Today I am trying something different and am expressing myself with a math equation: 4 x 5=20. No, it is not how much weight I've lost in five weeks (although I must mention that I am down 16.2 pounds after five weeks!). The number twenty represents the number of years I've been married to my spouse and friend, David. If you were to count the actual number of anniversaries we have had it would more accurately be five due to the fact that we got hitched on Leap Day, February 29, 1992.
So what, who cares, right? Well, normally I don't get all crazy and sappy with these occasions but I would like to take this opportunity to explain why it is significant and to share a little of our 'love' story.
David and I met in early 1990. We were both unemployed at the time. We met at a bar, Sam's in Port Chester, New York. Not the ideal place to meet your future mate but I am sure I am not the first one to fall into this trap. He was a nomadic blue collar roofer; running from his past and toward an ambiguous future. I was in the midst of a family in chaos; my parents were in the stages of divorce. And with us all living at home I was searching for any excuse not to be caught in the drama.
I think what attracted me most to David was his energetic smile that exuded a wide grin, manly giggle, and expressively crinkled eyes simultaneously. His presence drew me in. It didn't matter what he looked like, in fact, he wore a red bandanna, dirty work clothes, and heavy work boots when I first saw him. The thing that was irresistible about David was his energy and the attention he gave me. The eye contact was sincere and powerful. It didn't matter to him that I was a 170-pound, size-14 woman. (Which is funny now because I would die to be that size again!). We just had a connection.
There was so much stacked against us from the very beginning. We had nothing. He lived in a room in a boarding house in Port Chester, NY with no means of transportation. I was unemployed and living at home in a very tense situation. No jobs. But, we found each other. After getting to know David in a very short period I believed he was such a special person and someone who could give me the support I needed to get my life back on track. It was emotional support; something you just can't put a price on. On the same level I was excited to help him get on track with his life. I knew he had such great interpersonal skills and saw him doing much more than laying a tar roof. He was under-utilizing what 'God' gave him.
Our situations improved. I found employment and he got a different opportunity. We pursued our relationship for months even when it became a long-distance affair. I drove every Friday from Stamford, CT over the Tappan Zee Bridge to Monroe, NY. At the end of the weekend I would drive directly to work on Monday morning. We did this for a good six months. David moved to Stamford, CT and eventually we moved in together on Warren Street. Not a great neighborhood but affordable at the time. In the mean time I was moving up the corporate ladder in the insurance industry. And with a little encouragement and self-esteem building David secured a bank-teller position and then became office manager at a liquor importer. Our love was the foundation that helped elevate each of us in our working lives.
Eventually, I envisioned having a family with David. I was NEVER the type of girl to dream about the day that her father would give her away at a huge wedding while walking down the aisle in a flowing, white wedding dress. That was never important to me. But, being in love with David changed that. He made me want to have a family.
Things were going great for both of us when I unexpectedly became pregnant. I remember the day I found out. The doctor called me at work and right after sharing the news the nurse said, "Do you want to keep it?!". There was no doubt in my mind, I would keep the baby. It was difficult telling my family especially since they had doubts about our relationship from the beginning. I would not call them prejudice, per se, but they did not envision me being with a man of color. Which is funny to me because I've always been interested in people who are different than me and have had friends from many different backgrounds, cultures, and religions. Needless to say, the odds were stacked against us. At least in the eyes of my family.
You see, I must reiterate that I never saw my husband as a 'black man'. He was and is a kind person who cares about me. I am a bit oblivious to the world around us. I just know that we are good people and if society does not care for us based on our skin color and the fact that we are in a mixed marriage then that is societies' problem. But, realistically, this was another factor whose odds were against us.
The one thing that I was adamant about was the fact that I would require marriage. There was no way I would give birth to a bastard, illegitimate child. I won't say that I made David marry me but he really didn't have a choice. I chose to get married on Leap Day because it was a unique occasion and it only happened once every four years. So, the pressure was off David to have to acknowledge it every year (although he does).
I was six months pregnant when David and I exchanged vows in front of a justice of the peace. My mom was there as the only witness. I wore a teal and black maternity outfit. We exchanged matching, gold wedding bands that we purchased at J.C. Penney for under $100 each. It was a simple ceremony with a few Polaroid snapshots taken for posterity. No white dress. No church. No guests. No father of the bride. No band. No videographer. No headache. We exchanged our vows out of our simple love for each other.
We had a reception in April where we met, at Sam's in Port Chester, NY. There were about 40 members of our friends and family who celebrated with us. And, of course, my mom treated us to a beautiful wedding cake that fit the occasion perfectly.
My point in sharing my story is that even when every thing is against you, you can still come out on top. Love does not require wealth and fanfare. Sharing your life with someone is all encompassing and is enhanced with highs and lows.
Having a diamond ring isn't important to me. After 20 years I still wear the gold band from J.C. Penney's as a symbol of commitment to my husband and friend, David.