Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A letter home: 11 January 2012

My dearest Emma,

Happy New Year! It's been a while since I last wrote but I suppose that's alright considering I saw you a few times while Jenn and I were in Minnesota. A figment of my imagination, you are so often where my heart wants to be. So, you were there at the bonfire at Dan and Johanna's house, at the lake when Jenn and I went ice skating, at Eric's gig on New Year's Eve, and a few other places during the fortnight.

The rest of the trip went well, too. This was my first Christmas home, first Christmas with family, since 2005. I have never been one who could be described as a family type, Emma. Those narratives about the strength of blood ties have never really made sense to me. Surely, for free-willed creatures the bonds we create with a person can be stronger than those inherited because the person is chosen rather than simply the daughter of the son of the woman whose mother is the same as your father's. The whole "blood is thicker than water" theme is silly.

But I do enjoy seeing my family. And as I get older and more reflective I feel I can understand them more. Or, at least, I feel more willing to try to understand them, and I enjoy their company more. My father and I are skilled at talking a lot of nonsense, and when I get the chance to sit and chat with him I am reminded of how much I miss doing so. I miss, also, my mother's increasing eccentricity. And my brother's way of telling a story. He will deliver a punchline with a kind of subtlety that resonates. So, you do the little preliminary laugh that is almost instinctive for any punchline but then the idea expands in your head, the way he has laid it out plays in your imagination, and you find yourself laughing louder and fuller.

I think one of my favourite moments from the whole of the trip came on our final day, when everyone went out to eat and we found ourselves at the end of the meal telling stories of various mundane jobs we had all held. Jon had me laughing so hard my lungs hurt.

Obviously, Emma, that was not the best moment of the trip. As you know, I proposed to Jenn while we were in Minnesota.

I had bought the best ring I could afford on a Welsh teacher's salary and brought it with me on the trip, unsure of exactly how or when I would propose. Past experience has built a deep cynicism in me, Emma, and I do not like the idea of highly orchestrated proposals. I understand the sentiment behind getting down on one knee and shouting "I love this woman" in Trafalgar Square (remember that old jewellery advert that used to run in the 90s?) or getting a group of friends to spell out "Will you marry me?" with towels on the beach or some other ridiculous thing, but I have come to see love as a deeply, deeply personal thing. I am quite happy to tell you that I love Jenn, but I'm not sure I need to put on a fireworks display to prove it.

Also, perhaps my thinking comes from the fact I have so many years experience writing and broadcasting. I know how to put a shine on things. And I know that you can make some things shine quite brightly without really caring about them. I wanted my proposal to be purely heart-driven, unprepared, honest. So, I carried the ring around in my pocket for several days, concealed in a box of mints, waiting for that moment when I knew and felt the time to be right.

On 23 December we went for a walk along Nine Mile Creek, that insignificant stretch of water that means so much to me. As we walked, I got lost in telling Jenn about the various memories that sprung up: over here is where I liked to swim, over that way is where I fell through the ice, this bend is where Eric and I turned over in our canoe, and on and on. Just a few hundred yards from the hill that Corbett and I used to terrify ourselves speeding down on our bikes, I replicated such adrenalin and nervousness by reaching into my pocket.

"Each time I'm down here I think about everything I've been, everything I am and everything I want to be," I said. "And when I think about what I want to be, what I want for the future, I know I want you to be part of it."

Or something along those lines, Emma. I'm sure what I actually said was slightly less poetic and littered with pauses. But it is what I meant, what I felt, and she said yes.

The triumph of hope over experience, Emma. But there is that past experience and I'll admit that because of it I get fearful when thinking of my life with Jenn. I fear making mistakes, screwing up. That past experience hurt so very much. It wasn't just the pain shared by two people but the crushing sense of defeat and failure from seeing the breakdown of a thing that philosophically was not supposed to have done so, and then the years of deconstruction and reconstruction. I trust Jenn, love her madly, but still can't help but feel timid of the pain that could come.

But probably the very best way to ensure you will never be happy is to fail act for fear of a wonderful thing changing beyond your present scope. To a certain extent, it's the same as refusing to step outside on a sunny day for fear of how the weather may be in 2036. I'm speaking to myself here, Emma, so perhaps this doesn't make sense. Besides, the overall thing to draw from this is that Jenn and I will be getting married and I am incredibly happy.

Our aim is to be married in early 2013. This allows us time to plan and, more importantly, try to save some money for the wedding. Them things is expensive, Emma. We live in a world where we encourage people to begin stages of their lives carrying a heavy debt burden. Start your career with a mountain of student debt; start your life with someone shouldering a financial weight. Hopefully, though, a bit of time will give us the chance to avoid starting out in the red.

Though, it is hard, Emma. I still cannot seem to find a full-time job. Last week I decided to scrap my car to save the cost of petrol, insurance, tax, maintenance, etcetera. It saves money but adds a tremendous amount of time to my commute; travelling the roughly 35 miles to Ebbw Vale and back now takes six hours and involves 4 miles of walking. Meanwhile Jenn works two jobs. On Sundays, if we are lucky, she is able to take home unused food from the restaurant where she waits tables. If we ever succeed, these will make good stories.

And when we tell these stories, I suppose the emphasis will be on the fact that through it all we had each other. I am the poorest I have ever been, and the least financially optimistic I have ever been, yet cannot remember enjoying life quite so much.

It is tempered by experience, Emma, but I am starting the new year with hope. I tread gently forward.

Please say hello to everyone back home. Send nude photos; Jenn would like to see them.

I remain your faithful friend,
~ Chris ~


Curly said...

Congrats both! Here's to many more mince pies together!

Wierdo said...

I have no idea if I should know this already, but nevertheless I am very happy for you both!

Huw said...

I don't think you should be scared. I sensed all would be well the moment I saw the wrestling vlog.