My Favourite Photo

The theme for Week 3 of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge is “Favourite Photo.”

Anita and Gilles, 1947

There’s a pile of photo albums on my floor that were recently inherited from my grandfather when he moved out of his house and into a senior’s apartment. A number of years ago, I digitized most of the images from these albums, but I now need to take on the task of organizing and storing the physical photos themselves. I must admit, I’ve been putting it off.

Working on your family history usually leads to you being the repository for family documents and photographs. In the process of organizing them, some of the images become as familiar to you as your favourite slippers.

This is one that immediately came to mind when I learned the prompt for this week’s challenge.

It shows my grandparents, Anita and Gilles, in a rowboat. It was taken in the summer of 1947, a few years before they were married.

I love how candid the image is, capturing their youth and energy, Gilles casually dangling a cigarette and Anita shyly trying to manoeuver the oars.

I asked my grandma once how they’d met. She said it was at a hockey game and my grandpa was one of the players. She remembered thinking that he was cute. They had mutual friends and spent time together in a group before eventually becoming a couple in about 1945.

Anita had spent her early years in Ottawa, Ontario, but when her father moved the family to a small French-speaking town just outside the city when she was about 13, she was lost. Her father was bilingual, being a translator for the government, but Anita spoke only English. Gilles, on the other hand, spoke only French, so they learned from each other. The language difference did nothing to impede their growing affection for each other. If anything, it probably gave them a stronger bond.

In 1949, they married and went on to have 6 children. They were married for over 60 years and when my grandmother developed Alzheimer’s in the mid-2000s, my grandfather took care of her tenderly and when she moved into a care home, he visited her every day for lunch and again for dinner until her death.

It’s been seven years since her passing, and he isn’t the same without her. Spending that long with another person and building a life and family together made them forever a matched set, a true love story.

I love to think of them in their early days, falling in love and hanging out with friends, before the pressures of life and family started.

No relationship is perfect and they had their challenges, but if I have half the love in my marriage that they did, I’ll consider myself very lucky indeed.