Valentine’s Day is this Saturday (for those of you who have not marked your calendar yet). Jeff and I met face to face on the weekend of Valentine’s Day in 1999.
We met on the internet about a month before then. I was working in the computer lab at Lander University and Jeff was living in Anchorage, AK working for the Census Bureau. I worked pretty close to full time in the lab. If I wasn’t in class or sleeping, I was there. The hours, especially the late night and early morning ones could really drrraaaaag. I installed a program on the computer at the help desk called “ICQ“. It’s much more sophisticated now than it was then. It’s a one-on-one chatting program. It’s not made for match making specifically. You enter some personal info and start chatting. You can choose the type of person you want to chat with or you can choose for the program to pick someone totally random. That’s how I met Jeff. He was my “random” that night. His handle was “Sweet Song”. We chatted and immediately found that we had some interesting things in common: we’re both originally from SC (his grandparents were still here, bringing him back often for visits), we both went to small Christian colleges in NE Georgia during the same year bringing us within 30 miles of each other, we both attended churches with similar beliefs–which was refreshing to find.
We became instant friends. After chatting for about a week, we exchanged addresses so that we could send some real mail. I sent Jeff a card and put my phone number in it. I know, real subtle, Mandi. It came in handy, though. I got the flu the next week and couldn’t go to work, so Jeff called me. On the phone, our friendship turned into something more. I cannot tell you how many hours we spoke on the phone the first time, but I’m sure it was in the neighborhood of 6. Keep in mind that long distance was not what it is today. Jeff paid for every single minute of that phone call. Then, he paid for 6 more more them that week. We never went a day without talking. His first phone bill was over $600.00 and that’s when we decided to meet. We agreed to split the cost of Jeff’s plane ticket down here. Airline travel was also a lot cheaper back then because gas was around 75 cents per gallon. Yes, really.
He flew down here on a Friday afternoon. I met him at the airport and I was SO nervous. We had said a lot to each other before meeting that hung in the balance as he walked toward me. This was back in the day when you could walk right up to the concourse in the airport and watch each person walk out. I knew him when I saw him and I could see that physical attraction would not be a problem. His hair was spiked up with bleach blonde tips. He was wearing a brown leather jacked and was SO FIT. We hugged in the airport and I was trying my best to act normal, but I’m sure he saw right through me. To keep things public and safe, we planned to stay with my parents that weekend. Back at their house, he instantly charmed them. Jeff was staying in my brother’s room, so I showed him back there. That was when we had our first kiss and we can both agree that it was terrible! We bumped noses then crashed our teeth together. I was so embarrassed, but it got better. Saturday was Valentine’s Day. We went out to eat at Rafferty’s and to see the movie “Message in a Bottle”–all with my parents. Sunday we went to church together, went to visit his grandparents then drove on to Greenwood where he would see where I lived, went to school and worked. He went to classes with me on Monday, then I drove him back to the airport to leave on Tuesday. That weekend was pretty magical and it was the start of our relationship, our marriage, our family and our life. And, the greatest thing was, we could see that even then.
All week I’ll be sharing some of our mushiest emails and chats. I printed and kept them all in a notebook and it reads like a great romance novel. One of the greatest things about having met online is that I was able to capture all of our feelings in print for each other when they were new. Before life and stress began to get in the way, we were, I believe, the two most in love people you could meet.