by Dave Davison from Kelowna, BC
In 1987 I was 20 years old, living in Vancouver, and in a state of smitten love with my girlfriend Marion, whom I had been dating for a bit over a year. A temporary employment opportunity had presented itself, which, along with an offer to live rent-free with my sister and brother-in-law for a while, would eliminate a financial debt I had at the time. The downside to all this was that the opportunity was all the way in North Bay, Ontario. It was hard to imagine being separated from Marion for any stretch of time but the offer I was given made too much sense financially for me to pass up. So with some reluctance, I packed up and moved some 2500 miles away from the love of my life and stayed there for a year before returning home.
North Bay is a lovely place and I have many fond memories of the friends I made there. Nevertheless, it didn't take long for homesickness to set in. There was no email, Twitter, or Facebook back then. Keeping in touch with Marion meant either waiting several days for responses to hand-written letters, or spending a fortune on long-distance phone calls that neither of us could afford. It wasn't just Marion I missed either. I had lived my whole life in greater Vancouver and had underestimated how strongly I would feel the pull back to where my roots were.
About two months into my stay in North Bay I was in the public library. I can't remember what I was looking for there but I do know that it was pure chance that I happened to notice a section of books about Ontario and Toronto. I realized that there was probably a section nearby with books about Vancouver and sure enough, in the next aisle I found it. I reached for the most prominent-looking one, a large coffee table book entitled “British Columbia: Time of Our Lives” published by Douglas and McIntyre. Hoping to see familiar images of home I opened the book to the table of contents where the listing of each chapter was accompanied by a small picture related to that chapter. My eye was immediately drawn to one such picture; a photo of a young woman in the car of an amusement park ride, apparently one of the smaller roller coasters at the PNE's Playland. The car was ascending the initial steep climb and the young woman was glancing back over her shoulder, possibly at someone on the ground. It looked remarkably like Marion although the picture was rather small and the deeper I peered into the photo for details, the more grainy the photo became.
I was sure that the young woman couldn’t possibly be Marion and was just someone who resembled her. I studied the picture closely for some clue that would eliminate the possibility that I was actually looking at a picture of my Vancouver girlfriend in a library book in North Bay, Ontario. As minutes went by and no such clue jumped out at me, my disbelief that it might actually be Marion in the picture gradually began to be nudged aside by my astonishment at the possible coincidence. Finally it occurred to me that there was probably a larger copy of this picture somewhere in the book and after leafing through the pages I found it. The photo was spread across two full pages with all the little details I had been searching for presented in perfect clarity. There was no doubt now that it was Marion in the picture. I even recognized the clothes she was wearing.
For a long, surreal time I just stared at the picture; stunned by my discovery, wondering if I was imagining things.
Needless to say I checked the book out. As I was doing so, I couldn't contain myself from telling the librarian what had just happened, the words spilling out of me too fast to be coherent. She seemed unimpressed. Either she didn't believe me or she couldn't understand what the heck I was talking about. So I opened the book to the page with Marion and took a photo of her out of my wallet. Putting the two pictures side by side I pointed at them and said, “Here. See?”
She looked at one, then the other. Then I saw the realization of what I was trying to tell her set in. “It IS her!” she exclaimed with surprise.
My discovery seemed to justify the expense of a long-distance call during which I told Marion the whole story. She didn't believe me either. Marion was convinced, as I was at first, that it was just someone who looked like her and that I suffered from an over-active imagination. She remained skeptical until a friend of hers who happened to own the book showed her the picture. In 1989 when we got married, that friend gave us his copy of the book as a wedding gift. After 21 years of marriage, that book remains one of our most cherished possessions.