Sunday, February 22, 2009

towards a big decision

When I left off, David was on his way to Spain and I was alone for one of the longest months of my life. I spent that afternoon wandering around downtown, and bought myself a cheap bead ring to wear on my ring finger until he got back (keep the boys away) and a notebook so that I could write to him every day and give it to him when he got back. Then I set about keeping myself sane for thirty days. It was not always easy—I tend to be anxious and it did not help that there were bombings in London at this time, and I was worried in general about unknown “dangers of travel”. David, ever thoughtful, sent me a letter a week. He’d message me on MSN, and there were the occasional emails. He even phoned once, but that was just to tell me about an exhibit of Marian manuscripts that I was missing by staying in BC! I went over to his parents once while he was gone, but I found it too hard to be at his house without him. So, I spent my time working and visiting with friends and building a dollhouse—anything to keep me occupied. I also, for one of the few times in my life, felt the budding of a nicotine addiction. I permitted myself one clove cigarette a week, which I’d usually smoke on the doorstep of my apartment building while gazing off into the summer dusk and waiting for another week to pass by.

Finally the day of his return came. I don’t remember how I occupied myself that day—probably sitting excitedly at my desk and counting the minutes. Then it was time to head downtown. I knew his family would be just as excited to see him as I was so I didn’t expect much time with him, but by a stroke of luck (for me) they were late to the bus station. His bus pulled in and he stepped off, gripped my shoulders, gave me a look I’ll never forget, and kissed me. Then his dad and sisters showed up and we drove off to Langford for dinner and presents and stories. David showered me with gifts and wouldn’t let me leave his sight. It was so nice. I had to work the next day, but after that we spent the remaining bits of summer together every day, non-stop, until school started. Then it was into our last year of university.

The final year of a BA can be very unsettling, as all of a sudden the future looms unknown. We both had to decide what we planned to do after graduation, with the realization that it might mean miles between us. I decided to take time off to see if I really wanted to pursue a graduate degree. David, meanwhile, decided to apply to grad school. I considered my options: move back to Port Alberni, remain in Victoria, move with David to wherever he ended up. I know I prayed and worried a lot about it, but the choice also seemed obvious. I told David that, if he wanted, I’d move with him come September. That affected him more than I thought it would, because to me it seemed to obvious and to him it was so huge. And, that said, we began making plans.

I think some of my family was a little shocked, or at least concerned, that I was considering moving far away from home with a man I wasn’t even engaged too. By this time David and I had already talked about getting married and knew that we would, one day. I, however, at 22 years old was not in a rush—particularly when I did not even know what I wanted to do with my future. I don’t think it helped matters that we were planning to get a two bedroom apartment and live as roommates. Neither of us felt that living common-law was in line with our religious beliefs and convictions, so although we’ve been living together for three years now we have kept this barrier in place. We are not a family, yet.

Stress and anxiety about the future aside, this last year in Victoria was near bliss for me. I moved into my own apartment in December, 2005. I had a balcony and an ocean view, and I lived near everything I loved about Victoria. It was so nice after four years of always living with or around people to have my own space. David, of course, spent a lot of time over and I have all these lovely memories of take out Chinese or pizza, snack-dashes to the Market on Yates, walks around downtown Victoria, and parties at our friends’ places in the same building. It was so lovely, and perhaps made more so because I knew that each day was closer to the last. In July we managed to get away on a camping trip with our friend Hannah and I found myself trying to memorize every bit of the Island for when I had to leave it.

The school year wound to a close. David accepted an offer from the University of Alberta. I was happy, because I had family there and because due to the labour shortage I knew I’d be able to find a job. Housing was quite worrisome due to the shortage, but thankfully my cousins had just bought a house with a 2-bedroom suite upstairs and were more than happy to rent it to us. Although I didn’t manage to find a job in Edmonton before we left, I at least had enough money saved to see me through at least a month of unemployment.

Moving was stressful. I left Victoria for good and made three trips back to Port with my belongings. My parents had offered to drive us and whatever we could fit in their minivan. David’s family was going to ship the rest of our belongings. There was so much tension in the air about packing—what to bring, how much room in the van etc. At times I questioned my sanity in moving to Edmonton. The day for moving finally arrived. We crammed the vehicle within an inch of its life and drove off. One night in Vancouver, where I said goodbye to my extended family. Then, 14 hours towards Alberta and the beginning of a new stage in life.

We arrived late at night and quickly unpacked. As we brought the last few things into the house a hailstorm broke, which seemed to me at the time as if all the powers of hell were unleashing their fury against us for making it this far. Given the testing and growth that occurred there, I’m not so sure that I was wrong in this initial assessment! But, for the time being, it was just a matter of me running around trying to get our household in order while David ran about the university doing all the little bureaucratic business things that come with a new degree. My parents stayed for a couple of days to help us out by driving us around. Then they were gone and we were alone. I set out to look for work, and David began his studies. And our first four months in Edmonton set out to greet us with unpleasant surprises…

David & I on a visit to Port Alberni
David after diving into a pile of boxes during unpacking in Edmonton.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

together at last

I really should be studying for a latin exam. I have ten pages of verbs (each with four parts and a translation) to memorize for Thursday afternoon. But…
Moving back to Victoria that September was the first time I’d been excited to move back after a summer at home. I think I moved back on a Monday, and David was too busy with family stuff (his mum’s birthday and sisters returning from their vacation abroad) to see me until Wednesday. After my parents left town I aimlessly wandered around downtown Victoria, hoping to bump into David. No such luck. By Tuesday I’d had enough. After five months apart it was torture to be in the same city as him and still unable to spend time together. I decided to surprise him at work. I dressed up a little (which at the time in my life meant wearing a skirt over my jeans) and went downtown to Vinnie’s. I know love must have crept into my face because a random stranger tried to pick me up on the bus. Aside from that, I made it downtown without incident and walked into the store where I was happy to see that David was working the front till. So I leaned on the counter and waited for him to turn around. And when he turned around he literally did a double take because he couldn’t believe that after a summer of thinking he was seeing me around town but knowing he wasn’t I’d actually materialize before his eyes. We hung out for a bit after work that day, and then he had to rush home. I came over the next day and we spent the whole day together, our last free day before school started. He had saved an unopened LP of “Autumn Leaves” in honour of the occasion and we spent the day listening to records and hanging out. It was so lovely.

The school year began. I remember having numerous grass fights with David on the UVic lawns where we’d eat lunch. We started a new tradition of reviewing our Latin translations together each morning before class. And, I don’t know exactly how it happened, but over the first few weeks of school we became nearly inseparable. I have many beautiful memories from this time.

As we were finally together we had the chance to do things! And thus began various happy adventures. In October we celebrated our first gift-giving occasion together, namely my birthday, where David surprised me with a beautiful gold & peridot fleur-de-lis necklace. A week later we went to see the opera “Norma”, beginning our love of opera and questing after season tickets year after year. That weekend I also took David over to Vancouver to meet some of my extended family. They seemed to approve. We also started going on day trips to explore the Gulf Islands. Before we moved away we had made it to Mayne, Pender, and Salt Spring.

That was also the year that I got to finally experience a much fuller life than what I’d been living. I began hanging out with David’s friends and going to the club Evolution, where we spent many a Monday and Wednesday night dancing like crazy and having a blast. We went to a bunch of parties (including one with people sword fighting. That was awesome) and concerts (Gwar, Blue Oyster Cult, April Wine, Bob Dylan to name a few). I know some of my friends do not understand the appeal of say, Gwar, but David notes that concert as a real turning point in our relationship. He knew that I was a good Catholic girl, which he thought was awesome, but wasn’t sure how I’d respond to more secular activities. Apparently my reaction of utter glee at a concert where I was sprayed with fake blood, watched intergalactic warriors attack various dummies on stage, and saw way more man-butt-in-leather-codpiece than I normally do settled it for him. It also settled things for me. Although I take my spirituality very seriously, I am not one who likes to be very serious. I had known for a long time that if I wanted to be happy in a relationship I would need to find someone who could love me for who I am—be it me meditating and praying in church, or me cursing like a sailor and slamming back rum & cokes. I wanted to be with someone who could help me realize my full potential in becoming a well-rounded person, and I knew this wouldn’t happen with anyone other than someone who could love me without trying to control one side or the other. I am lucky.

All this said, it was not the easiest of years. I was having a really hard time in school and I wasn’t handling my stress well. I also had yet to realize that I cannot drink very often without becoming depressed. Although we’re not the type to have a huge blow-up, we had some very tense times…all corrected by good conversation, but still. It was not always easy.

As summer approached I knew I didn’t want to move back to Port. David was planning to spend all of August in Spain, and I wanted every minute I could have with him before he left. I had thought that five months apart was hard, but at least then we could communicate. I knew Spain meant a month of being unable to contact him at all. It was looming in my mind as the scariest relationship thing I had to face yet. So I took a horrible job at Value Village, sorting donated clothing for 40 hours a week, and I lived in a horrible fire-trap apartment for the cheap rent I could afford, and I tried to squeeze as much fun as possible into the summer while dreading each day that drew us closer to August. I was an emotional basket case. Then August came, and the next thing I knew David was on a bus heading to the airport and I was, yet again, standing alone on Douglas with a kiss burning on my lips and a heart full of sorrow.

David & I at Evo. I love his hair in this picture.

More Evo. This is for "aww" effect. I think my cousin took it...

Dressed up to go to the opera. I don't know which one.

In the Japanese Garden on Mayne Island

Hanging out at Steve's in the summer

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

a proper ring

After two foiled attempts David and I finally made it ring shopping on Saturday. It was quite a fun day, which is just what I wanted. I mean, who wants to be glum while buying an engagement ring? We decided to go to the Toronto Jewelry Exchange. One of our friends got his fiancĂ©’s ring there and suggested it as a good place to go. I had also noticed their prices in the window when I was downtown one day and thought they would probably have something more in our price range than Peoples etc. would. I mean, we are students.

It was so much fun to stroll through this giant jewelry mall looking at hundreds of different rings. I ended up getting the second ring I saw, but we looked at all the different jewelers’ wares before deciding. The woman who sold me my ring had said that I should go with the one that gave me the happiest feeling, and based on my initial reaction she knew I’d be back (which ended up being true). I guess it was that obvious that I liked it. It’s funny, because the ring embodies three things I said I did not want—white gold, hearts, and diamonds surrounding a sapphire. But I found it so pleasingly crafted that I just could not find anything I liked better. Only one other ring came close, and it was not a unique setting like this one.

We were also both distracted for a while by an antique-style sapphire setting, similar to a ring I’d found online (you may remember it Hannah--I think I found it on the site we looked at together). Fortunately David noticed I did not seem to have the same reaction to it as I’d had to the ring I got, because we were close to buying it. It was actually hard for me to choose—the ring I got is much nicer and of finer quality, but I really love antique settings and am more generally drawn to “old fashioned” things. The sapphire in it was crooked, no matter which way I turned it—and who wants a crooked stone? So we stepped outside and talked and settled on the one I got: 18 carat white gold, a heart shaped blue sapphire (it’s a plump, jolly little heart, the only kind I like), surrounded by 14 diamonds (they are clustered enough together that they don’t look spiky, which is what I dislike on most rings where gemstones are surrounded by diamonds).

They were able to resize the ring in under two hours, so while that was happening I took David out to lunch at Hard Rock CafĂ©. It was quite fun—we were both full of a happy glow of being engaged and having [finally] gotten the ring. At the restaurant the margarita I ordered was so full of salt that you couldn’t taste anything else, so I sent it back and because of that the manager kept dropping by to make sure we were enjoying our meal. The extra attention made lunch even nicer. We are both so busy with school that we haven’t had this much time to devote to being together and doing something fun in a while. It was so lovely to be out of the house, focusing on our relationship instead of on school/housework, so lovely to be alone together.
I am really into symbolism and I think that is one of the reasons I love the elements of this ring so much. White symbolizes purity. Blue: loyalty, strength, new beginnings, faith, protection (among others). Sapphires and diamonds both stand for eternity/forever. Hearts, of course, for love. The midnight blue of the sapphire, surrounded by the twinkling diamonds, reminds me of both deep spiritual nights and nights star-gazing with David, and blue & white also happen to be the colours of the Virgin (although one could argue that hers is not a midnight blue). You may think I’m reading too much into a ring, but I appreciate my ability to read this much into it and to take it beyond the regular symbolism of an engagement ring and into something truly special to me. I cannot say that I chose it with all these thoughts in mind, but they have been forming since I brought it home.

The ring David proposed with.

Heading out for our adventure

My lovely ring