Painting Over Nostalgia

Yesterday I received word that a beloved bookstore I once frequented was closing in the new year.

Chapters Runnymede was formerly The Runnymede, an atmospheric theatre built in 1927. You can view its rich and truly fascinating history as revealed by Author Doug Taylor’s history blog on the theatre

When I moved to Bloor West Village in Toronto in the mid 90’s, I was so fortunate to enjoy the building as the musty tattered but cozy theatre it was. Living in an apartment right next door made many a date night with my now husband great fun.

Then in 1999 the theatre closed and reopened as the famous Chapters/Indigo bookstore. It was not welcomed as many in the community mourned the loss of such a historic beauty. Fortunately, the bookstore not only preserved the majesty of the original architecture, it renovated the structure to its former glory. It was a gorgeous backdrop to house books.

When I told my husband of the news of Chapters closing, he was a bit perplexed by my grief. “Ah don’t you remember how upset you were when the Theatre closed? You didn’t even want the bookstore.”

That’s right. I was not a fan of the idea of the big chain taking over such a stunning community treasure. I remember the day the movie promo sign bid farewell to the neighbourhood and it made me so sad. I took photos, grieved the loss and was staunch in my resistance to enter the “new” place for fear of betraying an old friend.

But I did eventually enter in as did… so many others.

The bookstore was not a regular hangout for me though. The Theatre was. But when I got word of its closing, it still made me sad. I did enjoy perusing the aisles of books now in a stunning environment. I savoured a coffee or two with a friend. I even shopped there…

And that got me thinking… how sometimes we tend to paint over the negative in nostalgia and only remember the bright rosey side of things.

We have all had those experiences in life where we go through tough times. Maybe it’s the stressful challenge of choosing the right post-secondary institution or agonizing over whether or not its time to end a difficult relationship. Maybe its trying to decide whether taking a life changing trip vs. finding a good-paying job is the best course of action at the moment.

Then, when we’ve had the benefit of distance, somehow those tough times, those frustrating moments don’t seem as bad. Our memories re-imagine them as meaningful rites of passage that had to unfold. That university ended up being our first choice all along, or that relationship ending was the best thing for us etc. It’s as if suddenly, those challenges had a purpose we were aware of the whole time, instead of obstacles we tried to conquer.

I think its then that we find ourselves anchored to a place in time, a bookstore, a theatre, a local pub, and write them upon our minds as meaningful artifacts of our history playing an important part in our journey. Yet all the while in the thick of things, we hardly saw any of them as more than mere distractions, along our way.

Thus somehow that Bookstore has become more to me than I can say. It is a touchstone for a period in my life before children, before marriage, before parenthood. It represented a time of purpose when I worked as a reporter/journalist with my own challenges, at a newspaper. It reminds me of commitments of another sort, when I was determined to carve out my very own corner of the world being out on my own fully for the first time.

So the bookstore will close and something new, big or small, will take over. But my memories will remain fixed within me as part of the rich tapestry of the person I was and heralding ever-forward the person I continually strive to be…