In a couple of weeks my mom and dad will celebrate their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary. Fifty five years of wedded bliss. Okay, so maybe not all the years were completely blissful. But as with most good relationships they have a lovely story to tell that began in England in 1951.
There is a five hundred year old tradition in Oxford that on the first day of May young people gather at the foot of Magdalen Tower at 6:00am to hear the Magdalen Choir sings hymns from the cloisters. A friend of my moms had invited her along, with a few others, to enjoy this tradition from a punt on the River Thames. A punt, for those unfamiliar, is a wide, flat-bottomed boat that you propel through the water using a long pole. Way harder than it looks by the way.
So picture it. Six college students in their early twenties on a boat on the river just after sunrise (probably drinking Pimms) with not a care in the world. This was how my parents met. Not in a bar, not online, not even at a party. In a boat on the River Thames.
But that’s not when they started dating. Over the next few years the group of them would become great friends. Living the college life at Oxford. Apparently my mom once changed from her work clothes into a party dress and heels underneath a table at a college ball she was going to with my dad’s best friend. Perhaps the coat check was full? Oh, and my dad accidentally shot himself in the calf trying to sneak a firearm out of his dorm so he could poach rabbits. Why do you think he would be poaching rabbits?
I’ve heard so many great stories from that time.
Anyway, eight years later my dad moved to Canada and ended up working in the woods of British Columbia as a forester. My mom remained in England working as an Occupational therapist. Still not dating yet. They kept in touch though through my dad’s best friend Tony. (The one she went to the ball with?)
The oldest joke in our family is that my mom followed my dad to Canada. She will deny it until the cows come home but my dad just laughs every time he hears this story. So we still don’t know if it’s really true or not. The way she tells it, when she decided to come to Canada she wrote to Tony to let him know that she would be coming to Vancouver. As it turned out my dad was driving him to the airport on the same day that she was arriving. The three of them had lunch at White Spot together and my mom was so excited (and distracted) to see my dad, that she ate Tony’s lunch and not hers. It’s so cute to hear her tell this story now.
That’s when they finally started dating. My dad was still working in the woods and my mom found work in the city and moved into a house just off Cornwall Street. He would drive down on the weekends to visit her and they would do cool things like go to the Cave or The Roof for drinks. In 1960 they returned to England to get married. After a picture perfect honeymoon in Austria they made the decision to return to Vancouver and settle down. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Sometimes I wonder how they have stayed married for this long. They argue. Actually I wouldn’t really even call it arguing. It’s more like quibbling. But at the same time, I have never questioned their love for each other. At the end of the day they would always come together in the kitchen for a snog Some how I knew that this was just their way of working things out. Now at 86 and 83 with three kids and seven grandkids they are still enjoying their life together.
The Best Thing in Life is a great story to tell your grandchildren and having a real marriage as an example of how to make it work.