My Hometown Perspective Top

London, Ontario: where I found wonder in the ordinary

Trees in fall splendor at a Western University in London, Ontario. (Chuying Huo/YJI)

London, Ontario, CANADA – I’m not a stranger to moving. From country to country, city to city, building to house. With each new home, I left everything behind and expanded my world.

It all started in Beijing, China. My mom, dad and I moved from China to Canada in 2013 when I was 7. We settled in Markham, a small city in southern Ontario right beside Toronto. Although Markham was a small city, it didn’t feel like one – rather a grand city full of noise.

Although not said out loud, Markham was essentially an extended part of Toronto. Its streets manifested diversity and expression.

Next, I moved to Hamilton. Hamilton is a middle-sized city known for its steel production. Although not aesthetically unique, its steel walls reflected the shining generosity of the people.

With each move, my world changed. My views changed. I changed.

My last move was to London, a city in Ontario where I live now.

I couldn’t see anything special about London when I first moved here. It was very ordinary. Not incredibly small, or big. Not very loud or quiet. However, a curious trait I found in London was how close everyone was.

Although not physically small, London radiated the energy of a small town. Everyone knew each other, like one big family. London’s nature captivated me. By walking just a few miles, you are transported from the noisy city streets to a quiet soft forest.

The green tree trail in London, Ontario, which is called the forest city. (Chuying Huo/YJI)

Its trees sheltered and provided comfort for its people.

I’ll never forget my first day of sixth grade here in London. Everyone knew each other and clung to their small groups.

Although an ordinary school, I was surprised at my childhood innocence. My new classmates weren’t academically behind, or childish.

I discovered rather exciting small but noticeable differences. The wooden cubbies, smaller than my previous locker but comfortable, were one example. Another was how the teachers would always walk us to our next class, unlike in my previous school, where we moved from classes ourselves.

I always believed middle school was the transition from childhood. However, in London that time was extended. I didn’t feel rushed to grow up, rather the opposite. I felt like we were free in our little bubble.

In fall, the thick forests turned into sunset shade, and apples reminded us of the new school year. In winter, snow painted wonder over our grass fields and Christmas songs played in the background.

Come spring, the beautiful cherry blossom tree showered my backyard like something out of a movie. And in summer, we waved goodbye to our friends and reminisced in the sunshine.

In spring, the cherry tree in the author’s backyard blooms. (Chuying Huo/YJI)

We talked over the glories and struggles of the year – how my classmates pointed at their parent’s grade 8 graduation portraits on our school wall. Or the student council election where I tiresomely memorized my speech and brought a ukulele up along with me.

I didn’t expect to gain such a close group of friends within the student council, and I am truly grateful for that.

I am now in my eighth-grade year. Following the tradition, my friends and I vowed to carve our name on the crooked old tree out in our schoolyard. We were crushed when we found out that graduation and end of year traditions were not likely to happen this year due to the covid-19 pandemic.

But we must all remember that as cliché as it sounds, we’re truly in this together. Years later, we’ll peer back at this rough time as a mere memory and connect to others who experienced this with us.

We’re slowly realizing that we are all growing up. My friends were shocked that I wasn’t going to our in-area high school. However, I can’t live in this magical bubble forever. Although it provided comfort for childhood, everyone moves eventually.

Although I’ve left many comforts, I’ve come to discover that they never really leave me. My memories remain and become a part of me.

Joy brings a childish glow, while we become stronger through struggle. I want to document my journey to share my experiences with others, to shed new light on sensitive topics and capture the incredible ones.

Although we move on from chapters of our life, we never fully close them until the book is done. And when we finish the book, we can read it again. If you were to ask me how I would describe London, Ontario, I would say a childhood snow globe.

If you asked me about my hometown, though, I would show you my collection. It’s a wonderland.

Chuying Huo is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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