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.