A Good Home, Dream House, First Home, Toronto Homes

Home ownership: An Impossible Dream?

Thanks to ASHLEY FOY for this post on owning a home in Toronto, where even a 500-square-foot condo sells for $400,000.  Ashley, 24, is a real estate assistant. 

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We grew up picturing what home would be when we were older.

Blog Photo - AFoy as little girl

Many of us pictured a nice house and a great job. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to aim for? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to want? Barbie has a dream house. She’s a doctor, a chef, and a veterinarian after all. 

But it’s not easy for young people in Toronto to achieve the “dream house” scenario. It borders on impossible. Increasing rent prices (the average rent for a one bedroom is reported to be over $2000), school payments, low-paying jobs, and unstable work make home ownership a distant dream.

Blog Photo - AFoy house1.jpg

So what does “home” mean for young adults in Toronto? I can tell you what I’ve observed, and what the new conversations about our futures have become.

Many young people in the city aim for a start in their chosen field of work, while working temporary or low-paying jobs. Some rent a place with many roommates to help share the high costs of rent (like the characters I once idolized on TV show Friends). This is especially the case for people who move to Toronto for school or work opportunities.

Others choose to stay with their parents instead of paying high rents. This is the scenario I find myself in. It seems like a good idea to put away the money I make to one day buy my own home, rather than throwing it away on a rental I can never really call mine. Parents often accept this, since it might be the only way their child can save enough to own a home.

Many do still hope to buy a home one day. In Toronto, a house is out of the question unless you’re lucky enough to have a high-paying job. (I personally don’t know anyone in their 20’s who has one of those yet)!

Blog Photo - AFoy condo buildings

So, condos are on a lot of our minds. They are centrally located, come with attractive amenities, and are still comparatively less expensive than a house. Also, they are perfect for someone who doesn’t want to worry about maintaining a property.

To achieve this new vision of home, we have to save a lot of money. It can take many years, and if you’re paying rent it will take even longer. Fortunate people will wind up getting a loan from their parents for a down payment once they can afford monthly bills. One thing remains the same though — no one dreamed of today’s reality: paying more than $2000 a month.

Blog Photo - AFoy On Stool

The other option arises: move out of the city. I have considered this. A 500-square-foot Toronto condo ($400,000) costs more than a four-bedroom (fully renovated) house with a huge yard in Midland, Ontario. The difference seems insane. However, there are fewer jobs outside the city.

It comes down to income and lifestyle. If you can get a good job in a smaller town, a house out of the city could become home. Yet, most people I know still want to live where the “action” is, and where the jobs are. So home might be a parent’s house, a small condo in a lively location, an apartment with a bunch of friends, or a house outside the city.

What does the future hold? I still have a “dream house” vision, but it isn’t what it was.  My dream-house vision has evolved — much like Toronto, much like young people ourselves.

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A Good Home, Easter, Easter Flowers, Fairies, Family Matriarch, Family Stories, First Home, Flowers, Garden, Gardening, Home, Homes, Jamaican countryside, Lifestyle

A Child At Easter

I’m dedicating this story to the child within each of us.

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My first garden had everything we children needed:  tall trees with big outstretched arms, a wide stream and acres of fields to play in.  All this stood beside and behind a tiny pink farmhouse where a mother and father and five children lived.

A pink farmhouse? Yes.

Seven people in a tiny pink house? How tiny?

Two bedrooms, two front rooms.

Must have been crowded, I hear you thinking.

But this was a land of mild temperatures and hot sun.  Children spent many of their waking hours outside.  Nature – the wildness of it, the near-danger of it, the freedom of it – was our garden.  A child’s own garden.

It wasn’t until our family moved to our grandmother’s much larger house in a nearby village that the first memories of a flower garden — the kind that people tend — lodged themselves in my seven-year- old mind.  It was in front of the house, under a window.

via public domain.net
via publicdomainpictures.net

I remember that garden now as a small space full of pretty flowers.  Roses, zinnias and dahlias,  Joseph’s Coat of Many Colours  and other things grew there, each cheerfully elbowing out the other, competing  for space and sun.

Crocus in Spring
Photo by Hamlin Grange

And I remember these, above everything else: the fairy flowers.

Clusters of tiny flowers bloomed in gentle colours: pink, white, yellow, mauve.  Unlike the other flowers in the garden, these huddled in small patches, as if supporting each other   — or seeking warmth from the cool, early-morning mountainside air.

“Luminous”, I’d call them now, because their petals seemed to glow, as if someone had polished each one very tenderly till it shone.

via telegraph.co.uk
via telegraph.co.uk

It was magic: they simply appeared one day, as if a fairy had waved her wand above the soil.  The size of them – about three inches tall — and the magic of them made me think that these were the sort of flowers that fairies would have growing in their own garden.

Image via
Image via self-reliance-works.com

Then, when I wasn’t looking – perhaps when I was at school during the day, or asleep during the night – the flowers disappeared completely.  When that happened, I imagined that the fairies had brought them to another garden where other children could enjoy them.  It was a sad and hopeful feeling all at once.

The timing of the flowers’ arrival always seemed spot-on: Easter time, or Holy Week, as church-going families called it.  And so, surrounded by the mysterious stories of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, my sisters and I decided that the tiny flowers were to be called Easter Lilies.  Easter lilies — brought by fairies.

Image via

It wasn’t the first time – or the last – that I’d get my magic and miracles mixed up.  For a child who is told ghost stories and biblical tales of miraculous resurrection finds it easy to believe in fairies.

Unknown to my parents, I even thought of ghosts and fairies in church.  When the pastor  got too fiery, or too boring, or glared at me for giggling and whispering to my sister, I imagined a kind ghost or fairy – or maybe God himself –  putting him to sleep right there in the pulpit – just for a while.

Now – with a garden of my own – reality overtakes imagination, most days.   I know that pretty gardens take a lot of work.   Those magical moments of my childhood were hardworking times for my parents.

It was my mother who tended the little garden and made sure the flowers would bloom.  It must have given her great pleasure, but it was work — along with her other duties as a mother, wife, designer and seamstress of women’s dresses, and active church member.

Still,  I hope Mama would forgive me for wondering — at least when it comes to the little garden — if she got a bit of help from the fairies.

A Good Home, Courage, Daydreams, Exile, Family, First Home, Flowering shrubs, Flowers, Homecoming, Homeland, Poetry, Refugee

RETURN OF THE EXILE

Home now to that place of your youth

The beautiful land whose  brutal truth

You fled.

Memory – that minefield – would not rest

But love and fame were in the West

You thrived.

Blog Photo - Pink Peony

The news came on and you grew  still

The anger bubbled; it made you ill

So silent.

But now to homeland you’ve returned

I pray you’ll cope, and that you’ve learned

To forgive.

Bloodroot Flower
Bloodroot Flower

I wish you peace, and even joy

In that place where you were that boy

Long ago.

Permit yourself to laugh and play

To tuck the anger back away

For now.

Crocus in Spring
Crocus in Spring

Permit yourself to have some hope

Allow yourself the needed scope

To dream.

That land you love may come to be

A place you would have loved to see

Take shape

Mature Shrubs in Bloom
Mature Shrubs in Bloom

And though that seems so far away

So distant from this present day

Take heart

Now feel the sun upon your face

The rhythm, light, and sense of place

Once home.

Forget-Me-Not in Bloom
Forget-Me-Not in Bloom

Dedicated to my friend “Chad”.

All photos by H. Grange.

A Good Home, Baking, Barns, Childhood Memories, Cooking, Farm, Farm animals, Farm house, First Home, Garden, Homes, Jelly, Preserves

The Essence of Home

What does home mean to you?

I’ve spent a lot of time at home these last two weeks. Yes, I went and overdid it with all the book stuff and landed myself in bed — again.  But, hey – I’ve got a bed.  And I’m safe at home.  These days, that’s something to be VERY thankful for.

I asked a few writers to be guest-bloggers – to contribute very short stories, which I’ll post  every so often.  Here’s the question each had to answer:  “What does home/belonging mean to you?”

Georgeina Knapp sent this lovely story:

THE ESSENCE OF HOME

Home.

The word is a floodgate that releases memories and emotions — at the most unexpected moments. Sometimes, all it takes is a sound, a smell, a sensation, a sentence, or even the sight of a simple household item.

And before you know it, you’re swept back. Home.

Home is an image. The image of the blue and white mixing bowl and the brown pitcher embossed in a basket- weave pattern, passed down from my grandmother. The sight of these objects brings me straight back home.

Grandmother's Bowl and Pitcher
Grandmother’s Bowl and Pitcher

Home to my childhood, and to my mother making pastry. I’d watch her measure the flour and lard into the bowl. Beside it, the pitcher held the ice-cold water that she slowly added, creating the basis of delicious pies of every kind.

The building that held the  essence of home was an old farm house, its exterior covered in cream clapboard with green trim. It stood apart from neighbouring houses and faced open fields across the street, giving it a feeling of country although it was at the edge of the village. On the front lawn, there was a swing on each of the two large maple trees, a place for happy summer hours. In the back, there was a huge garden where my mother grew the vegetables she would preserve for us to eat all winter.

Home is sound.  The sounds from our small barn.  The white Leghorn chickens, the pigs and the cows.

The cows mooed softly as though having a conversation with each other, and called more loudly to get our attention when they decided it was time to be fed or milked. The pigs sounded like someone with a bad cold. They snuffled and snorted until one offended the other; then there was a loud squeal of protest. The sounds from the chicken coop ranged from the gentle clucking and chirping of contentment to the loud squawk of excitement.

Image courtesy of Jacobs Farm, UK
Image courtesy of Jacobs Farm, UK

Home is smell. The outdoor smell of animals, the damp earthy smell of the garden after a rain, and the sweet smell of flowers growing around the house.

The inside of our house was fragrant with the vegetables, fruit, jam and pickles my mother preserved during the summer, or food cooking in the oven on cold winter days.  In the dark cellar downstairs, there was a different, but no less distinctive smell: a somewhat damp, musty odour which filled my nose whenever I ventured down there for coal or a jar of the preserves crowded on the concrete bench along one wall.

At Christmas the house was filled with the spicy aroma of special cookies baking and the fresh pine scent of the real Christmas tree we brought home from my uncle’s farm.

Google Images
Google Images

Home is sensation.  The warmth of family and friends who gather for a cozy evening, and the warmth of the big kitchen range that burned coal and wood.

In winter, we loved the heat from that big range. We put our wet mittens to dry on the open oven door and set our boots under the stove.

In summer that same heat could be unwelcome: even on the hottest days, the fire would have to be lit to cook our meals.

On summer nights when the upstairs bedrooms were too hot to sleep in, my mother would spread some quilts on our front lawn and we would sleep there for a few hours until the house cooled down enough for us to return to our beds.

Home is a single sentence: words from my father.

I’ll always remember how my father summed up the feeling of home one winter evening. He and I were coming back to the house from the barn and he lifted me up to look through the kitchen window. He asked me what I saw. I told him I saw mom taking something out of the oven. And that the table was set for supper and a freshly made pie was on the cupboard.

My father said, “That’s the best thing of all: coming home and there’s somebody there”.

I was just a small child, but I knew what my father meant, and I agreed.

Note from Cynthia: Thank you, Georgeina!!