Memories flood back

Peace Arch News' columnist April Lewis reflects on nostalgia and what looking back at the past really means.

The moving finger writes; and having writ, moves on:

Nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line…

Words written centuries ago in The Rubaiyat of Omar Kayyam has me reminiscing about the past. Turning back the frayed pages of our life’s story. Getting all sentimental about what was and what could have been.

Thanks to Woody Allen and his latest whimsical movie, Midnight in Paris, the cineast in me was able to reflect on this notion of nostalgia. Back to the moveable feast of Hemingway’s Paris in the 1920s, with Cole Porter’s Let’s Fall in Love as a backdrop. All set against the romantic notion that Paris is even more wonderful in the rain.

I remember being a poor student arriving in Paris with nowhere to live. I answered an ad for an “au pair” and was ushered into the boudoir of Madame whatever-her-name-was, who sat upon her bed all resplendent in her negligee with feather boa trim.

She asked if I could cook. “I can’t even boil an egg,” I replied, standing there forlornly, a drowning rat, dripping wet. Paris in the rain indeed!

This looking backward – which Allen refers to as “golden age thinking” – where we think a different time period is better than the present.

“Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present.” one of his characters muses. Another states: “the past has always had a great charisma for me… the present is dull.” Denial… dull… or is it the other “d” word that is inextricably linked with nostalgia…

Are we afraid of death or simply on an obsessive search for immortality?

Catherine, 60 does not agree at all. She recently posted old family photographs on Facebook and said she was only reminiscing. Nothing deeper. “At 60” she says, “I am probably happier than I’ve ever been in my life.

Oh sure, she would love to have a younger, firmer body but has no desire whatsoever to exchange her life today for another stab at yesterday.

Camilla, 87, has a different spin on the subject: “If one wishes to be nostalgic, it should only be for a short and selective time and associated with pleasant memories only.”

These can assuage the looming spectre of the inevitable, although she insists she is not afraid of death.

Perhaps as we look back, we are simply rationalizing the actions of a past we cannot alter or are wishing we took the path less travelled.

No time like the present.

If your present is dull, do something. You can’t unwrite the past nor should you waste precious time trying.

Life is short. Death is not.

And if you’re planning on going to Paris, buy an umbrella!

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

16500-block of 24 Avenue. (Google image)
Council pushes forward applications for 400-plus dwellings in South Surrey

Loss of trees, pressure on schools cited by public, council members as areas of concern

The Anti-Racist Coalition Vancouver started a petition calling on B.C.’s education officials to make Black Shirt Day official. The inaugural event in solidarity with Black and racialized Canadians takes place on Friday, Jan. 15. (Screenshot/
Surrey students, staff to take part in first-ever Black Shirt Day

Special day in ‘recognition of the struggle for civil rights fought by Black and racialized Canadians’

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey, Langley twin brothers who own companies together battle in court

Presiding judge described Surrey resident Kerry Hawley and Langley resident Kelly Petersen as ‘self-made successes’

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (File photo)
Peace Arch Hospital staff did not jump COVID-19 vaccine queue: Fraser Health

Director who received leftover dose defined as ‘priority staff’ member

Members of the community participate in the 7th annual Coldest Night of the Year event Feb. 22, 2020. This year’s event will have a virtual aspect to it because of COVID, says organizer Courtenay van den Boogaard. (Photo Submitted: Amanda Grewall)
Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser to support Cloverdale Community Kitchen

Annual events raises funds to help homeless community

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone questions the NDP government in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 25, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Todd Stone says he’s not running for B.C. Liberal leadership

Kamloops MLA was widely viewed as a front-runner

Wireless voice and data services are out for those on Telus as of Thursday (Jan. 14) afternoon across Western Canada, Telus Support said in a recent Tweet. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATE: Telus services restored across Western Canada

Telus said they are monitoring the situation to ensure connections remain stable

Screenshot from video.
2 students arrested in assault of transgender girl at Lower Mainland school

Mother says daughter was targeted because of how she identifies

Most Read