Brand building through storytelling

Seven reasons to love coming home

We were already planning our drive home to wintry Toronto from sunny Sarasota when word came that our rented condo had come free for another month. Would we like to extend our stay?

Oh, the temptation! We’ve found a lot to like about this vibrant and intimate little city, from the extraordinary richness of its arts scene to the Spanish-moss-bedecked trails of nearby state parks where we spotted our first armadillos. Pass a stranger on the sidewalk anywhere in these parts, and that person is bound to say, “Good morning” or “Howdy.” When check-out clerks wish me a great day, a ritual that has always awakened my inner curmudgeon, they act as if they mean it.

As if all this weren’t reason enough to stick around a little longer (and start planning our return visit), Sarasota is the closest thing I know to the fountain of youth. Not since we were 30, surrounded in every restaurant or theatre by serious-looking people of parental age (real grownups, as opposed to pretenders like us) have we felt so poignantly young. In Sarasota, 60 is just a step or two past wet behind the ears. I count myself lucky to have befriended one of the few Sarasotans who are actually under 45—a single woman. She says of her frequent escapes to New York, “The single men you meet here are all 75.”

It’s not just the youngish who are hard to find in Sarasota, a city of invisible minorities (hence the absence of chapatis and salt cod in the local supermarkets). You don’t see many black faces beyond the hardscrabble neighbourhoods, or certain downtown blocks favoured by those with too much time on their hands.

Much as I’ve enjoyed my stay in Sarasota, I’m ready to return to the multi-hued, rough-edged, cranky reality of Toronto, where strangers not only won’t say hello, they might snarl if they notice you smiling in their direction. What can I tell you? It’s home. Here are seven home comforts I’ve been missing.

* Hazelnut butter More sophisticated than peanut, more invitingly coloured than almond and delicious on its own or lightly smeared with tangy apricot jam.

* St. Lawrence Market The place for any kind of dried mushroom you can shake your wooden spoon at, sausages from every beast and country, Montreal bagels fresh from the oven, green rice, yellow beets, purple potatoes and, every Saturday morning, a farmer’s market featuring the addictive sheep and goat cheeses from Ontario’s Monforte Dairy.

* Saturday morning Flow Motion class (dance for non-dancers) Miriam Schacter gets a roomful of real-bodied, middle-aged women shimmying and shaking for fun as well as fitness, to an eclectic soundtrack that heats up the coldest day.

* Reading the Globe with a fresh cup of mocha java from Everyday Gourmet in St. Lawrence Market I follow five international papers online but nothing beats turning old-fashioned pages while stretched on my sofa in the first sunlight of the morning.

* Our bedroom in five shades of red We inherited this revitalizing palette from the previous owners, a gay couple younger than our son. Thank you, Mark and Scott—we’d never have chosen anything so bold.

* Serendipitous encounters with old friends and colleagues After 40 years in Toronto, every outing to the market, the movies or the locker room is a chance to catch up with someone and a welcome reminder of my roots in this town.

* Our grandbaby I’m one of those unusual people who don’t find babies cute just because they happen to be small, and consider adolescence a vastly more interesting stage. But I do have a soft spot for Cameron, age nine months. While we were away, he got the hang of crawling. Go, Peanut!

I have a habit of smiling to myself as I go about my business.  Which reminds me of a story–click here to read it, along with the strangest comment I’ve yet received on this site.


Posted by Rona

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