That Time I Married the Boy from the Chatroom
I love love. And I love a good love story. But ours? It’s my favorite.
7 years ago, I moved in with the cute guy that would eventually become my husband and baby daddy. It was the 17th day we’d actually spent physically together.
I know, sorry Mom (not sorry, and you’re welcome for your adorable grandson).
But let’s back it up a few months.
In September of 2010, before Tinder and after Myspace, I met a boy online. In a chatroom. I know. I just…can’t. Stay with me here. His username had something to do with Wolverine (he was from Michigan, after all), and mine had something to do with Sunshine. He was kind and sweet and wasn’t creepy. We talked for a bit through the screens of our computers and I assumed that would be it. But at the end of the conversation, he gave me his phone number and told me I could text or call him if I wanted to.
So when I signed off that night, I did the most non-Claire-thing I’ve ever done and called this strange boy. He had the sweetest voice, was warm and funny and open with me. We talked on the phone for two hours before saying goodnight. His name was Mitch and he lived in Detroit. He was 4 years my junior and had you told me that day I’d marry him, I would have laughed in your face. He’s sitting next to me on the couch right now.
But we’re not there yet.
The day after we chatted for the first time was THE ONLY DAY since then that we didn’t talk in person or on the phone. But I thought about him all day. He had told me a story about a girl that he’d been hanging out with, and I’d told him I was seeing a dude here in the PNW. I think we both assumed that it was comfortable to talk about the people we were dating because the thought of something working out between the two of us was complete CRAZYTOWN USA.
We began talking on a daily basis and became close pretty quickly. It wasn’t until about a month in, when we both realized that there were some potentially real feelings, that we had to have a discussion about what in the actual holy heavens was going on with us. He freaked out a little bit and decided he wanted to take a break. He would tell you that he had just gained some freedom in his life and didn’t want to feel locked down to anything quite yet. So the thought of falling in love with some chick from Seattle was a bit too much on the commitment scale. Our “break” lasted about 18 hours before he broke down and texted me that he missed me.
This was also before facetime, and until I met him in person a few months later, I didn’t see his face at all except for a few pictures he sent me in snail mail. No skype, and he didn’t have a phone that took great pictures. No snapchat, and you guys… HE WASN’T ON FACEBOOK. I didn’t think that was weird, but everyone else did.
Mitch, on paper, was probably not someone that I’d likely be matched with. We come from different worlds, had completely different experiences through our younger years and were complete opposites in so many ways. He was a pretty typical bad boy, and I was your run-of-the-mill rule follower. His past didn’t scare me. I always saw him clearly – his soul was good and he had made the changes to make his life what he wanted it to be.
In January of 2011, I booked a ticket to fly out to Detroit for my mid-winter break. By this time, we had exchanged Christmas presents, gotten to know ALL THE THINGS you could know through a phone, and said “I love you” to each other. We were a real life version of the TV show Catfish. It was time to know if this was real or not.
But do you want to know what I did? I planned a WEEK LONG TRIP. You guys, I have no idea what I was thinking. Had this gone south, I would have been hanging out in the Dirty D for a whole week by myself. The closest person was my friend Kim (who would actually deliver our son five years later) in Ann Arbor. I had warned her that if I needed an escape plan, I’d be calling her.
The trip was also in February. Have you ever been to the Midwest in February? Yep, coldest month of the year. The week before I got there, it had snowed a total of 22 inches. It was 4 degrees.
If you thought me calling the dude on that first night was the most non-Claire-thing ever to happen, this one blows that out of the water. I had NEVER done anything like this before. And I was so proud of that. THAT’S what made me believe it was the right thing. That, and my 94 year old Grandmother telling me I just HAD to go to meet him.
She was a guru of all things and was always our biggest cheerleader.
Had Catfish been a hit show during this time, Nev and Max would have been with me on this trip. It wasn’t until I actually got to Detroit that I finally calmed down. I remember a gigantic wave of peace coming over me when I got to my hotel – that he was meeting me at once I was settled. I knew it was going to be okay.
I watched him pull into the parking lot and waved through the hotel window as he dodged the 20 foot snowdrifts in his Grand Prix.
This is it, I thought.
He walked through the door of my hotel room, shaking and smiling in his huge winter coat that seemed to swallow him. He put his stuff down (he had gone to the store to get Lucky Charms and Red Wing Chardonnay) and hugged me. I feel that hug now like it just happened. He kissed me and told me that I was more beautiful in person that I was in photos. Swoon. All my fears were cast aside in that moment and I knew I had made the right decision.
We spent the week together, talking and playing in the snow and going on dates and even to a hockey game – IN HOCKEYTOWN. I met his family and fell more in love with him than I ever thought possible. It WAS real. HE was real. Thank you, Jesus.
After my second trip out to Detroit (a month after the first), we decided that long distance – especially Seattle to Detroit – was just going to be too hard. Lots of discussions later, he decided that he was ready for a fresh start in a new city. So he moved to Seattle on April 13, met my family and we moved into our first apartment on April 14.
There are lots of stories and lessons I have to share about us – especially when I think about the fact that we spent our first year of dating, ALSO living together.
But my favorite lesson from our story has always been: if it feels right, JUST JUMP IN. Take the leap of faith. Even if it means doing something you NEVER thought you’d do, do it. It’s so worth it, even if it doesn’t work out.
In our case, it has worked out. We have a beautiful life with an amazing little toddler that keeps our lives full. Doesn’t mean our life is without struggle. Lord knows we work every day to make our life what it is, and it’s not always easy.
But worth it? Hell yes.
I’m so grateful for that stupid chatroom, and for the dose of courage I got that January day I booked my flight to Detroit.