The weeks before Christmas were filled with normal activities – wrapping presents, going to the post office with Grandpa, and putting in hours at Spieth Photography. Mike returned to his parents’ house with plans to start searching for a job.
Jason arrived home for his Christmas break on December 21. By this point, my relationship with Mike had progressed so far that I knew that I had to convince Jason that we were really over for good. I tried again to break up with him that evening but his reaction was just as visceral as it had been on my previous attempts – crying, screaming, yelling, wreckless driving – what he didn’t realize was his reaction just made me want out even more. Finally, I must have said something that clicked, or he was still sure he could change my mind, but he agreed that we would officially end our relationship as long as I attended his family’s Christmas functions with him. That seemed like a fair trade. So we pretended to be together through Christmas, exchanged gifts with each other, and I called Mike every evening, counting the days until New Year’s Eve.
On Christmas Eve, my mom showed up at Spieth’s with an envelope for me. She’d just been to the post office to pick up our mail (we had a P.O. Box) and knew from the return address that the envelope was from Mike. Before parting ways for break, I’d made Mike promise to send me some photos of himself. My mom was anxious to see photos of my mystery man.
Luckily, Mandy and I were running Spieth’s that day, so I was able to rip into the package and show them photos of Mike immediately. He’d had his mom take pictures of him and photos of his parent’s house. I was thrilled by the photos (and the accompanying letter) and felt that they were the best Christmas present I could possibly receive. The funniest aspect of the photos? Our living room couch and the love seats in Mike’s parent’s living room were the exact same fabric. Talk about a small world.
A few days later, Mike and I were talking on the phone and he said that he had some good news. He’d decided that he was going to stay in Champaign awhile longer instead of moving home. I’m not sure if it was lack of high-speed internet access or me that made him make this decision, but I was grateful none the less. A two hour long distance relationship seemed much more realistic than a four and half hour one.
On December 30, Jason and I parted ways. I hadn’t changed my mind and he was surprisingly calm about the situation. We watched movies in my room that afternoon and I said bye to him at the backdoor of my childhood home. While Jason still played a role in my life off and on until nearly May, this was the moment when I officially felt free.
The next day, I had to work and planned to head to Mike’s immediately afterward to celebrate Christmas and New Years. I was very unsure as to what to purchase Mike for Christmas. Finally, I settled on a watch, but I wanted it engraved and of course they couldn’t have it finished before I left for Mike’s that day. In lieu of the watch, I decided to have passport photos taken. Mike and I had talked a great deal about traveling and he was shocked that I didn’t have a passport. I knew that taking the first steps towards a passport would signify my commitment to a future with Mike. Every time we’ve traveled, I’ve looked at the passport photo (not the best of me) and smiled, remembering that day.
I arrived at Mike’s in the early evening and he took me out for Mexican. The notes in my day planner say that I had chicken tacos and rice. After dinner, we went back to Mike’s house and exchanged gifts. I opened my gifts first – a box of chocolates from Graham’s (little did I realize I was about to experience ecstasy – the chocolate sealed the deal that I had to keep dating this guy so I could have a consistent supply of this goodness!) The second gift was a necklace. It is yellow gold with an emerald and diamond pendant. It’s difficult to describe the shape, but it is similar to a star. I also learned that evening that Mike’s grandfather used to be a jeweler and the pendant had come from the store he had sold several years earlier. (Reason #435 to keep Mike around – jewelry connections). I explained to Mike about the watch and gave him my lame gift of passport photos. He was a good sport about it and I gave him the watch a few days later. The engraving read, “Eternally Yours, Jamie” – a signature that had developed from the hundreds of emails we had exchanged by this point.
I went home on New Year’s Day – stopping to have dinner with Jamie and shop at the Outlet Mall. On January 3, I had my student teaching orientation. After orientation, I met Mike in Mattoon and we saw Lord of the Rings and went out to dinner. I started student teaching the next day. To say that student teaching was stressful would be an understatement. My mentor teacher, while nice, wasn’t exactly helpful. By the end of the second week, I was teaching 7 classes – without a real clue in the world what I was doing. I was crazy busy and wasn’t able to see Mike again until the weekend of January 11 when I was invited to Mike’s parent’s house to celebrate his graduation.
To Be Continued…