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Interlude: Getting to know you – An open letter to Her.

imageTo say that I’m happy with my new life would be an understatement and I hope I speak for Her and MIssy when I say the feeling is mutual.
But as with all relationships, there has to be some kind of transitional period, the accelerated emotional learning curve that helps you to really understand how to nurture that happiness.

As you know, if you’ve followed our story from the start, She and I had been friends for a long time before we realised we were falling in love. In that time we had got to know each other pretty well, considering we had spent the vast majority of our friendship nearly 4000 miles apart.
But it isn’t until you spend time living together that you find out all the things you don’t know about the one you plan to share the rest of your life with.

Oh, I always knew there would be cultural differences, homesickness, occasional linguistic barriers (the old “two countries separated by a common language” cliché) and various other adjustments to my routine and lifestyle, all of which I was only too happy to make. But the actual process of getting to know someone, well that’s a different kettle of fish altogether.

At this point I should probably say that I might not be the easiest bloke to live with. Not that I’m intentionally difficult or awkward, but maybe there are facets of my personality which need some adjustment.

You can’t really predict what someone is going to be like to live with until….well, until you’ve lived with them for a while. So for the last few weeks I have been attempting to attenuate the me-ness of me, because although I’m quite happy being me, I’m perfectly well aware that others might not be so thrilled about it.
It has made me very conscious of how tone of voice, body language, micro-expressions and other non-verbal communication can affect the way others see us and most of the time I take notice of this and try to moderate myself and my behaviour, in order to not upset the woman I have fallen so deeply in love with.
And do you know what? The process of de-me-ing me, for the sake of Her and Missy, has somehow given me back the me that I most like being.
If you see what I mean.

However, every now and then I take my eye off the ball, so to speak, and a little too much of the old me leaks through.
That isn’t to say that I’m mean, rude or obnoxious on purpose, but sometimes I don’t take long enough to think about what’s coming out of my brain before I let it escape from my big mouth.

I am trying though, because there’s nothing I’d hate more than causing Her or Missy the slightest distress if I can help it.
So I can only apologise for any slips of the tongue, inadvertent snarkiness or thoughtless comments that may not translate the way I mean them to.
I’ve always known that She is sensitive and caring in a way that I’ve seldom experienced before and, despite Her best attempts at coming to terms with our time together, I feel it is my responsibility to make the extra effort, easing them both into a new and strange life that will, if I pay close attention, be the best thing that’s happened to all of us.

The love of my new life grows daily, so if I can only stop being quite so me, I think that we will all be happier than I could have ever imagined.

Getting Chris-Missy.

imageI’m not really one to “do” Christmas. Not usually anyway.

But this year has been different.

With school breaking up the Friday before Christmas and me still working until the following Wednesday, She and Missy had plenty of time to raise the festivity level of our little household several notches.
She decorated the front door with a wreath, the garden fences with ribbon-trimmed fir swags and the living room with floral displays, all using the foliage of a large conifer we’d just had cut down in the back garden, while Missy made colourful paper ornaments for our modest little tree (small enough that it could stand on the coffee table, the only available space) and I helped make paper chains and an origami star.

So when I finally finished work on Christmas eve, (with fantastic generosity, given the lack of any kind of Christmas bonus, they let us go at lunchtime) it really was just a case of checking the list, checking it twice and then, with everything suitably organised, going to the pub.
Even that was a low-key affair. The three of us strolled around a local village, where I picked up one last little gift for Her, a porcelain heart with the words “Happy Ever After Begins Today” painted on it, then we went for a quick drink and a game of pool before returning to our small but cosy and festive flat for the rest of the evening.
She made up some “reindeer food” (dry oats mixed with glitter) and, along with a couple of carrots, this was ceremoniously placed on the decking in the garden by an excitable six year old wearing red felt antlers.
Homemade ginger cookies were left out for Santa and a sneakily-purchased stocking was surreptitiously filled, after Missy had finally yawned her way to bed, solemnly saying that she’d “…go back to sleep if I hear sleigh bells at nighttime.”

As I was expecting to be woken at some highly uncivilized hour, it was a pleasant surprise to hear MIssy’s whisper of barely-contained excitement at 9a.m. telling us that Santa had left loads of gifts and asking if it was time for her to start opening them.
And so it began.

The bulging stocking was dismembered first, accompanied by wide-eyed exclamations of delight that Santa had unfailingly supplied all the must-haves of the moment, followed by a cooked breakfast and a Skype call to my mum, my sister and her kids, (MIssy’s two “new cousins” who she was so keen to meet in person) after which I took a trip in the car to pick up my old friend Chris.

Chris, (one of the people who had so generously helped us with the cost of visas) was just beginning to recover from his latest round of chemotherapy treatment and was now feeling up to spending Christmas with us, although not yet able to drive.
I had already arranged to pick him up, but had neglected to buy any petrol the day before, so I took a gamble and drove the forty minutes or so into the middle of Exmoor, sincerely hoping that his car would have enough fuel to make the return journey. The plan was that I’d take a can of petrol with us when I dropped him back on Boxing Day, refill my car and drive home.
Despite various warning lights urgently flashing at me from the dashboard for the last half of the drive, I just made it to Chris’s place and we made our way back home in bright, unseasonably warm winter sunshine and started celebrating in earnest.

More Skype connections were made with Her and MIssy’s friends back in the States, accompanied by glasses of Buck’s Fizz and the ongoing present-opening ceremony.
Missy presented me with a collage picture of Santa that she’d made and a whole box of Brazil nuts with a homemade dark chocolate and chili coating. A pair of traditional Christmas socks (emblazoned with the legend “Bah Humbug”) did nothing to detract from the happiness I felt as I watched the people I love getting to know each other and enjoy the simple pleasures of a quiet Christmas at home together.
Chris, unable to eat much more than a mouthful of solid food for the last few months, even joined us for dinner, very obviously enjoying the orange and rosemary-roasted ham and bacon-fried sprouts that She prepared for us, making my Christmas even happier.
Seeing my friend in such good spirits and such good company, after the tough year he’d had, that in itself was enough to lift my mood, Christmas or not.

Missy took to Chris immediately, practicing tricks from her new magic set on him and chattering away about how she wanted to go to his dad’s farm and pet the horses that were stabled there, something we arranged to do in the days to come.

We chatted, we ate, we drank and we laughed.
What more did we need?

The weather on Boxing Day morning wasn’t quite as promising as Christmas and we postponed the tentatively-planned horse petting visit until later in the week, choosing instead to laze around in the warm until it was time to drive Chris home, (after a quick stop at the garage, to allow me to buy a can and liberally spray myself with unleaded whilst filling it up) this time making the journey in horizontal rain, fog and high winds.
She had packed Chris off with a big tub of hearty and nourishing home-cooked potato and bacon soup, one of her specialties, making sure he also took a chunk of Her wonderful ginger cake too, already touchingly concerned about his weight loss and evidently considering it Her mission to feed him up.
Successfully negotiating the gales and flooding roads and returning Chris to his dad’s beautiful 16th century farmhouse, I said my goodbyes, refuelled my empty car and drove home to spend the remainder of the day nibbling on festive left-overs and watching TV.

Missy declared it “The best Christmas ever!” and I really couldn’t ask for a better testimonial than that.