I remember it so well. The moment that we first met. It was May 2000. I was 22. I’d just moved to a new town, to start my nurse training, and was in the process of building up a new network of friendships. The internet was becoming more and more accessible to everyone and was a great way to ‘meet’, even virtually, new people, provided you had a dial-up connection. Forget your Instagram, your MSN and Facebook; Yahoo Chat and Yahoo Messenger were our weapons of choice. You made yourself stand out with your ironic username and the colour of your font. Friendships were quickly forged and faded just as fast. You picked your chatroom and attempted to make witty, engaging conversation, if you were lucky one of your fellow chatters would send you a PM (Personal Message, for the younger readers).
So there I was chatting away when fate intervened; as I typed I saw a fellow chatter say, in the upward scrolling text, that he was a nurse, working at the same hospital as me. So I dived in and we began to chat, I think we may have skipped the standard A/S/L (age, sex, location) request and I still can’t remember which one of us pressed the PM button first. We became ‘chat friends’; if he was online at the same time as me, we’d chat away. There was no romance or professions of undying love. We happened to be in the same place at the same time. We shared nuggets of information about our personal lives- he was just about to become an uncle for the first time. His friend’s band was playing at a pub near where I lived and he asked me if I wanted to go along. So, with my flatmates in tow, I went along and we ended up chatting in RL. The next time we met online, he asked me if I ‘wanted to do it again sometime’ and I, having reassured myself that he wasn’t an axe murderer in the making, said yes. As quickly as that our first official date was arranged.
By now we had exchanged numbers and he would call me on my landline of an evening (yes, we were old school). Then an emotional asteroid intervened and fragmented my whole world. About six weeks after we met, my dad died – he’d been poorly for a while but nonetheless this threw my world into total disarray. When I told him the news that I wouldn’t be back for a while, he just said ‘I’m not going anywhere’. At that point, if not before, I knew I had found a decent guy who was in it for the long haul. My fate was sealed. My knight had arrived.
Turn the clock forward three years and #1 son came along. Being a new mum was so so hard and through all of my moments of self-doubt, low self-esteem and doubting my capabilities as a parent, he was there and he was an amazing dad. I fell in love all over again. Sons #2 and #3 came along in the next four years and completed our family. It was at this point, we decided to get married!
18 years later, we’re still going strong; life has thrown its fair share of rocks at us but for every grey day, there are many more incredible memories . My knight is a fantastic dad to our boys; while I work full-time, he does the school runs, the laundry, (some of) the housework and the cooking. Since our boys came along, we’ve always worked opposite shifts so that one of us has been around for them. It wouldn’t work for everyone but for us it’s a good way to keep all the cogs of family life turning and we really value the time that we all have together.
Valentine’s Day is no longer about huge romantic gestures for us (I’m not sure it ever was). For me, it’s about appreciating what you have and each other. I know that I couldn’t go to work every day without my knight behind me doing his thing. As individuals, we are total opposites. I’m an extrovert and he is definitely an introvert. I like 90s’ dance music and the collective works of Steps; he prefers 80s’ hair metal and the blues. He is a fully subscribed carnivore whereas I’m near vegetarian (so, so near). I like butter on my toast; he likes toast with his butter. I am a shandy-drinking southerner and he is a wild and woolly northerner. Somehow we work and I am thankful for that every day.
This Valentine’s Day we’ll be celebrating with a nice bottle of wine and a meal cooked by my knight himself. We may manage to wrestle our 10 and 12 year olds into bed before this but our 14 year old will almost certainly be on the prowl, waiting to see if there is anything extra for him to eat (as I’ve said before that boy can eat!) – I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m about to embark on three busy weekends out and about as part of my 40th celebrations so the best thing about Valentine’s Day will be spending some time together.
So that’s our love story, what’s yours? I’d love to hear it.