In the early morning of Thursday February 28, my friend Liz and I met up at the Qualico Family Centre in Assiniboine Park for a CCC – coffee, conversation and collaboration.
As a freelancer, I love CCCs – opportunities outside my office to connect with other people. We talk about work and mutual or individual projects, share ideas to resolve any problems or challenges, and take some time to reflect on life and other matters.
Another friend, Shelagh, and I started CCCs almost a decade ago after our Thursday Toastmaster meetings. Now that we are separated by more miles than can be easily traversed for a cup or two of coffee on a weekly basis, I’ve reached out to other friends and colleagues to talk about work and stuff.
Anyway, this particular CCC didn’t quite go as planned, which was a very good thing.
Liz and I were happily seated at a table near the window, discussing a few ideas over toast and bagels. At one point, a man trying to get the perfect photo of the woman he was with caught our attention. We noticed cards and gifts on the table, and assumed it was her birthday.
I couldn’t resist. “I’m going to ask if they’d like me to take a photo of the two of them.”
Turned out it wasn’t a birthday, but a 50th anniversary.
“We don’t celebrate our wedding anniversary,” explained Jeff, in his strong British accent. “But we do celebrate the day Madeline and I first met – February 28, 1969.”
It was at a party to which Jeff had been invited by a girl he was dating at the time. But when Madeline walked into the room, well, the rest, you might say, was history.
We took several photos for the very happy couple before Jeff asked about my accent.
“Yes it is,” I replied enthusiastically, since a lot of people surprisingly guess either New Zealand, British, or even South African, before Australian. “And Liz is also from Australia,” I added when my friend arrived in the conversation.
That they were in the company of two Aussies seemed to make Jeff and Madeline even happier, if that was possible. As they explained it, the girl Jeff was dating 50 years before, who had invited both he and Madeline to the party and inadvertently introduced them, was from Australia.
That led to them sharing with us a little more of their story – when Jeff came to Canada, their individual journeys, how they met – and us sharing some of our stories – when and how Liz and I arrived here, and how we met through her husband who contacted me through the Down Under Club of Winnipeg.
The Australian connection then and now seemed to give new meaning to their celebration.
“Meeting two Australians on our 50th anniversary makes this day more perfect than we could have imagined.”
Some people really do say the nicest things.
Over the next hour or so, from our vantage point two tables away, Liz and I saw several of their friends drop by their table to say hello and pass on their good wishes, and the staff surprise the couple with a bread pudding with fresh strawberries.
I don’t think either Jeff or Madeline stopped smiling the whole time we were there.
Before Liz and I left, there were hugs all round, and more photos recorded for posterity on cameras and phones. It was definitely a day to remember.
Some CCCs don’t go as planned, and can lead to moments and stories you never expected – which, in my line of work, is a very good thing.
Cheers to you, Jeff and Madeline. Thank you for making us part of your wonderful celebration. And may you share many more years together. Happy 50th anniversary and beyond.