Next Monday Renata and I will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. Well, celebrate is as celebrate does, I guess. I imagine we’ll share a bottle of bubbly and a bowl of strawberries, recalling one of the first songs I ever sang for her on a warm, moonlit Spring night in 1982 as we stood hand-in-hand on a little bridge over a chattering creek near a vineyard on the edge of Santa Rosa, California. We might even – seeing as there are no World Cup matches next Monday – manage some snuggles too, if we don’t first drift off into a middle-age-and-bubbly-induced snore-fest by ten o’clock.
It’s ‘jade’ this year, or so the interwebs have told us, but we never did see anything of jade that caught our fancy, even though the little Happy Buddha I saw in a booth at the London Wellbeing Festival came close. In the end we bought tickets to Paul Simon at Hyde Park. A week late, and even more expensive than the Happy Jade Buddha, but Paul has pretty much lived with us since we moved into our first home, so it seems a fitting way to mark the year. Another memory. We have so many already but, like the unexpected children we had along the way, another is always welcome and special.
Together we’ve shared more than a dozen ‘permanent’ addresses in five different countries spread across three continents; and in between we’ve occupied at least that many temporary homes, some for several months, even if we never received post there.
Last year, when we were back in Vancouver for our daughter’s wedding, the dates coincided nicely with the appointment that Immigration Canada had scheduled for me to pick up my renewed Canadian Permanent Resident card. I was honest with the agent behind the desk (Rule Number One for international travel: never, ever lie to an immigration officer; Rule Number Two: never, ever volunteer unsolicited information to an immigration officer)…anyway, I was honest, and confirmed to him that I was now actually resident in London, in the UK.
He asked if I had a record of my travels and absences from Canada for the past 5 years. Yes, of course, I said, as I produced a two-page printed document on which I had listed all the dates and destinations of my comings and goings, and a sum total of days absent from the country.
“Umm…”, he said cautiously, reviewing the list, “I suspect you may not actually qualify for a renewal.”
He was quiet as he looked at the list again; I could tell he wanted to be helpful.
“Are you married to and living with a Canadian citizen?” he asked, hopefully.
“Yes,” I replied, already knowing where he was going.
“And is she employed full-time in London?”
(Rule Number Three: allow the immigration officer to find their own way to the conclusion you intend for them.)
“So in effect,” he continued triumphantly, “you are the accompanying spouse of a Canadian citizen who is employed overseas. And in that case, here’s your PR Card.” He handed it over, relieved.
Wisdom, I have discovered, is found in unexpected places. To me it is wonderful that the immigration laws of the Government of Canada confirm what I have known all along: that the little bit of Canada that variously leads or follows me around the globe, the only true home I’ve ever had, the place where my soul resides and finds its peace, is Renata, always still my bride and my best friend.