Friday, May 14, 2010

Full Circle

These pictures, found tucked into an old journal, were both taken in 1976; the first one on September 3rd, the day Gem and I were married. It is of us in our “going away’ outfits following our wedding. In those days you changed out of your bridal gown and tux after the reception, and into a 'going away' outfit. I don't think people do this anymore. We were both only nineteen, four months shy of our 20th birthdays (we are nine days apart in age). We look so impossibly young! Gem’s polyester leisure suit with its pointy-collar shirt was the height of fashion, as was my silky peasant-style dress. I wore platform wedge shoes in the same rust colour as the hat.

The second picture is of me, taken a few days later. I’m wearing the wide-legged, bell-bottomed white jeans which I loved. In the background you can see part of the old truck with the camper-back where we spent the majority of our two week honeymoon. Apart from the first night when we stayed at a fancy hotel in Vancouver, we toured around parts of British Columbia, driving wherever we fancied, spending all our nights in that little camper.

On the back of this photo are written the words, "Jo, Kamloops 1976, honeymoon". This is an especially interesting bit of serendipity because Kamloops is the city where we are moving to next week. I had forgotten that Gem and I had spent a day there during our honeymoon. In all the intervening years we had never had a chance to go back, and now we’ll actually be residing in a place that saw a part of our beginnings. Full circle. It reminds me of an old door I saw recently. Its layers of paint had faded unevenly, blue patched over fading green ... one era glimpsed through another.

I called Gem last night and peppered our conversation with honeymoon do-you-remembers.

I remember driving along highways edged with simmering fringes of daisies as we listened to Abba and Queen, sometimes singing along. I remember the impromptu picnics and little hikes, the swims in glacier lakes which stole our breath and retrieved it in little screeches. I remember the somewhat frightening, but exhilarating kayak paddle through the rapids at Hell’s Gate. I remember the little argument we had about me wanting to look for a place to do laundry and Gem not thinking it important. I remember the day we came across a Fiddle Festival in Merritt and joined in with the stomping, swaying, cowboy-boot-wearing sea of humanity.

It was during my honeymoon that I began my love of old, abandoned log cabins and barns, left to rot, hollow and exposed. It was also where we first saw the Northern Lights, interpreted by the First Nations peoples as the dancing of human spirits. I remember my awe as we watched the night come alive with banners of unfurling green light.

When I look at these pictures and see the hope and promise shining in our youthful faces, we thankfully didn’t know just how tough it was going to be. We’ve been through a lot, Gem and I. We both have our wounds, our dark places, our fears of being broken. We have endured cancer (I am approaching my seven year survival anniversary), our younger son becoming a teenaged father, providing a home for two of our little grandsons for three years, the loss of my beloved brother at age twenty-eight, the death of Gem’s parents, one right after the other.

But we’ve also had immense joys along the way, and like I wrote in another post, life just keeps on becoming. People ask me how we’ve done it ... survived intact despite the odds. I believe that when you can respect each other's personal spaces ... when you can find common joy in countless ordinary days ... when you can reach out of your wounds to each other, in brokenness ... you are open to your deepest sense of belonging and love.

"I always thought that your butt looked pretty good in those jeans", said Gem last night when we talked.

Oh, and a sense of humour is vital, too.

(This is part of Sepia Saturday. For more wonderful offerings, please visit!)


  1. Love that top photo, Nana Jo! You look so pretty in that fetching hat. Those white jeans look great too (I can't see the butt.)

    I don't think I knew you were Canadian. Cool! So am I!


  2. Both you and Gem are strikingly attractive youngsters. I remember 1976 as if it were yesterday. I didn't look nearly as sophisticated as you do in your fetching hat.
    Thank you for your musings on partnerships that last. I love your statement about reaching out to one another in spite of your brokenness. Compassion is the key in our marriage as well.

  3. Mags and I were hitched two years before you, and the colour and style of Gem's suit bears an uncanny resemblance to the one I wore. Fashion must have been slow to change back then.

    You certainly make a handsome couple and I agree, 100%, that a relationship stands the best chance if you "..can respect each other's personal spaces ... when you can find common joy in countless ordinary days ... when you can reach out of your wounds to each other, in brokenness ..."

  4. Maybe Happy Returns!

  5. Lovely post. I don't know why but I felt I knew you better after I had read it. Good luck with the move next week - if my experience of moves is anything to go by, you are going to need that sense of humour.

  6. Hi fellow Canadians!

    Life is tough, isn't it Nana Jo? But, of course, it's the general toughness of life that makes Honeymoons like yours so special they are almost like magic.

  7. Your lovely photos took me right back to the 70s. We were married in 1977 and my bridesmaids wore those same kind of floppy Karen Carpenter hats!

    Yes, a sense of humor is a must.

  8. AnonymousMay 15, 2010

    I loved this post. First time I have visited I think. You are cute as buttons in that first picture. I remember the leisure suits. Tried to sew one for my hubby once, did get the jacket done but no trousers.

  9. Awww...these photos are sweet! What a gorgeous bride you were! The outfits are SO 1970's!!

  10. Great pictures and such a warm and candid story. You are so beautiful in that first photo, and it's really a timeless beauty despite the fashions.

  11. Isn't it great that most marriages start with that hope and promise, with an expectation of success? Otherwise, they would be sure to fail. Great photos and I love your way with words.

  12. Poetikat: I'm happy to meet a sister Canadian. I actually have duel Canadian and British citizenship. I came to Canada when I was fifteen. Thanks for your kind words. Alas, everything seems to have dropped somewhat south, and my hair is now 100% white. But, I do have the memories!

    Enchanted Oak, Chris: Thank you. I didn't look sophisticated most of the time, either. You're right ... compassion is soooo important.

    Martin: Thank you for your kind words. Gem wore a pale grey tux with a ruffled shirt at our wedding and then changed into that suit. Of the two, photos of him in the tux make him cringe even more than the leisure suit!

    Tony: Thanks. That took me a bit to get ... I am admittedly slow sometimes.

    Alan: That's funny because I was just thinking earlier how as I read blogs, each post reveals another piece of the mosaic story that is that blogger, and I gradually start to feel as I "know" the person better each time. As we hadn't moved in 27 years, it has been a logistical nightmare. How did we accumulate so much stuff?! Next Saturday, please have a pint for us somewhere.

    Barry: Yeah, life can be tough ... and painful. But I do believe this makes the magical times even more precious.

    Willow: Thank you. My bridesmaids wore long yellow polyester dresses covered with daisies. My mother made them all herself, and all my sisters thought they were horrible. Now we just laugh. They might have been improved by a floppy hat!

    QMM: Welcome to my little blog. It seems there's a whole generation of men who are leisure suit survivors!

    Betsy: Thank you. That was very sweet. I have rather fond memories of teh 1970's. It was my defining era.

    Christine: Thank you so much. What a lovely thing to say.

    Nancy: Hope is the greatest gift we can possess, I think. Without it, life becomes very bleak and sad.

  13. Yes you could not buy a shirt back then without the pointy collars. They were silky material to go with the pantsuit. I wish you well.

  14. Hi Nana jo
    Blogged hopped to you from Alan's and what a great post. I love your wedding photo in your going away outfit, took me back a few years although I had a pink boucle wool suit with a pretty lace blouse underneath. I thought I was the bees knees. Hope it all goes well with your move, the best thing about moves is what you have discovered already, you come across old photos and things and packing is left while you dive down memory pathways.
    Enjoy your new home!

  15. You were indeed a lovely bride. I like your strong features contrasting with your wavy hair and your expressive eyes.

    Hubby and I have visited Vancouver Island many times. We've also visited the Jasper/Banff/Golden area, and once we made the overland journey between the two. That means we must have passed through Kamloops, but I must admit I don't remember the city. I do remember getting tired of that loopy road before we arrived at our destination!