Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Reality Of "Enduring and Committed"

This is what I WOULD HAVE LIKED to have sent to the Australian Embassy as part of the paperwork for my permanent residency visa. We have to prove an enduring and committed relationship. Huh?! Spoiler Alert: We did have to put Wolfy to sleep on Thursday, September 30, in between my pajama meeting with the mayor and packing the bags and kids into the car for the trip to Iglersreuth. He'd crossed continents and oceans for me before, but just couldn't bear this last trip. He died peacefully, in my arms, the way he wanted. Memorial to follow.....inspired by Lori.

Christine M. Steinmann
Iglersreuth 12
95671 Bärnau Germany

October 6, 2010
Australian Embassy Berlin
Visa Office
Wallstrasse 76-79
D-10179 Berlin

To Whom It Concerns:
This letter is to accompany the application for Christine M. Steinmann migration to Australia. To the support documentation required on section 85 (written statements from you and from your partner detailing the history of your relationship).

Damon and I met as Peace Corps volunteers in Haiti. Our staging took place on April 11, 1996 in Miami, Florida. From there we flew to Haiti and spent three months in Les Cayes training. Damon pretty much hit on me immediately, but I was determined to not have this be about a relationship. Still, times were hard and the pickings were slim. At some point I remember him with the last bottle of Haitian Five Star (Senque Etoile)rum. That did it. I was head over heals, literally, since the current in the stream we were sitting in was stronger than I'd thought.

I remember him asking my permission to kiss me after he'd hauled me out of the stream. What a gentleman. The moon was full, the stars were bright and we were alone in the countryside of southern Haiti. It felt as if we were worlds away from reality. "Why not?" I remember thinking. "Noone will ever know. What's the worst that can happen?" If I'd known about the fourteen following years then, I might have held out for a second bottle of Senque Etoile rum.

We started Peace Corps service in July. At this point Damon began to play it cool. He was distant and uncommitting. (Damon blames his bad attitude on his frequent bouts of profuse vomitting and diarrhea which I never had the pleasure to witness but which severely curtailed HIS dating prospects with anyone who did.) Honestly, if there had been any one else on the island I could have fallen in love with, I would have. I tried. Ronald was with Sarah. (And still is, two kids later!) Marco was with Jean-Carla. (And still is, two kids later!) Jen wasn't gay. (I'm not either, but I was really taking a hard look at ALL my options.) Damon quips that if the roads to the Dominican Republic were at all passable, my kids and I would be speaking Spanish right now. The dog didn’t help either. One night when we were having a fight, and sleeping in separate chambers in what passed for a hotel in Les Cayes, Wolfy cried all night until I went back in to find Damon. Some help.

We spent the spring of 2008, after our Peace Corps service, in Washington D.C. That was nice. D.C is a great city to be young and in love in. Sushi nights. All-day movie days. Free museums.

We bought the condo in CT, got real jobs as an accountant and a veterinarian and my life became the suburban hell I’d always dreaded. Just as we were considering investing in two kayaks for our waterfront property, I threw a big “Jump Into 30” party for myself, and Damon knocked me up, at 5 AM on April 11, 1999, on the sink counter in the guest bathroom since all the other rooms were taken. Four years to the day we met in Miami. Damon and I both vaguelly recall the "incident" and Ryan IS the spitting image of him, so we're all clear there. (I never did get to go sky-diving, Lindsey, but it was a great party none-the-less, with an extra little party favor nine months later!)

Our daughter, Ryan Elizabeth, was born on January 2, 2000 in Stamford, CT with me screaming at Damon that I would never ever ever give the child his last name OR get married to him. Until they gave me the epidural. After that it was okay. Damon is a great dad. You have to see the video of him trying to pick up Ryan for the first time. Or her first bath. Forty minutes long. Who spends that much time on a kids’ head? The twins didn’t get bathed until we could smell them. The only one who doesn’t get bored watching the video is Ryan.

Damon applied to graduate school in Arizona, we sold the condo in Connecticut and bought a house in Avondale, AZ. We got married on June 9, 2001 in Sedona, Arizona. Our second child, Andrew Damon, was born on April 1, 2002. Because one week after the wedding Damon said, “Oh, come on, what could happen this one time? We just got married.”

6 weeks after Andrew was born we packed house in Arizona and moved to France for Damon to finish up graduate school. We stayed there until February 2004 when we moved to Germany. The twins, Aidan Christopher and Matthew Frederick, were born on July 4, 2006 in Tuebingen, Germany.

After that, noone else would have either one of us.

We’ve spent the last few months selling off all of our household belongings. INCLUDING the kitchen sink. We’ve boxed up toys, photos and books, sorted out winter clothes from summer, dealt with an unruly landlord and an obnoxious school principal. All without help. Unless you count Nintendo and the TV set as paid babysitters.

We adopted our dog, Wolfgang, over fourteen years ago in Haiti. He’s been with us through thick and thin, across continents and over oceans. We had to euthanize him only a few days ago, but the rest of the Connor/Steinmann gang is still together, going strong, and ready for a new home in Australia.

I didn’t really want the dog. I didn’t really want the relationship. But I really miss the dog now that he’s gone. And as far as I can tell, Damon and I are stuck with each other as well.

If that’s not an enduring and committed relationship, I don’t know what is. (And if they sell Senc Etoile in Australia I'll even call it love!)

Christine M. Steinmann


  1. And to think I was a witness to some of this....

  2. I'm so sorry about's heartbreaking when the end comes. How is everyone doing? Perhaps I should post this elsewhere..

  3. Thanks Lindsey. I knew you'd understand. We're good though. It really helped that WOlfy was in pain. The decision, in the end, was an easy one, even though I couldn't meet it just two days before! I remember my little man fondly, but I remember him as he was, following me on my bicycle in Haiti, not suffering and sad like he was at the end.

    Brenda, just going to assume you mean me and Damon. ALthough you were there for WOlfy too! I'll never forget Kevin telling me i HAD to take one of the puppies. And little Wolfy trotting out at me.

    Can't even imagine what you thought of me and Damon. Everyone else assumed we were doomed. But you never judged. And you had us in your home. With your kids.

    He's a good man. I figure if we survived all that, plus this move to Australia with four kids, then we're pretty good to go!

  4. What a writing style! Wow! You move the reader through your life like a parachutist falls through the air!

  5. IT WON'T DELETE. IT WON'T DELETE! What I MEANT to say was: I really NEEDED to HEAR that! Spent much of last week doing homophones with the kids - now THEY'RE teaching ME! But I'm hoping our review of "ing" rules helps me get my spelling back. Who knew there were rules?! And if Germans insist on spelling 'gallop' with TWO p's at the end - do I have it in me to relearn 'galloping' with only ONE p? All just excuses of course.

    But I did need the kind words. Thank you.

  6. Oh. Never mind. It DID delete. Caught anyway!