The Past, Chirping

//The Past, Chirping

The Past, Chirping

The past is always chirping me. On my case, nagging, nagging, 24/7. 

During a recent meditation (when I should’ve been focused on breaths, in, out, counting to 10): Jetanne, my oldest appears, at four-years-old (she’s 38 for cripesakes!), descends our grand oak staircase, soft little blue duffle bag slung over her shoulder, packed, by herself, to go out for a day on the boat. I’m in the kitchen packing the cooler, her dad is out hooking up the boat. Morning sun streams through the front windows, the skylights. It’s a golden scene.

Completely irretrievable, though, as all memories are. People, places altered and/or gone. Golden ghosts.

From the Oxford dictionary: nostalgia noun “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations”

Are you prone to nostalgia? Some people, it seems, just aren’t. Like my husband B, for instance, who prides himself on being a stoic noun “a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining” (also from Oxford). 

When B is sick, or has a toothache say, he takes care of himself, is quiet. It’s amazing. And living with him keeps me well aware of my non-stoicism, because when I rant and rave over anything – being cut-off while driving, the neighbour’s ugly and incomplete stone wall that infringes on the driveway (which, btw, B encouraged said neighbour to build!), the craziness of politicians (which includes the craziness of the latest Ontario lockdowns) – he just stares at me, goes, “unh-huh”. He tends to not get worked up.

Speaking of toothaches, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Naht Hahn has this important thing to say:

“When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. But when we do not have a toothache, we are still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant. There are so many things that are enjoyable, but when we don’t practice mindfulness, we don’t appreciate them.”

Do you practice mindfulness? Are you currently in a state of “a non-toothache”? Take a moment to enjoy. Ah. And while most of us are anxious for a state of non-lockdown/mask/Zoom, a state of open patios, one must admit. Non-toothache is pretty pleasant. 

Have you noticed this? Meditation can trigger nostalgia, but music? Oh, man. Music can be killer, huh? I’m on week seven of a 12-week course called The Artist’s Way “A Course in Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self” by Julia Cameron. It’s an old book, from the 90s, that I picked up at the Goodwill Bookstore in my neighbourhood prior to the latest lockdown. (As Steph Posada kindly pointed out on Twitter “Friendly reminder that you’re allowed to buy overpriced novels at Shoppers Drugmart but can’t buy $3 novels at Dollarama. Make it make sense @fordnation #ontario #ontariolockdown”)

One of the tasks this week? “Give yourself time out to listen to one side of an album, just for joy.” (Listen to music, Cameron said. It will be fun, Cameron said.) While we do have albums and a turntable, I decided to just do Spotify, through headphones, while making soup. Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd.

To fully appreciate my attachment to this album, join me on a sticky trip down Memory Lane. I was turning 16 and my very best gf – we didn’t call them gfs back then – bought me Billion Dollar Babiesby Alice Cooper. I must point out that this gf lived in TO, The Big Smoke – we didn’t call Toronto either of those things back then – and we’d listen to CHUM FM late into the night on her little clock radio, me on the floor on her twin mattress, her up on the box spring. It was in that location this I first heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. You must understand, we had little money, no albums of our own, no turntable of our own. We waited all night to hear that song – she knew I’d love it – and when it came on? Like mana from heaven. “Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia, let me go! Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for meee!!” It was well and beyond any of my imaginings. We hung on every word, every note. Minds blown.

Getting back to the birthday present album, nothing against Alice Cooper aka Vincent Furnier, we just weren’t committed to it. We packed it up, got someone to drive us to the mall and quickly exchanged it for Dark Side of the Moon. No regrets on this exchange.

I listened to Dark Side of the Moon so many times, I wore it out. I know every single note, the order of songs, every word. Of course, as I had no turntable of my own, I’d play it on the parents’ hi-fi – short for high fidelity, what we called the big old wooden console in the living room that held the turntable – when they were out, or on my brother’s (if he was out) impressive turntable in the basement, floating away on his water bed.

Okay, so time-travelling back into my older bod and current kitchen, chopping celery and chicken and onions for soup – mise en place as B has taught me – tears came from both onions and the loss of innocence. That sweet teenage time when you’re discovering a self beyond parents and family, as well as your own taste in music, music with the potency to bind young minds together as surely as Levi’s jeans bound our fashion sense.

That’s the golden side. The dark side? Of the moon? Lol. Of me? And perhaps some (most) of my teenage friends? Hormones were raging. Which made us pretty darn cranky a lot of the time. The entire adult world was aligned against us. We had no money, no freedom!

We had way more freedom than the teenagers of the last year, huh? I never had to live through a pandemic as a child, a teenager, a young adult.

I’ve said it before: nostalgia is a persnickety drug. Don’t OD on it.

The present’s where it’s at, man. And? Like that one-hit-wonder song by Timbuk3 (perhaps it’s a nostalgia trigger for teenagers from the ‘80s?) “the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.” Covid-19 contraction numbers are down in our area, the age for vaccinations now includes all adults. The great outdoors with summer weather beckons.

Grab your shades, your sunscreen. See ya on the bright side!



  1. Cathy May 18, 2021 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    As I’m reading this, I went back to when I was a teenager 😞. Sometimes I still think I am…..until I look in the mirror that is 😂

    • Rita Hartley May 18, 2021 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      Oh mirrors… perhaps it’s time to ban them? It’s all about the right mirror, the right lighting yes?

  2. HILARY+D+SLATER August 7, 2021 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    I had a horrific teenage life.. but you brought back the good stuff! :)) great memories :))

    • Rita Hartley August 7, 2021 at 6:38 pm - Reply

      Oh good. Being a teenager is hard – glad I brought back the good stuff for you 😁

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