My wife and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is only 8 days away from one of the most significant days of the year for us: February 22nd.

February 22nd is my birthday.

February 22nd is my wife’s birthday.

February 22nd is the day we met.

February 22nd is our wedding anniversary.

We’ve both been online since the mid-1990’s. The internet was a very different place back then. Most people hadn’t even heard of the internet back then and, if they had heard of it, most of them couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to be connected to it.

We were both members of a listserv discussion list called “scrnwrit”. It was basically a discussion via email. Members of the list would send email to the scrnwrit email address and everyone who had signed up for that discussion list would get a copy. If someone replied, everyone would get a copy of that and etc.

This particular list had a short, optional questionnaire for you when you signed up — name, date of birth, city, country — and like that. And when it was your birthday, they’d send a note to the list saying, “Fill up so-and-so’s inbox with birthday greetings.”

When I opened my email up on the morning of my birthday in 1996, there was, among the birthday well wishes, an email from Tracy Cooper that said, “Happy Birthday! It’s my birthday today, too.”

To which I replied, “Happy birthday, Tracy! I’ve never met anyone with the same birthday as me before.”

Terry, Summer 2012

And that began our discussions. We were both single parents of two young children — one boy, one girl — at the time. Hers were Terry (7) and Kate (5) and mine were Matthew (6) and Ashley (3).

In a very short time, we were spending 4 – 5 hours a day shooting emails back and forth. I lived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and Tracy in Perth, Western Australia. The time difference was such that, as I was going to bed after our discussions, her kids were just getting home from school.

Kate, Summer 2012

When the time on email became onerous, we exchanged phone numbers and started talking on the phone as well. That is, until the phone bills showed up. Neither one of us was prepared to handle $1,000 in long distance charges each. The phone companies cut us both off until we paid our bills down. I think that was somewhere near the end of June. That was also the point where we decided that we should probably pee or get off the pot.

So, during July, August, and September, Tracy, Terry, and Kate sold off virtually everything they owned to buy three plane tickets to come to Edmonton and live with me, Matthew, and Ashley for six months. At the end of the six months we either get married or they go back to Australia. Internet romances were almost unheard of at that time.  Some of our friends and family thought we were out of our minds.

Matthew and Ashley, Summer 2012

October 4, 1996: You can’t believe how frantic I was to hear that Canada Customs had pulled them up when they landed in Vancouver. This was pre-9/11 so security wasn’t the craziness it is today but I guess we should have expected that — a mother traveling with two young kids. Once they had determined that she wasn’t running away with the kids, and had found out why they had come to Canada, they were scratching their heads over what sort of visa to issue them. They weren’t here as tourists. They weren’t here as students. They weren’t here as workers. But Canada Customs had no basis to deny them entry. So they wrote up a special visa on the spot and handed it over, saying, “Okay. You’ve got 6 months to either get married or leave the country.”

Renewing our vows. February 20, 2010

Well, they’re still here. And every year, on the Saturday closest to February 22nd, we chuck a party. Invite everyone we can. Our friends have termed it “The Birthaversary”. One year, I surprised Tracy by bringing in a JP and we renewed our vows. Another year, we had a record 63 people in the house. This year, the Birthaversary was, of course, postponed due to the lockdown. Next year, 2022, will be the 25th Annual Birthaversary. We’ll see if it’s one for the ages!