Ponsonby’s Purge

Susan’s Grandpa was a chemical engineer by trade but his passion was art. Specifically, cartoons. His favourite thing to draw was political satire and enjoyed making commentaries of Canada’s and the USA’s political climate back in the 60s and 70s. He operated under various pen names but of all his names, Susan’s favourite was Ponsonby. It was delightfully British, charming and nerdy. It was also his middle name and therefore, unusually unique and completely appropriate.

One year on a family trip, Susan’s younger sister, Elizabeth, was seated at the table with a newspaper. She would’ve been in her early 20s at the time. Grandpa came into the dining room with this messy briefcase of art supplies and oodles and oodles of cartoons.

“Are you the one who likes to draw?” he asked.

Elizabeth nodded. He sat down beside her, opening up his briefcase. They poured over his cartoons that spilled out over every inch of the table. Each picture revealed this brilliant mind that was slowly in remission as old age claimed his memories with each passing day.

In addition to being a political cartoonist, he was also a postcard collector and Canadian art lover. Apparently, he was a ‘big deal’ in the postcard community. Susan supposes it’s because his collection was so large. In fact, he was so good at collecting, it required a certain amount of gymnastic aptitude to pass through a hallway in his Etobicoke home. There was simply no floor space to walk. One had to climb, step, slide and jump from one space to the next. The house was full to the brim with stacks and stacks of papers, paintings and frames, and box upon box of postcards. A historian would call this a library but a millennial would call it hoarding. Call it what you will. There were a lot of postcards.

Eventually, Aunty Siobhan took it upon herself to clean up the house. At first she wanted to get all the artwork appraised to see what each one was worth but that would require more time and energy than she had. Those were precious resources and she required them for her full-time job as an ESL teacher and taking care of her father in between. There was simply no time. So she just started picking stuff up and throwing it out. This process of purging began years before Grandpa died. If he weren’t so old, he probably would’ve put up a bigger fight to keep it. Susan thinks he was tired and that’s why he chose to let it go.

When Susan moved to Toronto on September 14, 2017, she began her adventure here in Etobicoke. From the start, she had a list of goals and she’s proud to say (for the most part) she’s stayed true to to what she began. Her Aunty Siobhan was one of Susan’s biggest cheerleaders from the get-go and wanted to help Susan in whatever way she could. But Susan knew from the beginning that she wouldn’t be staying there long-term. The reasons why are varied but personal and shall remain unpublished.

Both Auntie Siobhan and David received the news of Susan’s departure well. So she built an account on Airbnb and found The Parkdale Hostellerie. The price was right and even though she’d never been to a hostel before, she figured this was a good a place as any to meet new people.

Around this time, the idea for her blog was just about fully fleshed out and the compulsion to write outdid her complacency not to. She had an idea of what it would be but it morphed a couple of times. Writing is funny that way. At times it feels more like a science than an art. You have your controlled variables (or as a playwright calls them ‘given circumstances’): the structure, the characters, the setting, the problem, the point of view, etc. But even with the best of intentions, given circumstances, planning and outlines, the story has a mind of its own and rarely leaves the writer the same person she was before. Thereby making the story and her author –arguably two of the most influential and formidable variables– the least predictable and uncontrolled.

Armed with a concept that would require Susan to get uncomfortably honest, she took a proverbial page from her Grandpa’s life story and gave herself a pen name. She decided now was as good a time as any to do some spring cleaning in matters of the heart. In the same way her Aunt purged the house of chalky Canadian artwork, Susan would purge her heart of stale love. She was prepared to drop postcard after postcard, story after story, no matter how costly. The clutter was overwhelming and Susan had been holding onto things she needn’t anymore. It was time to let it go and storytelling is one of the tools she uses for healing, mending and forgiveness. All of these things were desperately needed.

So she packed her bags, visited her family in Ottawa for Thanksgiving and travelled back to Toronto where she began her adventure in Parkdale and now, Liberty Village.

But she digresses. One story at a time, dear one. One story at a time.