I drank in the wisdom of her words and kindness of her heart. Once again, I find myself overcome by weariness and gratitude in equal measure but having such a place to lay down my load – actual and metaphorical, has definitely tipped the scales in favour of gratitude today.