Aaaah, now it finally feels like home. Having moved into a new house in a new neighbourhood almost a year ago to the day, I now realize that there is much more to what makes a house a home than the dwelling and even the people who live in it. One of the most important of these is the neighbourhood itself. Just as the oldtime settlers looked for homesteading spots with ample timber, favourable soil and fresh running water, there are certain things that need to be discovered in the general vicinity of your home in order to live the good life.
If you’re really lucky, maybe there’ll be a quirky bookstore, a consignment clothing store where you can pick up a nearly-new Holt Renfrew black dress for the office Christmas party that’ll look great with fishnet stockings, and a discount movie house where you can spend $2.50 or so and watch incongruous double bills like Kramer vs. Kramer matched up with Lawrence of Arabia (I’m not kidding – I really saw that). A good, reasonably priced bakery within walking distance is a valuable find. A good butcher shop where they know the difference between a tournedo and filet mignon is valuable. A cheap “greasy spoon” diner where you can recuperate on Saturday mornings from the office Christmas party with a cup of thick black coffee and a spicy Spanish omelette is even better.
For me, the best way of feeling connected to the place I’m living in, though, is through my nose. As everyone knows, smells have a direct route to our synapses. To this day, the smell of baloney sandwiches reminds me of a camping trip in Waterton when I was six years old. Tarragon and rosemary growing in clay pots on the kitchen window sill. Cedar firewood stacked in a bucket beside the fireplace. Floor polish, incense, cinnamon and cloves, candle wax, garlic. There are smells that families carry around with them as surely as their boxes full of books and their music collections when they move into a new home, and it takes a few months for these scents to be established. If I were to be truly honest, I would include, along with the above mentioned, the smell of dirty laundry in the basement, rotting compost in the pantry, and the lingering odour of cat pee coming from the litter box in the bathroom. Whether good or bad, though, it is the smell of home that surrounds me now, and I’m happy to be here.