Twenty-five boxes and nine years

Over the weekend, I made a list of things I want to buy. I've long made these kinds of lists... what I need to complete my wardrobe, my apartment, my sorry life. When I moved to Canada, and was starting from scratch, necessity drove these lists. I had no couch, me bed. I had no bookshelves, no electronics.

After I had decided what city I was going to live and found an apartment, my parents shipped the boxes I had packed up before I left Ireland. Anything I didn't take, they weren't going to keep for me. I pulled out the list yesterday, tickled by my fastidious documenting of everything I owned. It was mostly not the stuff I needed to get set up. It was everything that mattered to me.

I had to put a dollar value next to each item. Every family heirloom, each book, my riding boots... And it's funny to see what I shipped. A picture hanging set. A can opener. Did I think these would be impossible to find here? No, but I had spent so long waiting for immigration, I hadn't been able to resist buying small, shippable things for the live I envisioned. A corkscrew. Classic Jane. On each page my signature. Signature of importer - July 16, 2003.

I've felt strange sometimes about some of the things that came with me. Does Granny's Royal Tara not rightfully belong in Ireland? When she got it for her wedding, could she fathom it landing in Toronto, sitting in a warehouse out near Pearson where we went to collect it. And where will it go to next? With me happily childless... I feel ill-equipped to ensure its safe passage into another's hands.

Those first lists I made when I got my apartment were overwhelming with necessity. The contents of those twenty-five boxes had no shelves to sit on, no place to rest. It all grew slowly. Frustratingly slowly. The pictures I shared last week are the result of all slowness. My sofa was the most expensive purchase I had ever made. It alone took me weeks to decide on.

I mostly tried to play the "wait" rather than compromise game. I saved up for the version of things I really wanted. Sometimes I couldn't wait and put things on my credit card. I weighed up those decisions. I worked hard so the lists could get shorter, so I could get back to a time when I thought about spending money on holidays instead of on a rug or bed or lamp.I sometimes felt like a huge failure because everybody else seemed to have all this shit together.

Even other people I know who emigrated... they just went to IKEA and did it in one bout. I seemed intent on dragging it out for myself. But I wasn't just emigrating, I was also building a permanent home for myself for the first time in my life. I've lived longer in Toronto, in my apartment, than I have anywhere in my whole life. We always moved and I always dreamed of this. I wasn't just emigrating, I was exploring, acquainting myself the very idea of home.

This is all a long way of telling you what it felt like when I made my most recent list and found it to be a short and without necessity. Sure, I lust after certain things, a leather chair, a particularly expensive bedside lamp. But the urgent necessity is gone. It may have taken nine years, but I've found and built a real home for myself in this city I was wholly without connection to. It has all woven itself into the fabric of my life.

That feeling dropped on me suddenly... just making a list... marveling at how short it was... feeling proud of what built from scratch and those twenty-five boxes.
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