The past ten months has been a particularly challenging time for me. In that time three remarkable women have made a significant and lasting impact on my life . In this three-part post I hope to pay a worthy tribute to them and offer them my sincere and heartfelt thanks.
The first sentence of the above preamble isn’t applicable to this entry. Jess has, in person and in absentia, been a part of my life for four years. Like Kory and Carita her impact on my life will be enduring.
When a relationship ends, all we are left with are memories. This is how I choose to remember Jess, preferring to look back with gratitude and love.
Great Lost Love – Jess
Where both deliberate, the love is slight: Who ever lov’d, that lov’d not at first sight? – Christopher Marlowe
Sonnet 116 William Shakespeare
I never believed in love at first sight before meeting Jess. I fell for her in a big way – at our first meeting almost literally. Jess was sitting at a table when I introduced myself, I couldn’t take my eyes off her, an idiot grin plastered on my face. I can’t tell you much about what we were talking about. What I can tell you is by the end of our conversation I found myself wondering how in God’s name I managed to get myself into a position where I was leaning down, my arms spread wide across the table, our faces no more than two feet apart. Embarrassed is not the word for what I was feeling as I dragged myself back up to a (far more dignified and respectful) standing position.
One day relatively early in our relationship, Jess and I met for a late lunch at a place special to us both – a place by the water I still sometimes visit. On this occasion she asked me to jump in her car, which I did, she then pulled out her laptop, inserted a flash drive and told me to read what she had written. I get goosebumps thinking about it today. She had written an intensely personal, honest and forthright account of her life, how she felt about me, how she felt when we were together, and what she hoped for the future. I have never been so moved, crying as I read, I knew I had never been so valued as a partner before. If I hadn’t been already hopelessly in love with her, I was now past all saving. I was all hers.
Jess never had a childhood, thrust into an adult world, with adult responsibilities from an age when she should have been playing with dolls. The often nightmarish details aren’t mine to share, suffice to say, not all outcomes are negative, it has formed her into the determined woman, and fiercely protective and loving mother she is.
One of the biggest concerns when starting a mixed family is how the children and parents will inter-react. And of course the same was true of ours. I can honestly say my fears were completely unfounded. Jess embraced my boys as hers, from day one she treated them with the same loving kindness and affection that she treated our girls.Her behavior towards our sons moved my ex (mother of the boys) to comment after Jess and I had picked up the boys one day “ I’m so glad Jess is loving with the boys.” When the kids played together (and Jess with them) I would often take time to sit apart, watch them play and think to myself how fortunate I was. To this day I think Jess’ place, her calling, is with children – they idolize her and she loves them.
About one thing Jess has always been completely straightforward – she needs security and stability, the things she has been without all her life. Love simply isn’t enough. This, given her past, is a completely reasonable expectation. Ironically, Jess is at her very best when she is at her most vulnerable. She’s open, sincere, loving, communicative, gentle, responsive, giving… just fucking mind-blowingly astounding. It is also the time when she is most likely to fly.
There are many individual moments that distinguished our relationship from any other I’ve been in. One of the most telling is Jess’ relationship with my family. For those not in the know, Jess and I always had an off again/on again relationship, which was largely determined by my ability (or inability) to provide a financially stable and secure environment for our family. The first time we split this was not the case however, Jess told me she wanted to try to work things out with her ex for the sake of the girls and that she had decided to move back in with him. Of course I was heartbroken but I told her I respected her decision. My parents were visiting from Australia at the time and I was moving into a temporary residence. I needed to collect some of my things from the place where Jess was living and I asked dad to help me collect some of my gear, I could use the company. I had not told my parents about Jess at all.
Jess wasn’t there when we arrived and the place was a bit of a mess outside – discarded packing boxes and plastic lay wet and soiled at the entrance to the basement. We decided to pick it up and dispose of it for her. When Jess finally arrived I briefly introduced her to my dad as she unlocked the house. Dad helped me grab my gear, and as I let him take the last load to the truck I said what I thought were my last goodbyes to Jess. We hugged and I kissed her on the cheek as dad stood waiting by the truck. As I was returning dad told me to wait and – I’ll never forget this as long as I live – he went over to Jess hugged her and said “I hope we will see you again.” Jess released early from what came as a surprise embrace and turned to go inside whereupon my dad followed her for a couple of steps and repeated, this time in earnest, “ I mean that – I hope we see you again.”This may seem like a wholly unremarkable series of events, to me it was nothing short of earth-shattering. This kind of response from either parent in relation to a friend or girlfriend had no precedent. My dad didn’t even know we were seeing each other. They hadn’t shared two sentences with each other! Were my feelings for Jess so transparent ? Or our feelings for each other that obvious? Or equally likely, and I know this is going to sound just plain nuts, did dad just think Jess was the right girl for me? I say this because dad had (and continues to have) a very strong love for Jess and thinks the world of her. To make matters worse – so does my whole bloody family. My brother and sister-in-law – who had met Jess once on a family trip to Italy – both asked upon my recent return to Australia how Jess was and both said how much they liked her. They know we’ve split-up! Its been nearly two years now! JESUS H CHRIST. My family has always stayed out of my relationships, we’ve stayed out of each others. Always. Whenever I brought a girlfriend home the best I’d previously got was the cursory nod (or shake) and a “she seems lovely Si” or “she seems a little _________” [Insert – loud, shy, silly etc…] Not for Jess, Oh no! She still gets the royal bloody “How is she? How are the girls? How are her Mum and Dad?” My family haven’t even bloody well met her parents …or the girls for that matter. Lessons in – How to Make a Guy Feel Completely and Utterly Miserable – courtesy of The Family Houghton.
The fact remains I have a connection with Jess that I have found with no other – physically, emotionally or intellectually. Our relationship was very passionate. Jess is a highly sensual and sensitive woman she’s everything I needed.
From the very first I never so much as looked at another woman – not once. To say this took me by surprise would be an understatement – I always assumed it was normal to notice if an attractive woman entered the room, kind of an aesthetic appreciation kinda thing, it had always occurred in my previous relationships – no disrespect to my prior partners whatever. It just didn’t happen when I was with Jess. Not when I was with her; not when I was without her. It never happened – not ever. Maybe it’s just that I felt loved and happy and knew I was with the most beautiful woman in the world.
Jess knows how to touch my heart, she created artworks, made me a hand-knitted scarf, a pottery cup and saucer, bought us a pair of coffee cups, one each, with World capitals embossed with a rococo font upon them, she made painted imprints of our kids hands and framed them; she wrote me the most wonderful love letters and cards they are amongst some of the many things she gave me that I still hold precious. Most meaningful to me was the way she cared for me, in such a way, with such an intensity and commitment that I cannot adequately express how loved she made me feel. The way she would touch my face, hold me in her arms or just smile at me.
When Jess and I had occasion to discuss business matters, mine or hers; clear the decks. These were some of my favorite times when we would come into our own. The conversation would come alive. Ideas bounce off walls, arms flail, diagrams and notes change hands. Humble beginnings would grow into endless possibilities. Magic “what ifs” speed through the air. Coffee is consumed at a furious rate, cigarette rules are broken, late night runs are made for… well… whatever we fancy.
if the kids weren’t home-
“Can I come with…?”
If the kids were in bed –
“Oh God, I will”
On returning , more scribbling. “When you were gone I had this great idea…” More papers change hands. Laughter. Logos. Diagrams. Marketing concepts. Wild hair (at least on Jess’ behalf). More coffee. Massive table mess. Move to the floor. More laughter. More cigarettes. “Look at this!” God forbid our hands ever touch – that would be the end of that. These “meetings” invariably end up with more than a meeting of the minds.
Just before we split for the final time I experienced a memorable surreal moment. I had shown up unannounced with our two girls at the up-scale women’s clothing store where she was then working – she was so surprised to see us she flashed me one of her “I’m-so-happy-to-see-you” smiles. I was so taken aback that I literally became lost, completely unaware of where I was, I couldn’t hear a thing – it was as though the whole world had melted and all I could see was the wonderful woman I loved. I still remember her becoming impatient with me, as I wasn’t responding to what she was saying. I should have held her or kissed her or told her how amazing she was – but I didn’t, I just stood there dumbfounded. I don’t know if I’ve ever told her to this day what had happened. Well, now she knows I guess.
VIDEO : Start Video at 1:20 Machine With Chair – Arthur Ganson
There were often times like that, when Jess’ love came at me out of the blue; hitting me like a huge wave, sweeping me up to leave me floating – surrounded in her warmth and light. During these times, that were not uncommon and not fleeting – sometimes lasting for entire days, nothing was wrong in my world – nothing.
During our time together I took thousands of photographs of Jess, of Jess and the kids in all sorts of places – at restaurants, in Dallas and Italy when we vacationed, berry picking, playgrounds, pools and performances. Ive looked and looked and theres not one photo of us – not one of the two of us together… figures huh?
A few days ago I severed all ties with Jess, I had to, something in me broke. I can’t explain it more clearly than that. I told my good friend Kory that I felt like howling at the moon. Kory, in her wisdom, suggested I do. And so I did, loud and long. I don’t think it will be the last time I do that.
Jess is an advocate of children’s rights, the PTA President at her daughter’s school and a protector of the environment, establishing (with her eldest daughter) a grassroots, earth friendly school activity group. She is also the founder and CEO of her own business – My Eco MO. To meet Jess is to come face-to-face with a force of nature – she is the elements combined. Jess is an effervescent, bright, quick-witted , loving, loyal and beautiful woman. She is purely and simply glorious and completely unforgettable.
So on this Thanksgiving day 2010, Id like to thank you Jess – my Great Lost Love for all the wonderful things you added to my life and I wish you and the girls all the love, peace and happiness this world can offer.
POSTSCRIPT – 11/25 9:30pm – More gritty realism less florid romance OR How to undo 2351 romantic words with 539 considerably less romantic ones
‘I am fire and air; my other elements
I give to baser life.’
Antony and Cleopatra (scii)
OK If this were a court trial I would refer my detractors/ accusers to my ‘its all there in black-and-white (very sneakily placed I admit, though not at all in small print) third paragraph disclaimer’; which reads in part : ” This is how I choose to remember Jess, preferring to look back with gratitude and love.”
Is this not clear enough?? So, I painted some dark browns, ochre. OK more like some pitch black’s, golden. Isn’t there such a thing as poetic license people?
In nature isn’t light balanced with dark? I was leaving it up to you guys to finish the picture here – its much more fun that way – believe me.
Does your humble servant have to do everything for you guys? Really?
If you insist –
Jess is also the single most impossible bloody-minded (US readers- read intractable) individual in the universe with an unfathomable ability to be able to change her mind at the drop of a hat. One minute swearing that a person is a lazy, pathetic, disorganized, unreliable good-for-nothing, the next insisting they are amazing and talented and altogether phenomenal; without feeling the least need for any kind of justification whatsoever.
Getting Jess to change her mind once it’s set? Good luck with that compadre!
Jess also has a proclivity towards impulsiveness and, like the author of this blog, the frequent usage of hyperbole is not a habit she steers away from.
She also seems to like moving houses – a lot… oh and her choice of career path too. Well, you know what they say – a change is as good as a holiday.
When wronged or if Jess feels wronged, I’ve witnessed her trample on grown men and women alive. Actually it’s not trampling per se, it’s more like nuclear vaporization. Not a trace of them is left to memory. Where they go to is anyones guess. Maybe she has a collection of shrunken heads stashed somewhere? The more I think about this, the more I’m sure of it.
Forgiveness is not a quality that comes easily to Jess, this process can take months or years if you’re persistent…and contrite to the point of self flagellation… if you’re not…or a repeat offender… well, lets put it this way – I can feel my head diminishing in size as I type.
Ok. Happy now? You’re not getting all of her lesser adorable features. Thats it! So back off!
I hoped that when seeing Jess again, which I undoubtedly will at some point in my life, I would see her as a collection of the above mentioned traits and she will have magically transformed into the Wicked Witch of The West complete with warty nose, hunchback and a raspy heckle; a good dose of obesity, goitre and running sores wouldn’t hurt either. But I know that’s not going to happen. The truth is, as unlikely as it sounds, I find the above mentioned traits endearing, quite adorable actually. You don’t love someone for their strong points – everyone does that. You love someone not despite their bad points but because of them. Some are character traits that have developed as a result of your partner’s life experiences and some are simply essential parts of their personality . They are things you can not only live with – they are things you learn to embrace – even if they sometimes frustrate you to the point of chewing off your own fingers.
” His love for my mother wasn’t about looking back and loving something that would never change. It was about loving my mother for everything – for her brokenness and her fleeing, for her being there right then in that moment… It was about touching that hair with the side of his fingertip, and knowing yet plumbing fearlessly the depths of her ocean eyes.
My mother could not bring herself to say ‘I love you’. ” From The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
If you don’t buy that …or more importantly she doesn’t… I’m fucked. Don’t be surprised if you’re one day visiting a Natural History Museum and that brown leathery thing with sunken eyes encased in glass looks vaguely familiar – she’ll have sold me.