{Project Gold} Fifty Years of Memories – Plus Ate Six

In lieu of a Valentine’s recipe today {because you all know by now, ‘we’ don’t do romance in this house} I’m sharing with you the biggest love story in my life.

It’s a bit of a long one – grab a coffee and a tissue.

Fifty years ago, on January 22nd 1965, my folks were married in Adelaide.

Dad had arrived in Sydney as a Ten Pound Pom from Manchester. Mum’s story – well, it’s hard to know where to start. Mum landed in Adelaide, an orphaned holocaust survivor and refugee from Poland in 1958, not speaking a word of English. How their two universes collided is the stuff of legends – I truly believe you can’t out run destiny.

Somehow, Dad managed to get tickets to the 1966 World Cup and took Mum kicking and screaming back to England. They set up a business, raised three children and then in 2004 sold up, left friends and memories behind and retired to Melbourne in 2004 where myself and Middle Brother were living.

They have fitted more than a lifetime of  achievements and memories into those fifty years.

How on earth would we celebrate this achievement? A couple of years ago, I came across this beautiful tribute – Sixty Years of Memories, pinned it and filed it away for future reference. Well, the years went by and 2015 was creeping closer and closer. So in December 2013 {yes!} when I was back home for Christmas, I sneakily took photos of every single page of Mum’s address book. I couldn’t get close to Dad’s PC to go through their email addresses because if one of us as much as glances at the computer it stops working and it’s all our fault {I’m sure this happens in other houses too? No? Oh OK!}

Between the three of us we came up with this letter.

Hello everyone!

You’re receiving this email because at some point you have crossed paths with our parents, Peter and Barbara Jenkins and we would like to invite you to be involved in ‘Project Gold’.

You may or may not know, but Mum and Dad will celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary on 22nd January 2015. Here they are looking all gorgeous and glam on the day – Dad still had hair and Mum has a touch of Jackie O!

What is Project Gold?

As you know, Dad likes to tell a good nostalgic (and occasionally funny) story and Mum likes to interrupt (and only occasionally contradict) him.

What we are asking, is for you to contribute a memory or a story you may have of either or both of them and help us create 50 years of memories and stories from friends and family around the world.

So what can you do to help?

If you have a spare moment in the next few days, we would be very grateful if you’d jot down a favorite memory you have of our parents and send it our way (details below).

It doesn’t have to be an essay and it doesn’t have to look pretty and take a lot of time – just a story or memory you would like to share. It might be heart-warming, funny, or just a wonderful memory of great times shared together. Don’t feel that you have to limit yourself to just one memory – the more the better. And the more nostalgic the better too!

We will put each memory (hopefully 50 in total) into an envelope and present them all to the oldies for their anniversary.

There might be better pictures of us than this, but we thought a sense of nostalgia would prompt some good memories for you!

One last thing. …. Please don’t mention this to them!

Mum and Dad are planning on keeping their anniversary low key and probably won’t mention it to a lot of people so we would love to be able to keep this project a secret and really surprise them on the day.

Thank you all for taking the time to send through your memories to celebrate this amazing milestone with us.

Much love,

Nancy, Middle Brother and Little Brother xxx

The letter was translated into Polish, a Project Gold email address set up and emails and letters sent around the world.

I wasn’t sure really what to expect – I was just hoping no one would let our secret out and spoil the surprise.

What we got back was beyond our wildest imaginations and left us speechless many times over {not a typical Jenkins trait I can assure you!}

Every morning I’d open up the emails and sit and read with tears in my eyes the most touching and funny memories. I’d forward the emails onto my brothers and we’d remember certain events and people from our childhoods.

More poignantly though, we came to see a totally different side to our parents. We saw them as their friends saw them – funny, vital, compassionate, loyal and generous people. All the characteristics you don’t appreciate and can’t see when you growing up.

Little did we know though, just how ‘low key’ Mum and Dad were planning on keeping their anniversary.

In true Jenkins style, they decided they wanted to do it their way and booked themselves on a 28 day cruise around S.E. Asia leaving from Hong Kong four days before their anniversary.

Rich and I asked if it would be OK for us to meet them in Hong Kong for the weekend so we could take them out for dinner for their anniversary.

And again, in true Jenkins style, Middle Brother & Little Brother decided they had to be in on the action and gatecrashed MY weekend with MY parents in Hong Kong. To be fair, Middle Brother came from Melbourne and Little Brother from London and both left their families at home for the weekend, so it was actually a big deal.

And here we all are. Yes, I missed out on the height genes but at least I inherited Mum’s hair

Over the weekend in Hong Kong we sat with Mum and Dad and presented them with their Box of Memories. Mum had an envelope with the Polish letter and Dad had the English version {it so wouldn’t have worked the other way around!} and together they read the letter we sent around the world.

We had memories from one of Mum’s bridesmaids, Dad’s oldest friend {they met when they were three years old}, friends they had made on holiday over thirty years ago and still kept in touch with, friends from their business days and of course the new friends they have made in Australia. We contacted relatives in Canada, the States, Poland, UK, Israel and Australia. We each wrote our own letter to Mum and Dad {that’s no easy task – a few tears were shed writing that one!}, our partners did, in-laws and some of our friends who have met Mum and Dad through the years.

We opened four together and of course there were a few {more} tears so Mum took charge and said she wanted to take the letters on the cruise so they could read them on their actual anniversary. There are certainly some common themes in the letters:

1) Mum is definitely the boss of Dad {he’s still in denial}

2) Mum is a feeder and there were many mentions of Mum’s food and the delicious smells in the kitchen

3) Dad’s always been a bit of a joker

4) Dad’s lifelong love and passion for football – he still gets up at 4am Melbourne time to watch a game in the UK

They are still on the cruise {currently in Singapore} and there has been radio silence from them apart from one email to tell us they are still alive and that internet access is too expensive on board.

I hope when they read their letters they realise how important they are to so many people and how loved they are by so many.

It’s as much a gift to us as a family as it is a gift just for Mum and Dad. In the end it turned into something far bigger than just fifty envelopes in a box.

I know that red box containing Fifty Years of Memories is going to be treasured for many years to come.

Happy 50th Anniversary Mum and Dad – here’s to celebrating many more together xx

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