52. It's like Disneyland, but not.

Once Nook and I had our paperwork from our past to hand, it was time to get the final, and arguably, second most important piece of paper of our lives.  Our marriage license.  We had to see if all the bits and pieces we collected would be enough to satisfy the harsh bureaucrats in Vegas (hah). After our trip to Tiffanys, we hopped in a taxi and told the driver where we wanted to go.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't his first time taking people on this route, and I'm certain it wasn't the first time he had two giddy people in his taxi babbling on about getting married.  He obviously didn't know the entirety of our story, or I am sure he would have been far more impressed.

Whilst the marriage license office isn't 24 hours in Las Vegas, it probably could be.  When we arrived in the early Saturday morning, we were most definitely not the first to have this cunning plan.  We walked up the steps, and really weren't sure what to expect once we opened the door.

Bureaucratic Disneyland.  A back-and-forth queue of colourful and interesting people looking to get their vital piece of paper to permit their plans to move forward.  I'd say there were a good 20 or more couples ahead of us, and about four windows open with staff busily checking documents, stamping things, and (of course) collecting fees.

There were people who were in wedding clothes, there were a few who had a hint of a costume, a few (too many) who brought children along.  A lot of smiles, a few frowns as people realised they didn't have everything in order.

Nook and I asked each other if we were nervous several times, and in all frankness, no, we weren't.  We were taking it all in.  Smiling.  Hugging.  We knew this was for us, and right.  We had all our paperwork, we kept re-checking it, and it was just a matter of waiting.  Waiting our turn to receive a piece of paper which we could use to get another, far more important, piece of paper.  A paper domino, waiting to fall.

Eventually, about an hour after our arrival, it was our turn.

Final window on the row of four.  I explained what we wanted, had cash, had all the paperwork their website mentioned, and handed it over in pretty much the order I figured they'd need it.

We filled out a brief form, making sure they had all the right details.

She looked things over.

And over again.

And looked at our IDs.

And at the paperwork.

And smiled.  Grabbed her Mighty Stamp, and processed.  The engine of bureaucracy has determined that Nook and Chair may marry, the stamps said.

Eventually she handed over a license to marry to us, explained it was only good for a certain amount of time, and said that we'd get the final marriage certificate with appropriate stamps a few weeks after Doing the Deed.

We were overjoyed.  There was no more paperwork before us, blocking us.  We left the building on a bit of a cloud of happiness, and realised we had an important appointment to get to -- meeting Nook's mother for lunch.

Curiously, there weren't any taxis waiting around, so we had to wait a bit for one to finish dropping someone off, claim that for ourselves, and head off to our lunch.

We held hands.  Smiled.  One more step on the path.

51. More paperwork

We all have pasts. In my past, I was married.  It was a very good experience and even though the relationship did not last, we kept in touch and I'd like to think that neither of us bears any ill will towards one another.  We met young, had a very good relationship, but as life experiences took hold, some different directions were sought, and rather than remain together and grow bitter, we had enough maturity and strength of communication to see that which couldn't be "fixed" and went our separate ways.

What many people tend to forget is that modern relationships are less and less about the people, and more and more about the paperwork.  Indeed, I know of many couples who get married purely to acquire that paperwork.

Proving that you're a couple, for how long, with what level of mutual dependence, financial connections, and so on and so forth, all part of establishing yourself, getting credit, making large purchases, etc.

When a relationship comes to an end, there is just as much paperwork, albeit with a more poignant purpose.

Nook and I knew we wanted to get married, we procured the bands, but I also knew that before getting (re-) married I would have to sign something saying I was not married any longer, and likely substantiate that with actual paperwork as proof.

I've moved around the world a few times now, and one thing I've tried to do each time I move is take less and less with me.  I try not to collect too much "stuff" and focus on the essentials, and moving "data" rather than dongles.

That means that as I realised I needed proof I was divorced, I had to reach out to a variety of people and make a very peculiar request: Can you help me prove I'm not married?

Insofar as I could tell, the critical thing was merely to state it, sign a document, and have the exact date when my divorce was finalised.  Oooooooboy.  Dates.

I am bad with dates.  Ask me where I was on June 18th of any year and I'll have no idea.  Heck, ask me where I was a month ago and if I don't check my calendar application, I won't be certain.  I just don't associate the events of my day with a number on a calendar.  I remember the events, the important interactions, but the fact that it was a Tuesday in August means little to me.

Anyway, because the ending of that previous relationship was on such amicable terms, I wasn't one of those men who had a huge party to celebrate "freedom" - I honestly have no idea what date things took hold, as when you get divorced there are all sorts of dates which signify the various levels of divorcedness that you have achieved.  I remember going to the courthouse.  I remember about three sentences from a judge, and signing a document or two.  I also recall that that was just the first stage, and there would be more paperwork in a few months, and that would be the official "date" of the divorce.  Again, it really didn't register with me.

Thankfully, I'm a moderately resourceful sort of person.  With a bit of a rushed flurry of activity, I was able to reach out to the clerk in the county that I likely had my divorce registered.  Coincidentally, she had the same name as someone who was a former colleague, and I actually thought it was the same person.  I left a telephone message, rather a familiar one as I thought I was speaking to someone I once worked with, and included my email address.  This was the exact date that I was getting on the plane to fly off to Nook and maybe, just maybe, get married.

It was a longshot, would this clerk get my voicemail, would they reply, would it be enough?  It turned out all I needed was the exact date of the divorce in order for the State to grant the marriage license...

But I also thought I'd reach out to the ex-wife.  Explain the situation.  She had a better memory for these sorts of things, and I was hopeful she'd know.

And then I got on a plane.

At my first stop, many many hours later, I had an email from the ex-wife.  She had a date, but wasn't entirely sure, and would check her paperwork when she got home from work.

And another email.  From the county clerk I left the voicemail for.

I had the wrong person, it wasn't my former colleague, but, she DID have the information I needed.  She thought it was a very nice voicemail and wished me all the happiness with my new relationship.  Gave me all the details I needed in email.  I still have that email.  I'm somewhat sentimental (just ask Nook).

So that was that.  Divorce date known, and no further proof or documentation was required.

However (you knew there would be a however) there were other bits of paperwork which were required in order for this potential plan to move forward.  Birth certificates.  With fancy stamps to prove authenticity.  Fancy stamps that cost money.

You see, the world has become a very big place (but also a very small one).  People move from location to location much more easily than ever before.  Every community/region/country has their own requirements for proving your identity and becoming known to The System.  In many cases, they want documentation "proving" that you were born.  I've never really understood this.  It's not like a birth certificate would have a useful photo ID associated with it.  A passport from a recognised authority should be more than enough.

But not in the case of getting married.  To get married, you need to get an original copy of your birth certificate, and since one town to another (much less once country to another) really doesn't know what the authoritative document looks like for a given issuing authority, it needs to be authenticated by the application of what's known as an Apostille Stamp. If you're curious, go see the WikiPedia article...

The point for our story, though, was that Nook and I both had to go back to our very beginnings, find an issuing authority capable of the production of such documents, get them ordered, and delivered, in time to get married.  The shorter the notice, the higher the processing fees.  I'm not entirely sure how many hundreds we spent on this, but it was necessary and we didn't complain.  It was just another one of the many pieces which needed to slot together if we were going to make this happen.

We were lucky.  We were resourceful, the Internet was our friend, we were actually able to order all of the documents we needed online and get them processed/sent where we needed, when we needed.  In another era, this would no doubt take months.  Nook and I didn't want to wait months.  We just wanted to get on with our life together.

 

31. Birthday

Best girlfriend ever.  

There are some very painful chapters to come.  Some of the hardest weeks in the lives of Nook and Chair.  There is frustration and a sense of uselessness which will be difficult to convey.

 

But first.

But first I wanted to share a brief story about how I knew I had the best girlfriend ever.

In the midst of all the chaos that was going on in Nook’s life as the fallout from the ending of her past relationship and preparing room in her life for our future, she still somehow managed to take notice of something that showed a kindness and generosity which was a surprise to me, but is also a core part of the essence of Nook.

As has already been mentioned, I have a few gadgets from Apple.  The time now was the end of March, 2010, and Apple had announced the new iPad device, and that it would be available for pre-order and pickup in early April.

Nook, knowing my penchant for things bearing the symbol of the fruit, sent me an email asking me if I wanted her to pre-order an iPad for me, and she would happily pick it up on release day.

When I received that email I had to blink a few times.  I may have even gotten chills.  It wasn’t (just) the prospect of getting an iPad, it was the awareness it showed in Chair from Nook -- that is, even though I hadn’t even mentioned the device, nor my potential interest in it, she spotted it as something that I would likely want, and knowing that it would not be released in the country I reside for many (many, many) months to come, she offered to help keep me in the club of early adopters.

Naturally, I wire transferred to Nook the funds required, but she was able to reserve an iPad, and come release day, she promised she’d pop over to the Apple store near where she worked and pick it up for me.

The timing of this couldn’t have been better.  I had already planned a trip for the following week to visit Nook on my birthday, stay with her for about a week, and spend some time together.  I’ve always been one to buy myself a birthday present, and this time, for the first time in well over a decade, someone I loved dearly was directly a part of that process.

 

Cake, and eat it too.  Sort of.

My birthday week arrived and as with a previous trip to see Nook (well, to meet Nook, actually) I spent the night at a good friend’s house en route to Nook’s city.  We celebrated my birthday there as well, a phenomenal meal was had, beyond superb wines, and I was truly floating on Cloud Nine.

The next day I was off to see Nook again, but this time she was actually going to be meeting me at the airport.

By now you’ve noticed that I’ve got a bit of a sentimental streak, perhaps even romantic, so it will come as no surprise to learn that something I’ve always enjoyed is being at the airport arrivals area and watching friends and family and loved ones get reunited.  The deeper the bond, and the longer the time apart, the more intense the obvious joy and elation the moment that eyes make contact and arms wrap around each other.

Until this trip, I can not remember the last time that I was the one being greeted in this way at an airport.  Actually, I don’t know if it has ever happened.

So when I came down to the baggage collection area, where I had agreed to meet Nook, you can imagine both the nervous trepidation of “will she be here?  Did she change her mind?  Is this really real?” combining with the ecstatic joy, and relief of seeing here sitting there, reading a book, look up, and flash a HUGE smile.

She was there.  She was there for me, for us, and this was real.

It was a lovely ride out to her house from the airport, little traffic, and we were soon at our destination.

Nook showed me around and let me get settled.

She then reached into her closet and pulled out the Apple bag with my iPad within.  I didn’t even open the bag - I was there to be with her, and there would be plenty of time for toys later.  Those who know me know what a statement this is about my feelings for Nook.  Expressed as a bit of pseudo-math: “Nook > *”

But the real present was that Nook had baked me a cake for my birthday!

 

 

 

It was an amazingly sweet gesture, and something I’ll always remember.  We shared a piece together, with a glass of milk of course, and turned in for the night (curse you, jetlag!).

The next day Nook had to work, so she left me at her place.  This actually worked out okay, as I too was able to get some work done, as well as contribute to some household chores that I noticed Nook might appreciate having done  (did you know stalactites can grow inside of microwave ovens?  Me neither!).

I had another pice of cake for lunch that next day, and grinned the whole time.  Nook made me a birthday cake.  Wow.

Unfortunately, the joy that I shared with the cake was soon to end...

That night, after dinner (Nook and I made it together, our first co-prepped meal), during cleanup of the kitchen, Nook used a copious amount of cleaning spray on the kitchen counter.  Tragically, some of the spray made it into the air JUST as Nook was putting the cover over the cake (to keep it safe from her cat).

You can guess what happened.

The entire frosting / surface of the cake was now kitchen cleaner flavoured.  Oops.

It was possible to harvest out a bit of the cake from the inside, but, as we all know, one of the true joys of any cake is the frosting.  Alas.

I have teased Nook a fair bit about that secret ingredient which made my birthday cake so special, but she knows how deeply touched I was that she went to the trouble of making it and what it meant to me to be with her, there, celebrating my birthday.

The rest of that week with Nook was just as spectacular.  We talked a lot about our future, about what we wanted, where we were going, and some of the hurdles we had to overcome to get there.

 

Sparkly.

Nook and I were so comfortable together, as a couple, that one evening as we were sitting on the sofa together, she brought up the topic of engagement rings.  Without missing a beat, I grabbed my laptop, and she promptly showed me what she considered to be her “ideal” engagement ring, qua style and setting.

She was also quick to point out that it was, she knew, an impossible target - the website we were at?  Tiffany.com.  The ring was, to be sure, absolutely stunning:

 

 

 

But it was also phenomenally expensive, as perhaps one would expect a Tiffany diamond engagement ring to be.  She knew I could never afford this, but, it did set the bar of “perfection” and whilst achieving that wasn’t realistic, it was good to know.

We spent the next hour or so going from jeweller to jeweller (websites), looking at settings, stones, cuts, the sorts of things that Nook wanted, and more importantly, did not want.

What is perhaps most interesting about this is really two things:

That Nook felt comfortable enough on only our second in-person visit to bring this topic up

That I too felt so completely at ease with the “of course this is the direction we’re going” nature of the conversation that I eagerly participated.

I started thinking about jewellers in the city I live, found their websites, showed the sorts of things that were available here. Nook suggested some other sites, and we sat, together, she leaning against my arm, as we looked at engagement rings and knew in our hearts this was what we both wanted.

 

A tough goodbye.

It was a truly spectacular week together.  It was so comfortable, so natural.  I felt entirely at home with Nook, as she did with me.

Eventually, though, I had to return to work and there were a number of other obligations which needed sorting out (stay tuned) as she and I found our feet, and a pace that worked for us both, for our future.

The antithesis of the airport greeting is the airport goodbye.

Nook took me to the airport a few hours before my flight; she needed to get back to work and I was okay with spending time in the lounge for a while.  I got my bag out of her car, she got out and came to me...and we hugged.

It.  Was.  Infinitely.  Difficult.  To.  Let.  Go.

As I sat in the lounge I had plenty of time to think about the time together, and how to move forward for our future.  Being apart was not an option, Nook and Chair needed to be together, as soon as possible, and permanently.

But arranging that was going to prove one of the greatest challenges, and adventures, of my entire life.

As I said at the start of this chapter, there is a fair bit of frustration and pain to come, but, this week, well, it was bliss.

25. The Answer

But?  

We all know the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words...so, here:

 

 

As you’ll recall from the SMS chapter, Nook has just informed me that she has made her decision, but the curse of highly delayed SMS messages being sent from country to country created a most horribly timed awkward pause.  As I would attempt to reply, she would be on to the next line, and vice versa.

At this moment I have just crested that roller coaster referred to previously - she has made her decision.  She tells me she loves me.  And now she says she wants me.  Because of these horrible delays, I can do nothing other than wonder if the other shoe is about to drop.  I do not want to get ahead of myself in joyous rapture, I want to make sure I am understanding things correctly.

As a person, I try to be as clear as I can in my communication.  Written and verbal.  It frustrates me when I feel that I am not clear - and yet, now, at this precise moment, I was both needing the utmost clarity that I could ever desire, and trying to communicate with it just the same.

So it was indeed with joyous rapture that I read Nook’s next two lines in SMS:

 

 

No words can accurately describe how I felt at that precise moment in time.  Nook made up her mind ... and much to my (everlasting) surprise, it was in “our” favour.

I can not imagine the turmoil Nook must have gone through to reach this decision, and despite the fact that she had done so, and I believed with finality, I also knew that one must not count chickens before they are hatched - but we’ll return to that point in a moment.

The next few minutes on the plane were impossibly frustrating.  We were at the gate, but they were having trouble getting the jetway to match up to the plane.  I was doing my best to communicate with Nook in real time, but that was proving difficult.  I wanted to call, to talk, but, being on the plane crowded with people, well, let’s just say this was not a conversation I wanted to have in that situation.

The next few SMS messages show part of my reaction, but, also our mutual frustration over the poor quality of the AT&T network (more on that in a moment as well):

 

 

If Nook and I were going to indeed make a go of “us” - we knew there were going to be some extremely rough times ahead.  We needed to be ready for that.  Without giving any spoilers, it is safe to say that the next few weeks were trying, extremely trying.

50. Shopping Trip

Here, or there? Nook and I had a difficult decision to make, and we needed to be in the same place, at the same time, to talk through the options.  That decision:  Where do we get married?

With the trip to Australia and new life on the horizon, there was a powerfully attractive option there.  I scouted out a number of locations, talked to my future boss about various cities / areas which would be appropriate, and even wrote to a few restaurants to ask about holding ceremonies on their premises.  The idea had an almost dream-like quality to it.

The other option was to get married in .. Las Vegas .. yes, you read that right.  Vegas.  Home of the Elvis wedding and drive-through chapels.

You see, that is where Nook's parents lived.  They moved there for the weather and had made it their home.

Nook is extremely important to her parents.  And they mean a huge amount to her.  There was simply no way for us to get married without her parents present.

This meant that either we'd do so right there where they lived, or, we'd find a way to fly them down to Australia after we moved.  Not, perhaps, the most cost effective option, but it was a realistic one and one that Nook and I would consider carefully.

In the end, this decision making process came down to something mildly serendipitous, but also somewhat stacked as an approach.

Once I arrived in Las Vegas, Nook and I decided to walk over to the Caesar's Forum  and see what rings Tiffany had in stock.  As you already know, Tiffany is our chosen jeweller, so we thought we'd give them first shot at wedding rings.  We decided that IF Tiffany had the rings we wanted, in stock and in our size, that we'd try to make this happen, during this trip.

Now, I know what you're thinking - what are the odds that Tiffany won't have rings in every conceivable size and style in their Vegas location?  It's the wedding capital of Earth, right?  So, yes, as I say, somewhat of a stacked approach with respect to making up our mind about the location of our wedding.

But this was huge.  And I don't mean commitment wise, I mean financially.  With all that was going on with boxing up life and moving to the other side of the planet, I quite simply had not budgeted for Tiffany rings at this point of the process.  Nook and I looked at two options:

  1. Same "Novo" style as her engagement ring for her
  2. Plain platinum (but matching) bands

Either way, I was going to go with a plain platinum band - neither one of us is into yellow gold.

The staff at Tiffany were very polite, very friendly.  I am sure they get thousands of people through there every week looking to do the same thing that we were doing, but they still made us feel like we were special.  We shared some of our story with them, and they were really touched by it.  Not 50% discount touched, but, touched nonetheless.

As you'd imagine, the Novo option was a lot more expensive.  It would mean a half-band of diamonds (Nook said she didn't want a full circle of diamonds for her wedding ring, as it would always mean half of them would be hidden on the inside of her hand anyway), but the platinum band would be something identical and matching for us both.

We found out the costs (gulp) and went outside of the shop to talk about the options.

We wandered up to the ATM machine.

I bled my accounts as dry as I could; with the daily spending limit hitting me due to the home-time-zone of my bank account.  I avoided credit cards, so, we were at our max.

We went back inside Tiffany with our decision in mind:

IF Nook could get Tiffany Credit for a very small amount (about 3/4 of the cost of my band) then we'd go with the Novo wedding ring and the platinum band for me.  If she couldn't, we'd go with double platinum bands.

Tense moments as they worked out the credit system and score and options.

Phonecalls made.

We chatted to each other nervously...

Approved.

Bands chosen.

Put together in a box (which we still have, of course).

Here they are, taken back at the hotel: