O is for Ottawa – A to Z Challenge

The parliament buildings in Ottawa from across the Gatineau River

You can’t experience your past again, or go back in time (unless you have a Delorian, which would be really cool). Life is full of change, and the city where I grew up wasn’t the same when I returned years later.

I was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Every winter I skated on the canal, and every summer I joined thousands of people on Parliament Hill for Canada Day. When I was 19 years old I moved away. Not because I didn’t like my hometown – because I decided it was time to see something else.

Somehow I had expected Ottawa to stop in its tracks, preserved for all time for my enjoyment and nostalgia. When I returned 10 years later with my husband, I was surprised to find that things were…different.

I wanted to give him the downtown Canada Day experience I had loved when I lived there: the sweaty crowds, the random buskers, the elated face-painted toddlers, and the energy at the outdoor concerts were the memories I wanted to recreate.

Although I could try to recreate my past, it would never be the same as I remembered. And not because my town changed (even though it did), because I had changed.

My husband and I headed downtown for Canada Day, where the sweaty crowds made us claustrophobic, the random buskers didn’t captivate us, and the face-painted toddlers nearly tripped us. The outdoor concerts were tough to enjoy from the back of the jam-packed crowd. The things I remembered being great turned out to be not-that-great.

I was disappointed at first, and then realized what I needed was to make new memories instead of chasing my old ones.

My new memories included relaxing with a coffee and people-watching in the Byward Market in the morning, taking in free museums, and drinking beers on a patio in the evening. Instead of standing on the sidewalk at the main outdoor concert, I went to a concert in a smaller park, and stretched out on the grass. I left downtown before the evening fireworks started to avoid cramming myself onto a bus like a sardine.

Canada Day in Ottawa was the same but different. I enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t the way I remembered enjoying it.

There’s no way to get the past back, and there’s no way to get the past “me” back either. And I wouldn’t want to, it’s more fun discovering new things than trying to relive memories I used to know.


    • It is odd when you return to a place an expect it to be the same. I mean, you can’t *really* expect it to be the same, but somehow in your mind things never changed. Jarring indeed!

  1. As I was reading I was thinking exactly what you wrote next. We move away, we change. Somehow is just never the same when we go back. I’ve only been to Ottawa once about 14 years ago. The beautiful city.

    • I’m glad this article resonated with you Rhonda! Ottawa is indeed a beautiful city, I suggest you visit again soon. On Canada Day. 🙂

  2. I know exactly what you mean, Heather. I visited my home town of Rotherham in South Yorkshire, England for the first time in 25 years a few years ago and I was shocked how different it was. You’re right though, for some reason we want it to be exactly the same but it never is.
    I visited Ottawa back in 2011 and really loved it – we were there during the ice sculpting festival which was incredible! Unfortunately my friend broke her arm there whilst ice skating on the canal though and we spent many hours sitting in the hospital!!

    • Hi Suzy, I find that it’s the same way with people: I don’t picture them changing at all. I still have friends who are 15 in my mind even though they’re over 30 now! I just can’t picture it. I’m glad you liked Ottawa, but I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s arm! That’s awful. I used to volunteer at the Ottawa Civic Hospital when I was a kid, if you went there I’m sure they took good care of your friend.

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