If home is where your heart is, then mine will always be in Kingston.
It’s taken me five continents, 55 countries and 29 years to appreciate her charm.
After all, the city of Kingston has really shaped who I am and who I strive to be. She’s given me the courage to leave the comforts of her community, yet always reassures me that she’ll be waiting for me when I come home.
I’ve lived in many larger cities around the world and have come to realize that Kingston is the perfect size and city to raise a family in. You can drive from one end to the other — from Ontario Street to Westbrook Road, in under half an hour. You rarely need to plan your day around her bustling traffic and can purchase a comfortable starter home without spending most of your salary on a mortgage. You can also put your children into any of her trustworthy schools without paying exorbitant private school tuition fees. Kingston is as safe as she is sweet. You will always run into a familiar, friendly face somewhere in the city.
I’ve even come to appreciate the fact that our local airport isn’t larger. I used to think of it as a hindrance to arrive back in Ontario after a long, 13-hour flight and still be two to three hours away from home. But over the years, I’ve learned to cherish the time that I spend driving along Highway 401 or the 416 from the busier airports in Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal. I now eagerly use the journey as an opportunity to decompress from my last adventure or mentally prepare for my next destination. I’ve also come to truly appreciate the quiet time that my father and I get to spend in the car. Sometimes the journey is the only time that my jam-packed schedule leaves for just us, and I cherish the opportunity to discuss whatever wild ambitions I’m chasing next or the hopes and dreams that I have for whatever’s waiting around the corner.
My visits home to Kingston are often short and sweet. They always go by too quickly and are spent catching up with my friends and family over our favourite pizzas at Woodenheads, pints of MacKinnon Brothers at the Red House and picnics at Confederation Basin. I often find myself racing around town to take in my favourite sights and sounds. They include walking along King Street with my mother, shopping for local treasures on Princess and visiting with one of my oldest friends at the Grad Club.
We have something really special here.
In the spring and summer, bright red geraniums decorate the properties downtown and pop against the limestone walls. When the water sparkles and I see the Wolfe Islander gliding across the lake, I think of Kingston as the jewel of Lake Ontario and appreciate how the ferry brings friendly, smiling cottage-goers to and from the city. My favourite season in Kingston is the summer, when the historic downtown core comes alive with all of the different personalities that each festival brings. The Buskers Rendezvous makes the city smile, the Limestone City Blues Festival makes it dance and the Poker Run makes it roar.
When fall arrives, the students flood back into the city; Richardson Stadium and the University District shine with the colours red, blue and gold; and the air buzzes with the excitement of a new school year. When winter inevitably comes around, the bright red geraniums disappear and the rooftops are blanketed with snow. The streets become quieter as more and more snow falls from the sky.
I feel the heartbeat of our city whenever I spend time in Springer Market Square. It’s where we gather to watch movies during the warm summer nights or lace up our skates on the cold days of winter.
But no matter what the seasons bring, this city sings.
Yes, I love the city of Kingston. It doesn’t matter where I go or for how long that I leave for, she always welcomes me home and wraps me in her arms. Like an old friend, she seems to understand that I need to venture out in order to write the different chapters of my life and appreciate her beauty. But Kingston doesn’t ever hold on to me too tightly or hold grudges when I go. Every time, she lets me leave quietly and never asks for anything in return.
Yet, I always return.
I believe in Kingston. I know her shores. They’re as familiar to me as my mother’s voice and as comforting as my father’s hug.
No matter where I travel to, Kingston calls me home.
She holds on to my history, the same way that she holds on to my heart.
Photo “Night Falls on Kingston” courtesy of: Local photographer Chris Ward