Given that Champs and I will celebrate our 7th anniversary this Sunday, I thought it might be time to tell our story. Although our marriage is frightfully normal, our courtship wasn’t.
Our story starts on New Year’s Eve of 1998. I was 32 years old and had spent years thinking I was destined to marry a minister (legacy of Missions Week at my Baptist church when I was 14 years old and very impressionable). I was dumpy and unhappy; I’d spent years being the “buddy” but never the pretty one. The few guys I dated I dropped as soon as I realized there was no “future” in it. This policy protected my heart, but it did leave me lonely.
That New Year’s Eve, I reached the point where I’d had enough. I decided it was time for me to have some fun. I very purposely set aside any plans or hopes to marry a minister and set out to just go on some fun dates and to connect with people. I also did this on my own; rather than going along as my friend’s bodyguard, I put on makeup and went out for my self.
I had been out on my own for quite awhile, but a few months before I’d moved back with my parents for a variety of reasons. They had recently gotten hooked up on the Internet and I discovered the bulletin board of our local newspaper. Through this, I met a few people. I can’t remember their names now; the important part is that I set out on my own for the first time. I went to a few gatherings of folks and had a few dates. Nothing came of them, except to make me feel, for the first time, as though I might have something to offer other than protecting the pretty girls.
Along with the bulletin board, I discovered chat rooms. On January 31, a Saturday night, I was home and bored, so I logged on to Excite! chat, to the “Midwest” room where I would go to hang out and talk to people. This night, I went in and looked around at the other people there. I read their profiles and looked at the avatars they had posted as I talked in the general room. I noticed one avatar; it was a soccer ball with a foot on it. It caught my eye, so I read the profile. According to the profile, here was a guy, nicknamed Champs, who was a soccer coach and assistant manager. Unlike others I saw, his quote was something about living a positive life (instead of some come-on about how he was hard and ready, like every other guy out there). My interest was piqued, so I clicked into IM mode and asked him if he was a good soccer player. He indicated that he was and that he enjoyed lots of sports. His light flirtation showed me that he had some spunk. We talked online for about 2 hours.
We told each other where we lived; me in Minnesota and him 550 miles away in Illinois. All I knew about Illinois was Chicago, and he told me about how he didn’t like Chicago. At one point, I asked him how old he was. He told me he was 25 years old… 7 years my junior. I almost hung it up right there, but since we were just flirting innocently, I shrugged and filed the information away and kept talking. After awhile, though, I had to get off the computer. My mom was hanging around, wanting the computer so she could play solitaire. I didn’t want to stop talking, so I did something that shocked even me. I typed out “you want to do something crazy?” He typed back, “Um, … ok. What?” “You want to call me? I have to get off the computer.” He typed back, “Um, … ok. When?” We arranged to talk in 10 minutes. I ran to brush my teeth and get back to my room before he called. I didn’t know for sure if he would call, but he did!
Right away, I could tell that this guy had a sweetness that I’d never encountered before. We talked about everything; what we did for a living, our hobbies. Champs asked me what kind of music I liked to listen to. I looked over at my CD collection and started naming styles; contemporary Christian, pop, light rock, some classical. Immediately Champs told me he was impressed by the fact that I listed to Christian music. I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary, but in his experience, it was.
We continued talking for hours! I can’t remember everything we talked about, only that we talked until 5:00 in the morning. I found out years later that Champs had been on the wireless phone in his room, but the battery warned him that it was dying. He went to the kitchen where the phone was mounted on the wall and sat on the floor talking to me for the rest of the night.
When we finally hung up, I got a couple hours of sleep and then went to church with my sister-in-law. I told her that I was sure I had met someone special. I didn’t know for sure what would come of it, but I knew he was someone really, really special. This was confirmed when I got home from church and he had sent me an e-mail. Yeup, he was special, all right.