100. Full circle

 

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Yesterday, we drove down to Kingston, Just outside of Princeton, to see the oldest bridge in America and to satisfy my shutter-bug obsession. It was a beautiful, warm day and after wandering about for a bit we decided we’d head for our favourite brewpub in Long Valley and enjoy a couple of their fine ales.

As we sat outside supping our beers, It all seemed very familiar. The day was very like those I’d experienced on my very first trip to visit Jersey girl. The kids are currently  away at their Grandmother’s, just as they were back then.

I reminded my wife that this very brewpub was the first place we ever went out to dinner together. And that’s when it hit us. This was actually the five year anniversary of that very meal.

Somehow, completely unintentionally, we’d ended up back at the place where we had our first proper date. I was kind of stunned at the almost audible click of that long five-year circle finally closing.

That’s not the first such instance lately either. A few months ago, after our last Immigration interview had been successfully navigated, we stopped off at the Clinton Diner for some lunch and while sitting there had remembered that this was the very first diner we ever visited together.

We’d chosen, on that day of all days, to eat in the first place we ever went together (didn’t count as a first date, though, it was just breakfast).

On top of that, we have recently been forced to move house (and towns) and quite fortuitously have ended up back in the town where JG was living when we two first met.

It all feels like completion, like all the strings are finally being tied. There’s a sense, we both feel, that we are where we are meant to be and that the path ahead is clearer than ever.

This is Loveletter 100* and feels like a good place to end. I don’t suppose anyone will ever read through all 100 entries but for anyone that might, I think the story has the capability to inspire.

I don’t think there was a single person who actually believed that a relationship that began on social media between two people on opposite sides of the world had a snowball’s chance in Hell; not one.

No one, that is, except those same two people. We knew to the very core of our souls that we would succeed, that no matter what was thrown at us and no matter how hard the journey, we would ultimately be together.

Time has proven us right and yesterday was a reminder that anything in this world is possible, you just have to want it enough.

 

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*If you’re new to this blog and you want to know what it’s all about, you can go to the Love letters section and start reading.

 

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99. The Wish

 

They say you end up marrying your mother. I don’t think that’s strictly true but I did end up marrying a mother. Jersey girl and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on Friday and today it’s Mother’s Day here in America.

When I made my commitment to Jersey, I also knew I was committing to her three kids (all girls) and I knew she was a mother first and everything else second. I completely understood that, as it had always been my approach to parenting too.

I also knew that all of this could fall over – and I would be done – if, when I met her kids, they didn’t accept me. I guess I’m living a charmed life because they took to me far better than I ever had a right to expect.

And so, in the end, I didn’t just find a wife, I found a family waiting for me on the other side of the world. A family that admitted, not only me but my own son right along with me.

My boy has visited us three times since I arrived here permanently and has been welcomed with open arms not only by Jersey and the girls but the extended family as well. My wife has embraced her new adult son as if he were her own. This has been a tremendous boon to me as he lost his real mother a little over five years ago.

So, on this rainy Mothers Day in NJ, I just wanted to take a few moments to celebrate a really wonderful mom.

Happy Mother’s Day my love.

 

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And while I’m at it, Happy Mother’s Day to you too, mum. You are so missed. Wish I could just say hi.

 

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98. Prove it all night

 

If dreams came true

Ah, wouldn’t that be nice…

 

Yesterday was a red letter day for Jersey girl and me. We were summoned to the hellish pit known as Newark, New Jersey by the Department of Immigration to give an accounting of our relationship.

That’s a needlessly dramatic way of saying that my first year in the US was up and now we were required to prove, to the satisfaction of a lone bureaucrat, that our marriage was not a sham. This is the part of the process known as Adjustment of Status which, once passed gives the applicant legal permanent resident status.

This was a day that had been hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles since my arrival last March. I mean, it’s not like the marriage isn’t exactly what we claim it to be, both of us (and hopefully you, dear readers) are very much aware of exactly how real it is.

The thing that always gnawed at the back of my mind, however, was just how real it would look from the perspective of a bored government employee with very literal power over our entire future in his or her hands.

There was only one way to discover the answer to that nagging question.

The drive into Newark was not too bad but finding a park proved challenging (especially the one lot staffed by a lone, toothless Nigerian who couldn’t comprehend our English and whose own brand of same we could not decipher). Eventually, though, we found a place to stash the car and arrived on time at the fortress that all government buildings seem to be in this country.

Our lawyer, big surprise, was twenty minutes late showing up but, despite being told by the callow youth behind the sign in desk that the wait times were one to two hours, my name was called within twenty minutes and we were soon sitting across the table from an unassuming but very businesslike young man.

I won’t bore you all with a blow by blow (and I’m not sure the Department would be happy with me if I did – I think they like to keep the process mysterious) but the interview itself was relatively painless as we sat side by side and tried to appear like two people who know each other intimately – which, of course, is what we are.

People always say ‘be yourself’ but it’s funny how, under certain stimuli, we can struggle to remember who that is. Suffice to say, our interviewer seemed convinced by the end of our conversation and gave his tentative assurance that all would be fine. the Caveat to that was that if he checked my files and discovered any dark past type secrets then all deals were off. I’m pretty confident that all deals remain on.

We’ll have the official answer in the next fortnight or so. We’re not worried. Currently, we are looking for a new place to live and there’s even talk of buying something in the not too distant future.

Oh, the best question from the interview?

Interviewer: Do you intend to act against the US, by which I mean commit an act of terrorism or insurgency?
Me: Do a lot of people answer ‘yes’ to that question?

What a wacky world.

 

 

©2018

 

97. Straight to you

 

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I travelled 16,618 km (103256 miles) to be with my wife. At least, that is the distance, as the crow flys, between Melbourne Australia and New Jersey. Of course, I made the trip five times before that final permanent one. Five times both ways; 166,180 km plus the final trip bringing the total to 182,798 km or 113,585.411 miles.

Any way you cut it, that’s a lot of travel hours; a lot of time spent jammed into undersized airplane seats listening to babies cry and people snore, a lot of time dashing through strange airports trying not to miss my connection, a lot of time being irradiated in body scanners and harangued by the TSA.

Add to that the heartbreaking farewells at the end of each of those five visits and the weeks of depression once I’d returned to Melbourne and the whole thing feels a little Homerespue; at the very least, it is an epic(ish) poem of devotion and unflagging determination.

Was it worth it? Was all the lost sleep, longing, anxiety, and sheer discomfort worth the final reward?

Absolutely.

Jersey girl and I recently passed the one year mark in our real life together. One year living under the same roof. One year living as a family. It has been challenging, rewarding, vexing, and, at times, downright confusing but mostly it has felt like home. We live well together. Our chemistry has survived close and prolonged proximity. If there was a honeymoon period, it is still very much in effect.

I wake up every day and thank the universe for this woman with whom I now share my world. She has shown me what true love and devotion really are.

And my new adopted country?

America, much to my surprise has become a strange fascination to me. I have felt myself falling in love with her too. Her seasons, her moods, her people, and her beating heart (New York) have captured me in ways and with an intensity, I never would have guessed could happen to me.

There is a feeling that anything is possible here, that you might discover who you truly are as this vast melting pot of ideas and cultures reflects your persona, your mask, back at you. America will not let you hide from your true self. She demands that you simply be – you.

Challenge accepted.

 

 

96. White Winter Hymnal

 

 

So, I’ve been living with winter in Jersey for a good few weeks now. Not my first experience of winter here as longtime readers of this blog may remember but my first full winter, certainly.

And what are my impressions so far?  Winter in America is cold, baby. I know you folks in places like Michigan or Illinois are probably laughing up a storm at the suggestion that Jersey gets ‘cold’ but for this refugee from a sunburnt country, it’s plenty cold enough.

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However, I haven’t only been hit by successive waves of frigid temperatures. The beauty, too, comes in waves here and it’s not just the snow. As magically transformative as a blanket of snow is in this landscape, there is plenty of beauty to be found after the melt.

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I’ve been struck by the quiet poetry of the colour pallet. Russet dominates here and I love to see whole woods of skeletal trees all painted in those tones.

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The other feature of winter here that I find endlessly fascinating is frozen waters. Whenever I come across a frozen creek or river I become a child lost to wonder. It’s a beauty that comes with its own ache.

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It amazes me that, even on a warmish day, you can find frozen water with ice thick enough to stand on.

My favourite is the snow that looks like icing sugar, making everything, houses, trees, shrubs, look like confectioneries.

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It’s worth suffering some chilled ears and fingers to see these sights that are so foreign to me. I don’t know how I’ll feel about it all after a few more winters. People who’ve experienced far more of them than I are pretty jaded about the beauty, in my experience. I’ll try to keep my sense of wonder intact and keep recording the beauty I see.

 

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Words and images are my own.

 

©2018

 

 

 

95. I want a wonderful life

 

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I didn’t put anything Christmas themed up this year because, well, frankly I’m really not all that in to Christmas.

Bah humbug.

We had a very nice family gathering (it was the first time I’d personally celebrated Christmas in about seven years) and don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it. That said, I don’t get into all the rigmarole that usually goes along with the consumer season.

I did, however, come across an interesting tidbit while perusing NJ.com.

Apparently, for many American’s, the movie It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart is a Christmas tradition not to be flouted. Now, I’ve not seen the movie myself but I get the gist of the message it conveys and I can see why people like to indulge in it around this time of year.

What I wasn’t aware of, was the story’s connection to New Jersey and Hunterdon County (where I now reside) in particular. The movie is set in the fictional upstate New York town of Bedford Falls but the story’s original creator, Philip Van Doren Stern, had a different town in mind when he was writing it; the town of Califon NJ.

We have spent some very happy times in Califon over the years. It’s only about seven miles from home and is a very pretty place to visit. I keep uncovering these odd little factoids since I found my way here to Jersey. I take them as little reminders that I’m where I’m meant to be and that all is on track.

 

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Take it away Jersey boy…

 

94. Thank you

 

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This week I experienced my first ever Thanksgiving as we got together with my wife’s family over a meal to truly feel thankful for. It reminded me of the Christmases of my childhood when my mother and grandparents were all still with us. And that got me ruminating on all I now have again in my life.

It’s been a strange year with a great many highs and lows. I finally made it to the US after an interminable process that, in turns, made me feel like a criminal one moment and a stateless pariah the next. I have tried and failed to express the deep joy I felt upon finally arriving at her door. I guess some things can only be experienced, not told.

I got to see two Springsteen shows before I left Melbourne and then had the amazing experience of seeing him on his home turf of Asbury Park, New Jersey in the tiny Paramount Theatre. And I got to do it with the love of my life as a very special treat on my first birthday in America.

I also got married this year… twice. The first, smaller, wedding was the legit one but the second with all our friends and my wonderful son in attendance was easily the best day of my life.

On the red side of the leger, we have been dragged through bitter emotional and legal battles by my wife’s ex-husband who has the clinical narcissist’s instinct for perceiving when things are going well in our lives and then casually throwing a huge wrench into the cogs. He seems supremely unconcerned that the chaos he unleashes each time affects his own children far worse than it does anyone else.

We also managed to have not one but two car accidents in the space of ten days just recently, which resulted in our beloved car being totalled. Another wrench to deal with but at least no one was hurt.

Flipping back to the black side, though, Jersey girl has at last found a job where she feels both appreciated and where her many talents are allowed to shine. This has been a wish I’ve had for her for so long now and to see her happy and (most days) eager to go to work is a deep joy to me.

I have also been experiencing a creative spurt over the past few months which has kept me away from this blog more than I’d like but which is also giving me a fresh vim that I hope will carry me towards something wonderful. Early days yet but the ride has been very enjoyable so far.

So, ultimately, it’s been a turbulent year but one mostly made up of things to be grateful for. I’m grateful for my new home, my new wife, my lovely new daughters and my incredible son, the beauty all around me, the wonderful people I’ve met and continue to meet, and the continued opportunity to stay in a creative space.

Oh yes, and Mary’s Thanksgiving dinner.

For all of these things, I give thanks.