Here is the next installment of How I Met My Girlfriend! Links to all HIMMGF posts here.
Before the holidays, Jas and I went to Cambridge for a day to fulfill my curiosity about the city. When I was in the UK in 2016, the only trip to Cambridge we made was for a transfer train on our way to London because the rails were being worked on the usual route. This time, I explored the city center, not just the train station!
A lot of the UK itself impresses me with its buildings and the way you can look at stone or brick or wood beams and see that there’s history there. I’m not quite sure what it is—maybe the curves in the wood beams, the level of detail in stone or iron—but you can tell when something is OLD old. In 2016, we took a trip to Thorpeness, a vacation village with buildings that sport wood beams and old-fashioned homely architecture. But something about it was off. The beams were too straight, the colors too vibrant, the brick fitting like machine-cut puzzle pieces. With a carriage tour, I learned that the town was essentially brand-new after going through flooding reconstruction in the early 1900s. The homes were only made to look historical.
Cambridge wasn’t like that. The history was everywhere. From the moment we began walking in the city center, yellowed stone buildings towered over the rest, often decorated in statues, finely detailed windows, and pointy gate-like tips. Most churches and buildings of the university resembled the castles of my childhood imagination. Narrow streets had paved cement caked over old brickwork, probably keeping bikers from spilling onto the ground from loose stones. The walks near the river were long, grassy, and often bordered by huge trees.
We viewed the city from the river view too, gliding up to cathedrals and university halls with many stories to give, which our punting guide passed on to us. Previous to Jas’ stories of Cambridge, I didn’t know what punting was. It’s comparable to canoeing, except everyone in the boat–apart from one person–sits and enjoys the ride. The punter keeps the boat moving by pushing a long stick in the shallow water and into the soft mud of the river floor, scooting the boat under a dozen bridges and pass several historical sites. Cambridge was a place of fairytales.
As for Christmas, Jas and I took the whole “make the yuletide gay” a bit literally and ordered a sparkly rainbow Christmas tree from Paperchase, along with some colored lights and ornaments, of which we’re particularly proud of the rainbow and unicorn editions. We also got some Christmas hats for some cute seasonal photos and bought wrapping paper with matching tags and ribbon. We shrugged at the cringe of it, but we really couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to make a huge deal out of our first Christmas together.
In the last week of November, I’d taken notes of some things that Jas wanted but ended up (somehow) flexing her self-control and not purchasing them. By the second week of December, I had a pretty good list of gifts for Jas and made plans to go shopping with Jas’ friend, Sophie. She was really helpful when it came to looking for some things that I wasn’t sure about, like where to find an extreme weather calendar. She also helped me arrange the pickup for the big-ticket gift: a turntable record player. Jas had been wanting one of these bad boys for over a year now, and I almost got one for her birthday, but getting it shipped to her house from mine cost almost the same as the turntable itself. So, spending our Christmas together made it easy for me to get this for her, and my mom had me buy her a Queen greatest hits vinyl to go with it on her behalf.
I had her open the record player towards the end of gift unwrapping, and first let her open gifts from her parents, along with the calendars, Lush body spray, pajamas, and stocking items. She’d been so happy to open her turntable that she said, “I love you” and kissed me that Christmas morning in front of her family—her dad included.
Although Jas nor I had told her dad about us, we made some assumptions that he knew. At this point, it wasn’t that Jas didn’t want him to know, but she didn’t want to have to tell him. A few of his comments let us know that we wouldn’t have to.
A few weeks previous, Jas and I had a small argument (over something I can’t remember now) in the kitchen before leaving for town, and Martin chuckled to himself with a small “Ah, lover’s tiff,” to which Jas and I exchanged stiff expressions and then laughed about once we made it out of the house. Later on, while walking to a Greggs with the family and talking about Jas’ cousin’s kids, Martin stated, “I could imagine you two adopting kids.” Even though I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Martin, his words and small nods of acknowledgment of our relationship touched me in ways I was expecting.
Martin and Jas’ mum, Sarah, gave me lots of my favorite chocolates and Lush soaps. Jas also got me a Lush gift box, filled with bath bombs, more soaps, bubble bars, and lip scrub. (Even her grandparents got me soap, which started to worry me a tad about my body odor.) Possibly my favorite gift was a pink long-sleeve Adidas shirt, which I suspect Jas bought for me so I would stop stealing hers.
Although there were some typical Christmas traditions that did not get fulfilled this year (like the Doctor Who Christmas special and a reindeer sled (?) that delivers tiny cans of Coke in the neighborhood (?) (I’m still not convinced this one is true)), we spent such a wonderful holiday together. It was everything I’d been imagining. I literally got to wake up Christmas morning and kiss the girl I want to fall asleep next to every night for the rest of my life.
We celebrated New Year’s in much the same way—plenty of food and day drinking. For all the New Year’s we spent apart, Jas always called me when she got to the new year. I’d get a call snacking on the leftovers of party food still sprawled over the table, likely playing a board game with the family or sporting a Wii remote on my wrist from breaking out the bowling game once a year. The calls were usually short; we were both mid-celebration with our families. She gave me an “I love you” and “Happy New Year,” and I would wait until I got to the future too. This year we did the future together and had our first New Year’s kiss.
Being together for such important events this year, I couldn’t help but feel like we’re getting closer to getting to our future. Although things haven’t been mapped it out solidly, we feel pretty confident in the fact that Jas’ visit to the States next winter might be the last one on her own. Maybe after that, we can close this gap from our past to our future.
Read part 17: Our anniversary in Paris.
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