A Cinderella Story for Partners of Commercial Fishermen
I rush to the ticket counter to book the next flight to Seattle. Each canceled flight inflicts a surge of energy through my body that sits like a heating pad on my chest. After spending the holidays in Wilmington, North Carolina, with my family, I plan to meet Chris in Washington for our first New Year’s Eve kiss.
Chris and I have dated long-distance for over three months now (he’s visited my home in California twice, and we chat a bunch on the phone), but this is my first time in his territory, the Pacific Northwest, and I’m anxious for two reasons.
First, I really like this guy; he’s different from the rest. He is a kind man and a great listener with a tender heart who loves his family and adventurous life. He’s a hardworking commercial fisherman, though I still need to figure out what that entails. But it doesn’t matter because the best part is that Chris likes me, too.
Second, I’ve never dressed for *legit* cold weather, and I’m pretty sure Washington has it. To prepare, I went to the outdoor store near my parent’s house, bought a few wool tops and a beanie, then ordered a massive parka with a fur trim hood I later learned is a huge mistake (faux fur is super gross when wet). As I wait my turn at the ticket counter, I look down and click the heels of my vintage leather boots, hoping they’ll make the trip. I’m not sure I can take the cold. But, still. I really like him.
I land in Seattle at 11:11 pm.
Chris is at baggage claim, hands in his pockets, resting his broad back against the wall. The heat from my chest whooshes to my face and toes when his hazel eyes lock on mine. He pulls me close, and we enter into a cozy little world that only Lovers know. You know the place. The place where a moment stretches into infinity. The feeling of new love.
Chris squeezes my hand as we walk to his car in the parking garage – a white 1981 Toyota Tercel – then fidgets with the keys to open the trunk.
“Hold on a sec,” he said. I pull up my fur hood to block the cold gusts.
He folds back a faded plaid comforter to reveal a large box with the word XTRATUF on the lid. XTRATUF? Never heard of it.
“Open the box!”
The lid slides out with a cardboard tongue, and inside is a pair of big, shiny rubber boots with vanilla trim.
“They’re XTRATUF boots! All the fishermen wear ’em here,” he said. “They keep your feet dry and provide good traction on the boat.”
I lift a boot to the fluorescent light of the parking garage. I notice it has the heft of a small hand weight. How thoughtful of Chris to think of me, but why do I need to own, what appears to be, the fishermen’s version of a combat boot? My fishing experiences include a john boat with my Grandpa and booze cruises in my twenties, and I’m not even sure we wore shoes then.
Yet it was that moment when commercial fishing became real to me – the risk, the danger, the severity. Accepting the boots was a gut check, in a way. Fishermen wore boots like this to stay alive. Could I handle being in this relationship?
Seven years later, I wear the same boots. From our first New Year’s kiss, walking docks from Canada to Mexico, and now to my first speaking engagement at the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle.
Being a partner of a commercial fisherman continues to be one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. And to think, it happened when I stepped into his shoes, followed my heart, and entered a partnership beyond my wildest dreams that had only just begun.
I love incorporating the boots into street style for hopping on the boat for the day, then running errands with Chris.
I would love to know the first-moment commercial fishing became “real” for you. Please share in the comments below!
If you liked this, you’d love Confessions of a Captain’s Wife Trying Not To Lose It Pre-Season.