Kieslowski explained that when the Double Life of Veronique was shown in the US, viewers were confused when Veronique returns to her father’s house. They didn’t understand who he was, and whose house it was. Europeans understood immediately, but for Americans he had to add a shot of her addressing him as her father.
He tells a story of when he found himself sitting next to a Polish ex-pat millionaire on a flight to the US. The ex-pat had opened a factory that made windows. He was very proud of their quality. They were the best on the market, and he guaranteed them for 50 years. Nevertheless, business wasn’t good. So he tried reducing the guarantee to 25 years. Suddenly, business improved. He lowered the guarantee to twelve years, and sales started to boom. The more he reduced the guarantee, the more windows he sold. Now they were guaranteed for a mere five years, and he could hardly produce them fast enough.
“You see,” the man told Kieslowski, “Americans like to move. No American wants to think of himself as living in the same house for 25 to 50 years.”
The European family home, Kieslowski explained, is a concept North Americans find difficult to relate to. I had friends in Canada who thought it strange that I was in my twenties and still living in the house we’d moved into when I was two, the house my parents still live in. My sister and brother-in-law are saving up to buy a house, and are living there too, so that my little niece is living in the same house her mother has spent her whole life in.
I moved out much later than any of the people I knew. I was 27. I was in university till I was 25, and I wasn’t the kind of student who could hold down a job and go to university at the same time, so earning enough money for rent in Toronto was out of the question. But when I finally did move, I crossed an entire ocean.
I still call the house in Toronto “home”, even though I know I’ll never go back to stay. I guess I call it that because my family’s there, and by force of habit. There’s a sign on the door to my old bedroom that says “Tom’s Room”. It won’t come off. My sister has her computer in there, and they all still call it my room.
I’ve lived in this apartment for the past ten years, and in a week or two I’ll be moving again. This will be the first time I’m moving lots of furniture — at least lots for me — and I get anxious about it sometimes. I keep worrying that something will go wrong and I’ll be stuck between places with all my furniture and books and things out on the street somewhere. I’m worried about the expense, which is mainly due to all my books. I’m going to try to get rid of as many as I can, but it’s difficult. I already got rid of a couple hundred of them last year when N. moved in. I’ll probably have less time than ever to read them, but it’s still hard to part with them, even painful. I’ve always liked having them around because it offered me choice. It’s hard to tell yourself there’s not enough time left in your life for some things.
So, this month I’ll be going to Wuthering Heights, only the third house I’ll ever have lived in, not counting the apartment my parents had until I was two. I’ve been to it several times, have cleaned it after builders did some work on it, and have chosen furniture for it with N., so it already feels like home. And because I tend to stay in one place, I know I’ll stay there too. I look forward to our being happy there. It will be our house; our rent-paying days are over.
Lots of other things are uncertain, though, like how easily we’ll find work, and what we’ll do when we eventually try to start our own business.
I’ve never been a very regular blog-keeper, and I’m sure to be even less so for the next few months. The house doesn’t even have a phone line yet, and we won’t actually be living in the house till after the wedding at the end of July. (I think it’s supposed to be bad luck when the house is new. Things would be a lot easier if we could, but what can you do.)
I’ll try to write a few more posts by the time we leave, most likely about how N. and I are managing to find boxes, and how we’re running around trying to savour our last few days in this city we’ve loved so much.