Written by Maya, CAF ambassador and former young person in care.
Last week while I was giving a friend a ride home in Toronto, I experienced something powerful.
I grew up in Toronto and my first two foster homes were in the city. I had lived in my second home for roughly seven years, so I can recall that precise location vividly and with ease. However, the first home I lived in, I was only seven and lived there briefly for a year and a half. Living in that home was my first encounter with CAS. It is a landmark into my experiences growing up in care; experiences that would affect me for the rest of my life. I don’t remember much about living in that house, except that I missed my mom and my siblings quite a lot.
Anyways, while I drove my new friend to her home we drove down a street that looked remotely familiar. I recognized the convenience store ” Zac’s” where my foster sisters and I used to buy gum, I recognized my elementary school. The visuals hit me hard and I was overcome with a wave of nostalgia. I started getting anxious, scanning frantically for that house. I remember it was a tall white home — the tallest in the neighbourhood.
I hadn’t seen this neighbourhood in 14 years. When I’d last seen it, I was a confused child, lost as to where I belonged. What a radically unfamiliar place from where I am now.
Finally I spotted the house: the tall house sticking out like a sore thumb, the wide, long driveway where my foster dad parked his massive truck, the front lawn which hadn’t been manicured in awhile. And then I saw the sunflowers, three of them, and I remembered when my foster mom first planted them. We were excited for the summer when they would sprout and we could enjoy their seeds — which we did. Then it struck me: that seed had been planted when I entered care. Years upon years had passed while I lived in different homes and in different cities, going to middle school, finishing high school, completing most of my university degree, working numerous odd jobs on the weekends and summers. And yet it remained here, in this location, where everything had begun. Those sunflowers had birthed at the beginning of my CAS journey and co-existed with me throughout the process. It was powerful, surreal. Every day, people walk by that home, barely even acknowledging that plant. Perhaps even the new family that lives there barely appreciates it’s existence.
That plant is a physical symbol of my identity. At it’s birth it was frail, weak, vulnerable — at that instant, we co-existed and it replicated my own life. Now, it’s the tallest standing figure on that front lawn.
It’s roots have grown deep into the soil; those roots only seek to grow. That experience reminded me of a song by K’Naan called ‘The Seed’.
A precious, powerful moment.