The Blue Purse

  • Downhome Magazine
  • Posted: Feb 16, 2011 11:55 AM
In the summer of 1960, Linda, a 15-year-old girl from Toronto, arrived in Twillingate, Newfoundland. She had come from the big city to spend a two-week vacation visiting relatives and becoming familiar with her Newfoundland roots. The beautiful blonde from "away" quickly caught the eye of many of the local boys.

One of those young men was my 15-year-old brother, Alastair. He was handsome, charming and considered one of the local heartthrobs. They were introduced by a mutual friend at the local teenage hangout and were soon inseparable. They swam in the ocean, had picnics on the beach and took many long walks. Linda's relatives lived a six-kilometre walk from our house, but that didn't deter them from spending time together.

Her vacation was over all too soon and Linda had to return home. With tearful goodbyes and promises to write, she boarded the plane.

Having no other forms of communication in those days, Alastair and Linda exchanged letters by snail-mail and shared the rare pleasure of long-distance calls over the next 10 months. Linda persuaded her parents to allow her to spend the next summer in Twillingate. As the summer passed, they grew closer and were now convinced their love would last forever. And so it continued for the next four years - their summers spent sharing their love, while phone calls and letters filled in the long, lonely times in between.

Linda soon became an important person to our family as a whole. During one of her summer visits, my mother decided to give her a very special gift: a purse.

The purse was a family heirloom that my grandfather, an avid antique collector, had given my mother in 1940. It was a small, blue, hand-beaded, Victorian evening bag. My mother brought it from Scotland when she came to Newfoundland as a war bride in 1946. It was a family treasure that my mother felt was an appropriate gift for a wonderful girl who she hoped would someday become her daughter-in-law.

Then in 1967, much to our disappointment, Linda and Alastair drifted apart. Now in their early 20s, Alastair was in British Columbia travelling with the Centennial Caravan while Linda remained working in Toronto. Whether it was distance, timing or personal reasons, their lives took different paths.

And despite promises to stay connected, over the years we lost touch with Linda as her life and ours moved in a million different directions. Years passed with no contact.

In 1983, Alastair, by then a divorced father of three lovely daughters, moved to Ottawa. And Linda eventually moved east to Prince Edward Island with her husband and children. Coincidentally, my husband and I visited P.E.I. every summer and, without knowing it, passed by Linda's home on many occasions. I often wonder how many times our paths had almost crossed over the past 40 years.

Then, last spring Alastair received a "friend" request on Facebook from a Lynn Reid. Having no recollection of that name, he decided to ignore it. After a few days, his curious nature got the better of him and he clicked the accept box. Imagine his shock when he discovered that Lynn was actually Linda from his youth. She had been trying to locate any of the family for years, as she had something she needed to return.

Alastair called to tell me that it was Linda's wish that I should now have the blue purse. Not wasting any time, I called Linda to offer my deep appreciation for her dogged determination to return the treasured heirloom. Over the next few weeks we chatted by phone and quickly slipped back into the comfort of our old friendship. I was sad to learn she was recently widowed. Now fully realizing the fragility of life, she was determined to get to work on her "bucket list" - and returning the purse was surely on it.

During one of our many long chats, Linda mentioned she was coming to Ontario at the end of April. I immediately invited her to our home (I had since moved to Ottawa) and convinced her she would be the perfect surprise guest at a 65th birthday party I was hosting for Alastair on May 2. With some trepidation on her part, and lots of cajoling on mine, she finally agreed to come.

Linda flew in a couple of days before the party and before long she was once again an integral part of our family. And, of course, she returned the treasured blue purse. The next step was the party - and her face-to-face with Alistair for the first time in more than 40 years. I must admit I had some anxiety. Would they be upset with me if things were awkward?

It turns out, there was nothing to worry about. While the first half-hour of their meeting may have been a little strained, when I saw him reach for her hand I felt some satisfaction that my brilliant plan might actually be working.

Linda returned to P.E.I. the next day while Alastair remained in Ottawa. I wondered if distance would rear its ugly head again. But phone calls, emails and chats online, so much faster and easier than in the 1960s, became their new love line.

Alastair travelled to visit Linda in June to "help her set up a website for her business," he told me. "Yeah, right," I thought to myself, smiling.

Before long they shared the news that they were in love and that Alastair would be moving to P.E.I. in the spring of 2011. Alastair made a return visit to P.E.I. in early August with an engagement ring and the hope that Linda would say yes. The ring, like the blue purse, also has a rich family history. It had belonged to our mother from an engagement to a Scottish sailor during the war. Sadly he was one of the casualties when his ship, the Hood, was sunk in May 1941. I believe that young man was a lost love in my mother's life, for she treasured the ring all those years. Luckily, in this case, a lost love came full circle, as Linda accepted the ring and Alastair's proposal.

Timing definitely played an integral part in this love story. I'm sure both of them were resigned to a lonely life and the chance of finding love again seemed an impossible dream. How wonderful that my mother's gift - the blue purse - brought them together to share a love that, at this time in their lives, was clearly meant to be.

The happy couple are planning a wedding for the spring of 2011. When the beautiful bride recites her vows, she'll be clutching the small, blue purse that played such a vital role in this love story; it will be her something old, something borrowed and something blue. My mother originally gave Linda this gift with love and hopes for a bright future; I'll return it to her, as I believe she is its rightful owner.