Friday, January 15, 2010

Flashback Friday: Pachelbel’s Canon

Andrew thinks it’s time that I get back into this whole Flashback Friday thing after my long, unplanned, unannounced Christmas hiatus. Since I can’t quite remember the last time I wrote a Flashback Friday I can’t help but agree with him.

Sometimes I lose track of myself and he likes to take the opportunity to nag me a bit. It kind of turns the tables in our relationship.

The best nagger of us all, though, is probably Rachel. Especially around bedtime. Her requests demands are unlimited: read me a story, get me a drink, take me potty, cover me up, cover up baby doll, I’m too cold, I want socks, I want gloves, I need a sweater, sing me a song, now I’m too hot, get me another drink, give me a hug, give me a kiss, don’t close the door, leave the light on, come back in here, don’t leave, find my teddy bear, where’s my blanket, fix my pillow…and on and on.

It’s no wonder, then, when my dad left his job at Western Economic Diversification and moved our family from our house in Port Coquitlam, B.C. to a duplex in Calgary, AB. that my parents made themselves a makeshift bedroom in the basement, giving up the master bedroom on the top floor for me and my brother. That way there were two floors between us and them.

Patrick and I shared a bunk bed in the master bedroom. We had a walk-in closet, big enough for our dressers, clothes, and toys. We also had our own door leading to the bathroom and a sink in our room, which I thought was neat.

Abra and David had rooms across the hallway from us. We all got shuffled around a bit when Kelli moved back in with us, but I don’t remember quite how. This may be due, in part, to how much time I spent at the Franceschi’s place and also because my room remained the same. Josie was kept down in the basement with my parents since she was still a baby.

I still don’t know how we crammed eight people and a whole house load of stuff into a small duplex, but we managed.

My dad set up a computer in our bedroom—on the counter by the sink and forbade us that we should ever turn on the tap—and every evening he’d cue up a compilation CD of Pachelbel’s Cannon in D Major and we’d be lulled to sleep by the strains of violins playing the same sequence of music track after track after track. Each track was performed by different artists so while the feel of the music changed, the melody stayed the same.

A few months later we moved out of that duplex and into a house, this time in High River, AB. My dad went through a series of computer support jobs while we were trying to get settled in Alberta: Sale Control Systems, Spartan Controls, AMPM, Prime Time Electronics, Imperial Oil, Xerox.

It was an uncertain time for my family. Some of my dad’s jobs required him to travel, so sometimes he would be gone to Medicine Hat or Saskatchewan or even as far as the Northwest Territories! Most of his jobs were based in Calgary so at the very best he would have a long commute into the city everyday. Then there were the times when he didn’t have steady employment at all and would do contracting work on the side to add some income to what my mom was earning. She consistently worked full-time at the Instructional Materials Center for the school district and part-time at Village Square Library in Calgary.

I don’t know if it was a result of Black Monday and the ensuing recession of the 1990s that had my dad bouncing from job to job or if it was pure dumb luck. Perhaps it was a little bit of both.

All of the companies that my dad worked for in the 1990s are alive and somewhat-well today except for Prime Time Electronics, a small, locally-owned business that was based in High River and sold electronics, as its name suggests.

The job eliminated my dad’s daily commute and all his business trips so he was able to spend more time at home, which was nice; we could stop in to see his work sometimes, which was interesting for us kids; and it seemed to be a promising long-term position. Things were going along well until late one night (or early one morning) my dad got an emergency phone call.

I’m not sure what time the phone rang, exactly, but I know it was past the time that we were supposed to be in bed, and definitely before the time that we were supposed to wake up in the morning. So we all knew it was bad news.

My dad ran to the garage, hopped into the car, and drove to work in the middle of the night so that he could stand in the falling snow with his coworkers and watch it burn to the ground.

Sheer. Dumb. Luck.

All that was left of my dad’s former job was the burned-out skeleton of a simple brick building and a smoldering heap of computers.

The fire department in High River is largely volunteer-based and by the time they got to the scene there was little more they could do than to put out the raging flames and sift around in the aftermath for surviving artifacts and an explanation for the fire, which apparently was due an electric tea-kettle that had been left plugged in.

My dad brought little home from the office that day, not the quintessential cardboard box full of desk knickknacks, paperweights, wall hangings, and plaques.

I remember he walked in the door and he handed me something—a CD case, twisted and teased by the heat into a warped square, so blackened by soot that I couldn’t make out the words behind. I pried the melted case open.

Inside was a compilation CD of Pachelbel’s Cannon in D Major.

There’s a lot to be learned from Pachelbel’s Cannon. The bass ostinato continues playing steadily through the entire piece, regardless of all the other things going on around it and no matter how many violins try to drown it out. Life happens the same way.

Stressors, both good and bad, are heaped upon us: children are born, people die, jobs are lost, opportunities are found. And yet it’s our job to keep on going, to endure to the end, to survive the fire and keep on playing our part.

Like the bass ostinato. Like the CD. Like my dad.


  1. Thanks Nancy I needed that. Love Dad :)

  2. Sheesh, I think you went above and beyond Andrew's nagging to write such a great post :). Very nice.

  3. Doing a re-occurring post has been a dream of mine, but one very much impeded by my lack of will power and mental organization. I shall look to you for inspiration.