COLUMN: Perry Bergson — July 30, 2012

Perry Bergson
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Life is a funny old duck.

As I sit in my second floor office tapping this out, I’m thinking about a tiny blonde girl that I went to kindergarten with 40 years ago.

She was a quiet girl with light hair and a fondness for dresses and white one-piece leotards that were the fashion at the time.

On the first day of school, I got sick all over my teacher at the end of the day. She wasn’t feeling well either but at least she didn’t cause any extra laundry.

The little blonde girl and I ended going to school together for kindergarten, Grade 1 and half of Grade 2. Later we would attend junior high together.

I saw her a time or two in our hometown after we went to different high schools but I have no clue when we crossed paths last.

But I remember the exact moment that I noticed her next. It was in September of 1990 at my cousin’s wedding.

The little girl that I had gone to kindergarten with had turned into a beautiful woman.

I tell you this odd little anecdote because I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary with her last week.

We went out for a nice meal that night and then took our beloved white shepherd dog for a walk. It might be a little underwhelming by some standards but it was a chance to spend the time together that matters most to us.

But back to that wedding in 1990.

My cousin was marrying a friend of hers. After watching her walk across the other side of the room in a blue dress, I was besotted.

I went over to chat with her that evening and we hit it off immediately.

We went for supper a couple of weeks later — we were living in different cities at that time — and gradually got to know each other through long phone calls.

I’m not a smooth operator who lacks a conscience; she’ll tell you about us first holding hands during a visit to the Winnipeg Zoo some weeks later. It happened just after a monkey did his business and then laughed happily about it in his cage.

It broke any tension that remained.

I was thinking about our big day in 1992 recently because we’ve been to a couple of weddings in the last few weeks.

One was for the flower girl at our wedding, the daughter of my wife’s cousin. That tiny, quiet girl is now a beautiful young woman who has married an absolute prince of a young man.

The second wedding was neat because I was there the night they met through the triathlon club in Brandon. I’ve known her since she was a young teenager and think the world of her.

Her husband is also a friend, and it’s always lovely when your friends find their way to each other.

At both weddings, I took the time to revisit some of the recollections from my own big day. For someone who doesn’t have a great memory, a surprising amount of the day retains that instant recall, like a movie I just watched.

Most of those memories will remain my private playground but I will share a couple of impressions.

It was a hot, muggy July day that followed an amazing thunderstorm the night before.

I gasped at the altar when I saw my best girl walking down the aisle in her white dress.

And it all went by far too fast. For all of the planning and worrying for a year, it felt like I didn’t have nearly enough to spend with each of the people who had taken time out of their lives to share the day with us.

When I look at the pictures now, I’m struck by how much younger I appear and how little my wife has changed.

I’ve learned a lot since that day.

I have one piece of advice for young people. If anyone tells you that every day of their marriage has been bliss, don’t let them look after your wallet. They clearly can’t be trusted.

Marriage inevitably has its ups and downs, its good days and its bad.

Ultimately, if you made a decent choice in partner, it comes down to whether you’re willing to do the work to stay married.

It’s not for everybody but I can’t imagine the alternative.

Our chance meeting has fairy tale elements to it but marriage is a real life commitment.

We’re a prime example of how opposites attract and find a way to thrive.

In public, she’s the quiet one who has a gift for reading people. I’m the one too busy chatting to catch all of the unspoken subtext in the room.

I’m the athlete and she prefers not to perspire in public. She’s the clean one while I’m only neat. (Trust me, there’s a big difference.)

Despite those contrasts, we share an odd sense of humour. Nobody can crack me up like she can, perhaps because of our shared history. Like all couples, we have our own vocabulary that wouldn’t make much sense to outsiders if they heard it.

When something happens in my life, it’s her that I’m eager to tell first. In 22 years, there have been many great moments and some very sad ones.

We’ve attended as many funerals as weddings and perhaps some of the glue that holds us together has been mixed in the best and worst that life had presented us over two decades.

She’ll continue to make me crazy with her funny little habits and I’ll do the same with her.

But at the same time, she’ll be a big part of the prism that helps my life make sense to me.

From kindergarten to the monkey cage at Winnipeg Zoo to putting the ring on her finger, she’s now the major contributor to a lifetime of my memories.

And I love her for every one.

Organizations: Winnipeg Zoo

Geographic location: Brandon

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