My parents were married on August 4, 1950. My mum was 24 and my father was 23, soon to be 24. They hadn’t known each other long. My mum lived in Halifax and my father was in the navy, either stationed in Halifax at the time or there for some kind of naval function. My mother was a last-minute replacement blind date for a sailor whose friend was dating my mum’s friend. The original choice for the blind date became ill with the flu so my mum filled in. She once told me she knew that very night that he was the man she’d marry. Her foster mother didn’t approve of him and didn’t attend the wedding.
My father has been dead for nearly five years and my mother, for four. I have some of their wedding gifts. Some damask napkins, which I found on their linen shelves, still in the original wrapping. Silver-plated flat wear; a pair of silver-plated salad servers. I think of them every time I polish the silver and set it on the table. They never used it. They were saving it for some special occasion. Not family Christmas or Thanksgiving. Not birthdays. They didn’t “do” dinner parties but people did come for meals and no one thought to bring out the silver. There were never candles or linen napkins. But my mum liked to cook and the food was good and plentiful.
I see something of my son Brendan in my father’s smile. And two of my brothers have that look, too. I have my mother’s colouring. (I wish I had her shapely legs. Mine came from my father’s potato farming ancestors.) There’s so much about them that I don’t know — I thought they would live forever and there would always be time to sit down and ask questions about their childhoods, their dreams and fears. But I love looking at this photograph and seeing the way my mum looks at my dad and knowing that everything was about to happen, everything that is continuing 64 years later as I sit at my desk and remember them.