Thursday, February 14, 2008

My love story

Here is my love story.

On July 4, 2000, I met the man who will be my life partner. It was hot--more so in my "vintage," brick apartment building in Chicago's Hyde Park. That apartment baked like an oven in the summertime. The heat made me sluggish and though I was due at my parents' house for holiday festivities, I found it hard to get moving. It was well after 1:30 p.m. when I left the house to catch the 2:10 South Shore train to Indiana. Normally, I would walk the six blocks to the University of Chicago platform, but the heat, the time, and all the stuff I was carrying, made me decide to hop the bus to the station.

I saw the number 28 bus approaching as I neared the stop at 53rd and Lake Park. I was going to miss it! I sped to a trot, juggling my laptop, purse and overnight bag. What happened next must be pure providence--a police officer stepped off the curb, stopping traffic on Lake Park, including the bus. He let a ragtag, five-minute, community parade go by. Apparently, the Hyde Park Independence Day Parade is a tradition, but I had never seen it before and never saw it after that day. The intrusion of the parade allowed me to make the bus. I took a seat in the front--one of the long ones facing the center. Mr. What Tami Said was seated several rows back. He saw me; I didn't see him. We got off the bus together.

I was walking, still juggling my bags, when a guy strolled by--my height, chocolate- skinned, dimples. He smiled. I smiled...and juggled my bags.

"May I carry something for you?" He asked.

"Oh, no thank you. I've got it." I replied. I mean this was Chicago. He was good looking, but I wasn't handing over my laptop.

We started walking together. And when we got to the platform, we talked. He was from New Jersey and had a barely-there accent that was charming. He had been in the Navy and traveled around the world. He was taking another train to his sister's house in the 'burbs. His large family had driven in from the East Coast and they were gathering there. He talked about his family a lot. I liked that.

I don't exactly remember what else we talked about, just that he seemed really sweet--a nice guy. I also remember that it took him forever to ask for my number. He would dance around the question. "Are you married?" And then dance away. I could see the bright light on the front of the South Shore in the distance as I finally scrawled my name and number in pencil on a train schedule that I had in my purse. (We still have that card somewhere, even after three moves. Sometimes I find it some drawer and smile.)

Later that night, sitting in my parents' living room, I mentioned to my friend Carol, that I had met this nice guy on the train platform. "This could be something," I said.

It was. We were engaged by Sept. 16. If you are counting, that's two months later. Surprised? You couldn't be more surprised than I was. I am a responsible, first-born child, who always adhered to the "rules" of love, except for just this once. It didn't even feel like a gamble. It just felt right.

I was 30 years old--no child when it came to relationships. He was 39. His family was great and liked me. My family liked him. In fact, we discovered that my dad and his mom grew up a few miles away from each other in Mississippi. His kids were lovely and he was a good and attentive father. Best of all, I had finally met a man who shared, or at least appreciated, my quirks. On one of our early dates, he brought some movies to my house to watch--"A Cabin in the Sky" and "Monty Python's The Holy Grail"--that's a pairing after my own heart. And he knew all the lyrics to the sappy, soft rock song "Please Come to Boston." I think Babyface and my husband may be the only two black men on Earth who know that song. (lol)

We got married almost a year to the day we met, on Fourth of July weekend in 2001. After nearly seven years of marriage, I, of course, know the real deal, the ugly underbelly of my dear husband--y'know how he likes dreary jazz that makes my brain hurt, and how he is a bit of a curmudgeon, and how he always thinks he's right, when it is clear that I am always right. But I also know that this fall, he planted a garden for me, and I can't wait to see it bloom in the spring. Some guys bring one rose--my baby brings a garden full. And I know that today, when I am super sick with a cold and guzzling NyQuil like water, he is taking care of me and feeding me soup and ginger ale.

I know that marrying my husband is one of the best "gambles" I have ever made.

I love you, sweetie.

That is my true love story. What is yours?

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