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The Song That Changed Your Life: Picks

Lost and found by Dawn Ruddick

It was 1977. I was 7, she was 58, and man, did we have the music in us.

She bought me my first record player, and supplied all the 45s; gems that I’d slide in and out of funky art-deco sleeves. That July, The Bay City Rollers infiltrated my bedroom for the first time - and there was no going back. 

Following parental orders, we spent time outdoors that summer; eating fish ‘n chips on the crumbling walls of old castles, riding hostile waves on the isolated beaches of England’s northeast coast. But it was all about the music back then, and since the Walkman had not made its grand entrance, we couldn’t wait to get back to her flat; that heavenly high rise where we’d spin our tunes, and dream our dreams. Every visit, my tastes were expanded by my musical guru. She liked songs that ‘made your heart want to burst’. Even in her old age, when it came to music, I could barely keep up. 

The next year, we moved to Canada. It took a quarter of a blue pencil crayon to colour the ocean that separated us. Defeated, I shelved my old 45s, and mourned the passing of my childhood.  

It was seventeen years later when I returned to her, and lost her, all on the same day. After two hours of frantically searching, I found her standing in front of Grey’s Monument, in the town’s centre, her purse dangling forlornly from one arm. Chilled and unnerved, she followed me without question, and I led her home.

Back at her flat, she sat, despondent, her tea untouched on the table. I didn’t know how to reach her, given all our years apart. Record players had long since given way to tape decks and CD players. But in the time we’d been separated, we’d both fallen in and out of love with Adam Ant, Bananarama, and Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and for the past ten years, been faithful only to The Kinks. So I played our favourite, Come Dancing.  

As the familiar calypso beat began, her ocean-blue eyes revived. And as we called out the familiar refrain, “Come Dancing / that’s how they did it when I was just a kid”, the landscape became familiar again: for the university graduate with no road map for the future, and the grandmother, with no road map but the past.

Dawn Ruddick is from London, ON

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