Wow, 2010 is just about at a close and with it the end of the first decade of this here new millennium. I thought it would be fun to talk about a few highlights (and a few low ones) of this past decade to mark this rather auspicious occasion, as this was the decade that Tom and I went from friends, to more than friends to married friends. I’m probably missing a TON of things but these are the events that pop to mind. I’m going to have to do this is two posts though or this sucker is gonna be looo-oonggg.
I began the decade peering through office building window overlooking False Creek/Science World and watching what had to be the lamest Millennium fireworks display on the entire planet. It was Y2K D-day and I was there testing and monitoring queues having volunteered my services to work that night. My then colleague who had in fact run the Y2k project, had arranged a big party for his family and friends and I didn’t want him to have to miss his own party, that’s just the kind of gal I am. I was there with my then boss and another co-worker and we had our own little New Years party along with food and drink and throughout the evening visited the command centre where they had yet more food, more drink and the big screen showing the various celebrations happening as the clocked clicked over to midnight in various places throughout the world. We’d seen some mighty cool firework shows and had high hopes for our own but after the smoke of the last firework began to dissipate the three of us standing there, faces pressed up to the window turned to each other and at the same time said “that’s it?” Vancouver continued its reputation as “No Fun City.”
2000 was my first year as a “Single Mom” having separated from my then Husband the previous Summer. It was a tough year, my salary at the time barely supporting the three of us and carrying a crap-load of debt from having owned a leaky condo. My colleague retired and I took over the area and ran it on my own, I worked hard and asked for a promotion… eventually I got it. I scrimped in every possible way and I paid down my debt. I went for several years with no new clothes and holes in my shoes but I kept knocking more and more of it away. It can be done, it always makes me mad when I hear people complain they can’t pay off debt and then continue to splurge. This debt wasn’t even something I brought upon myself but I had every intention to not let it eat me alive. We were living in a rented ground floor suite in a house owned by just about the nicest landlords possible. They treated me and the boys like family and had me house/cat sit for them when they went off on their world tours. I loved that place, it was my haven after I left my ex, the first place I could ever call my own. I decorated it how I wanted and could come home knowing there wouldn’t be any conflict. The neighbourhood was great and the schools were close by, it couldn’t have worked out better and the boys, our two cats and I lived there happily.
The year ended sadly though when Sage, my beloved cat got very sick and after a week of trying to figure out what was wrong had to be put down. Another $1000 was added to my debt but I had to try to save him, I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t. By then Tom and I were friends having met the previous summer and hearing about Sage’s illness had told me to call him anytime knowing how upset I was. He was the first person after the boys I told when Sage died and was so kind. Too many people told me he was just a cat but he got it.
2001 began with a yowl…a very very loud one. My landlords who had originally let me move in with two cats on the condition that I not replace any should one pass away immediately changed their minds after Sage died. Like I said they loved and trusted us and hated to see us all so upset. My Landlady was urging me to get a kitten, I wasn’t too sure I was ready yet but the boys were so sad and thought a kitten would make them feel better. So I searched high and low and found by luck a Siamese kitten who had been returned by another person. That should have been a clue to what I was getting myself into, that along with her running around the breeder’s place like a whirlwind… but I fell in love. I didn’t know at the time my co-workers were arranging to get me another kitten and they were surprised to hear I’d already gotten one so instead they gave me the money they’d collected and Miss Cinny was my present. It was a very sweet gesture, one that left me speechless.
It was also the year that my friendship with Tom turned into a relationship with a whole lot of travel involved (thank goodness for cheap flights and allllll the airmiles I had) including shortly after the 9/11 attacks. I was scheduled to fly not long after planes began returning to the skies and nothing was going to stop me from flying, my British blood wouldn’t let me. The plane had maybe a dozen or so people on it. We had the run of the place and everyone lounged in their own row and we ate business class food and drink. The crew was fabulous and we all chatted the whole way down, the hearty fearless travellers we. LAX was a ghost-town that night and a fortress. The parking garages nearby were empty and no personal vehicles were allowed near the terminal building, such a strange turn from what I was used to. Tom was going to meet me at a hotel nearby (he worked until midnight) and we were going to go on a little mini-break to Dana Point near Laguna Beach. The driver of the hotel van was so happy to get a call to come pick someone up, business was hurting and any visitor was a good thing. I don’t think I’d ever had such great service, that is until I got to the hotel. Tom had left instructions with the desk to let me into the room before he got there but they wouldn’t let me check in without his credit card. I even offered my own but no dice. Tom arrived at the hotel to find me sitting on the stoop outside. Good thing it was a warm September evening.
It was a year of trips to Magic Mountain and Disneyland and a couple of trips up to see me, then eventually “us” when Tom and the boys met. They liked him immediately and Sean became Tom’s shadow he so adored him. We spend our first Christmas together.
2002 the travel continued. Tom and I went on a two-week road trip back east meeting up in Seattle and flying to New York, we had such a great time. I got to meet his Mom who is an absolute darling, drive up to see where Tom grew up (holy humidity), see the 1000 islands, pop up to visit a friend in Ontario, drive back to the States into Michigan and see Charlevoix (and experience my first drawbridge.. RUN!!! THE LIGHT IS FLASHING!!! and Tom laughing at me), meet and stay with Tom’s middle sister and her family (who were also fantastic and I immediately hit it off with) and then finally end up in Chicago to see the Blue Man Group and meet one of Tom’s oldest friends. We flew out of Chicago and parted in Seattle, I think I was sadder to part than I’d ever been. The distance was getting harder to deal with even with the frequent trips. I knew he was ‘the one’ we just needed to get to the same place at the same time ALL the time.
One night my landlords had a fight and there was a HUGE bang which scared me and the cats and resulted in Cinny breaking her leg badly by running into a table in her fright. So began a year long odyssey of surgeries, breaking plates and pins and removing her cast and making me think she’d chewed her leg off. Oy!
This was the year Tom treated us all to a trip to LA and the Boys got to experience Disneyland. Chris had been there when he was 3 and had no memory of so it was new and exciting for both of them. It was fun to see it through their eyes even though my own eyes probably saw it in a similar way, you can’t help but be a kid when you go there. We spend our second Christmas together and this Christmas came with an extra special present, a ring. Tom and I got engaged at Christmas.
We’d long been talking about how we could get in closer proximity to each other. Tom had considered moving to Washington State and getting a job there but that didn’t take away that whole border that would keep us in separate countries. Once our relationship had reached the point of marriage, well it meant that one of us would have to emigrate and with the boys being young and in shared custody that meant Tom would move here. We were considering having a wedding in the summer of 2003, nothing fancy or anything just close family but we talked about it and figured that we’d just go ahead and get married sooner and throw a party later in Vegas or something because the longer we put off marriage the longer we’d be apart, immigration was a very slow-moving process and we may as well get it started sooner than later. Tom went back home and I went into planning mode to arrange for our civil wedding.
Tom flew back and a week after my birthday we got married with the boys, my mum and my best friend as witnesses. It was a fun and light-hearted ceremony done by a commissionaire of weddings who couldn’t for the life of her pronounce my middle name correctly which had me giggling. My VP joked that they had barely bought our engagement present and card when they had to go buy the wedding present and card. Then came a LOOOOOOT of paperwork. I had to sponsor Tom as his spouse and he had to go get a doctors exam and some fingerprints done and I completed the rest of the stuff including documenting our relationship. I had saved all of our emails, cards, ticket stubs to events we’d attended together, pictures of us in each other’s places and from trips, travel itineraries… in fact I had SO much documentation I had to cull it down. I had to send copies of correspondence so I picked some of my favourites, boy we always have fun together and our emails were just as much fun, re-reading the strings had me in stitches. If the person who worked on our case actually read any of them I’m sure they were amused.
We continued to visit each other, I took my vacation days around weekends so I could fly more often on weeks when the boys were with their Father. It was exhausting all that travel but so worth it. It was a couple of month’s shy of a year since we’d gotten married and we were still waiting for final approval and Tom’s visa but on my trip down in October I said to him… fuck it, we know you will be approved and it HAS to be soon (back then it was taking 9-12 months for approval) pack up in December when you’d normally be visiting us and wait for the approval to arrive. One of his friends bought his condo (the approval would be mailed there) and Tom quit his job and I flew down to help him finish packing up his condo and to road trip it back up with what was coming with him. It was a joyful trip finally being together for good and we deposited his stuff in a storage facility in Bellingham Washington and drove across the border explaining he was coming to visit while awaiting his approval for permanent residency. He wished us luck and sent us on our way, we had our third Christmas together but this time as a full-on family.
We were holding our breath waiting for the approval and I checked the status website several times a day hoping to see it finally change to approved. Tom checked with his friend to see if anything had arrived. She didn’t live there yet but was driving by to check to the mail every now and then. Turns out the mail guy didn’t put it in the box and left it on the stoop! His neighbours had opened the package and seeing what it was put it back, Tom’s friend found it that way, open and sitting there… his PASSPORT and visa for crying out loud! But at least it was safely in her hands now and she called with the good news.
It was January 2004 by then and we went out to dinner to celebrate, driving through the snow that had hit us pretty much right after Tom moved here. When the documents were express posted to Tom we immediately drove back down to B’ham, gathered up his things and drove back across telling the border guard he was there to ‘land’ as a PR. We were directed to immigration inside the building and Tom signed a few things, stamp, stamp, congrats and it was official. We could finally have our official wedding party. We planned a gathering in Vegas and all Tom’s sisters and family, my mum and Tom’s mum were going to go, it was planned for August.
Life started throwing us a few curve balls right around the spring. Our landlords informed us they would be selling the house and once it was sold we’d have two months to move out… Tom wasn’t working yet, he was still trying hard to find a job but hadn’t had any luck so far and my mum ended up in hospital, originally to have her gallbladder removed but then they discovered cancer which had spread from the GB to her liver. She went septic and spend the better part of two months in ICU. I was working, visiting my Mum and we were trying to find a place to rent. We couldn’t find anywhere that would take all four of us AND our cats. Some were okay with pets but no kids and vice-versa. We finally started to consider buying a place, the mortgage would be similar to rent if we got a condo and Tom had enough for a down payment and I had the money to pay the mortgage so we started looking and found this place on the first day. It was empty and we could take possession in two weeks.
Things were turning around. Mum started to get better and was out of ICU and on the mend but wouldn’t be in any shape to come on the trip. Tom’s mum had her own medical issue which she felt was best not to travel with as well so neither of our mum’s could be there which was a shame. We did have a fun time though with the sisters and all our kids, Vegas was a good choice as the hotels were reasonable and a flight there from pretty much anywhere was a lot cheaper than trying to have them all come to Vancouver. Another turn of events, Tom was hired into his industry here, he finally got his foot in the door after persistence and the year was shaping up to end well. I finally got to replace my ancient 13-year-old Geo Metro and my beloved Mazda Freddy came into my life. We had our fourth Christmas together.
2005 our family was firmly settled in together and into our new home. Sean had finally decided he had enough of his buck teeth and announced he was ready to get braces. We had a consultation with the dentist who sent us to his favourite orthodontist and she had one look and sent us to an oral surgeon. We found out that Sean would need to have braces and surgery to get the best result and after some consideration we agreed to go that route. It was also the year that Chris graduated from High School, a day I never thought would arrive as I was ALWAYS nagging that boy to do his homework and study more. He had pulled up his socks in his final year and graduated with good grade and even won an award. A proud moment and proof that when he wants to, he can accomplish anything he sets his mind to.
Another notable event this year was that my mum who only the previous summer had been so sick and resuscitated a couple of times near death had recovered enough to travel back home to Scotland to visit her family. They were all anxious to see her as it had been hard for them to be there while she was here and so unwell. It was a really nice thing for her and gave me a bit of a break as well as I was doing her shopping for her on my weekends and helping her around her place. Tom and I took a mini-break away together and drove to Kelowna BC and did some wine tours. The hotel we stayed at was pretty YECH (very motelish and NOT up to my rather high standards… and the WOOHOOO!! party boys outside at 3 am didn’t help things. We had a fun time though as we always do together and did I mention WINE? This was the year that Chris finally got to experience looking for, and getting a job. He kept saying how this growing up thing sucks… I told him that while that was somewhat true, at least growing up came with some perks like moving out and making your own life decisions and being able to stay out late, of course all these years later while he does stay out late every now and then he’s still living at home (hahem.) He also discovered the cost of things he now had to buy for himself… Tom and I were amused at his surprise at the cost of the batteries he burned through in his games.
This was the year of Katrina and the worry about Tom’s youngest sister who then lived in New Orleans. She is a nurse and worked and rode out the storm, it all worked out for her and her place didn’t suffer any damage but I’m sure everyone breathed a little easier when she eventually moved. This is also the year I got rear-ended by kid changing his radio station in his Daddy’s car. Poor little Freddy had the numbers of the guy’s license plate embedded in his bumper and the kids and I had a shock. I was gun-shy for months when I came to a stop light and I still get a flutter now and then when I’m tail-gated coming to an intersection. The year wrapped up as mildly as it came in and we spent our fifth Christmas together.
Phew… part two later.