Toronto is an oak tree, bracing rain and winds, snow and hail stones, buffeted by storms but unbroken, doing everything and anything to shelter those who have sought refuge underneath its branches.
Toronto is the kindness you never expected to find in this world, least of all in a city.
Toronto is home when people who once loved you decide they want nothing to do with you. Toronto will take you, and nurse you whole again.
Dufferin, Eglinton, Yonge, Bloor, Finch, King Street, Spadina, Union, Osgoode, St. Andrews…
You get lost a couple of times and then you find your way. You are awed by men so beautiful they have no right being men and women that are simply ethereal.
You make friends that amaze you at every turn and are as diverse as the place that has brought you together.
Kah with her smiling soul. Cheryl with her no-nonsense forthright love. Beza who laughs at your jokes and makes you feel like you actually know something. Minh and Seulki and how you can hardly ever tell them apart but bow they are so different. Paula who makes you want to be better and takes such good care of you. Elizabeth who you love like a mother and then some.
You learn to love the Blue Jays almost as much as you love the Super Eagles, maybe even more because the Super Eagles break your heart with each loss but when the Blue Jays lose, you are more forgiving.
Some weekends you find that you can ride the bus to the outskirts of town and find secrets no one was hiding. Brampton, Markham, Mississauga…You walk the streets of downtown and hear so many languages that you wonder where you are. There is no city more diverse. Not even NYC. Toronto is the world.
You attend concert after concert and scream with joy when band after band, musician after musician say the same thing about ‘your’ city being the kindest they have ever been to. You learn to own Toronto. Just as it owns you.
Drake can do no wrong in your eyes. Bieber has a new fan in you. You even give The Weekend a shot. This is how you know Toronto is becoming home.
Winter amazes and disturbs you. You shiver through, accepting it because this is what it means to be Canadian – being open to oddities and things that are at first uncomfortable, and then like a budding flower, learning to open up yourself to the sun because then and only then will you bloom.
In summer, you bloom and learn to love your own skin. The tree in front of where you live is a mulberry tree and every day of summer means reddened lips and fingers and that you never go hungry for love.
Toronto succeeds because it has learned the art of welcome and hospitality. It has learned how to be home to people from every part of the world. For this, I am entirely grateful.
If you ask me where I come from, I will tell you ‘Ibadan’ or ‘Lagos’ depending on my mood. But if you ask me where home is, there will be no hesitation, no prevarication, no doubt.