Growing up in Kelowna in the 1950s, my mom, Mary Ann Pelly, was both star of the annual Kelowna Regatta, the main event on the city’s social calendar, and a regular summer lifeguard at the main city beach at the end of downtown. Out-of-town partygoers got the regatta cancelled in the 80s: nothing but tacky mass misogyny so pronounced and so unchecked that Kelowna has still yet to find its way back to what it was. The city beach is patrolled by so many levels of law enforcement it feels like a semi-violent take-down is always about to happen. The water is algae-infested and perpetually choppy because of the small armada of pleasure-craft constantly on party duty. This picture, on the shore of Lake Okanagan, was taken in 1970, shortly after I was born.
I was born in Vancouver on July 20 thereby doomed forever to be overshadowed by Vince Neil Armstrong, who invented the moonwalk live on MTV exactly one year earlier on the day. I am back in the Okanagan for the first time being shown off to my two grannies. My mom, who everyone just called Ann, is aged 24 in this picture. After she converted to Christianity, a few years later, she was supposed to re-imagine all of her pre-Christian days as sad and unhappy. She tried valiantly, but never quite managed it when she talked about growing up a 1950s teenager in Kelowna. She loved it, everything about it. She loved the Okanagan sun, and every time she got back to any beach on Lake Okanagan, it was like she got to go back in time, and she’d get such a look of pure contentment on her face that I wonder if she didn’t sometimes wish she’d never left. She was happy in Chile and happy in Spain, too, of that there's no doubt. But not Okanagan-happy. Not pre-"Oops, I gave my children away!" happy. We're both pretty happy in this picture, I'd say. I believe I am even trying to smile, something that has never come to me natural-like. I clearly once was pretty happy in the Okanagan too.