The Halls + The Cohens | Mount Vernon New York Documentary Marriage Photographer

March 8, 2017

On a rainy afternoon in late July,  we gathered in an apartment in Mount Vernon, New York.  My plan (because if you know me, I’ve always got a plan) was to interview these three couples and afterwards, photograph them on the gorgeous grounds surrounding the building.  But the rain kept us inside.  No yummy evening natural light (insert sad face here). Just me, three married couples and Thor, the family dog in a dimly lit living room.  Can I be honest?  I was a bit disappointed in myself for not having a backup plan.  In deciding whether or not publish this story, I eventually refocused on my intention when I started these marriage interviews (See Cherisse + Aaron and Christina + Miguel here).  I wanted to celebrate real married couples who are candid enough to share what it’s taken to maintain the love in their marriage.  I want to celebrate folks who aren’t perfect but use each day as an opportunity to get better.  So this interview and impromptu photo session were an actual reflection of my intention.  Sometimes, marriage (and life for that matter) tosses you unexpected dilemmas to throw you off your plan.  What matters in the end is how you weather life’s storms (in this case, literally and figuratively).  

Three couples.  Two generations.  Between them, just over six decades of marriage.  In my desire to document and share real stories of married people, I sat down to hear their perspectives.   We chatted about the “complexities” of bringing two different people together, compromising, family interferences, and why they love their spouses.  There was laughter, a few tears, more laughter, and (because Audrey is the bomb.com), fried chicken.  My friends, you can never go wrong with fried chicken.

By the way, that afternoon was the first meeting of these families since E’Lon and Cedric announced to their parents that they were expecting.   Little Baby Hall is due any day now.  

Enjoy!

Best,

YS

The Couples

Audrey and Peter:  They’ve been together for 37 years, married for 31.  She’s the cook.  Her first impression of him:  “He’s so bony!”  He is and will always be her shopping partner in crime.  She always wanted someone she could grow with, and that’s what they did.  Together, they raised a daughter- E’Lon.

 

Monique and Carlton:  They worked in the same building.  He remembers the very moment he saw her and subsequently pursued her with fervor.  She initially dismissed him, eventually relenting, and allowing him into the life she’d made with her baby boy Cedric.  28 years later, they’re still going strong, continuing to choose love every single day.

 

E’Lon & Cedric:  They met through a mutual friend on Temple University’s campus in Philadelphia.  He swore he’d never get married.  That is, until he met her.  Because in his words: “She’s the only one for me.”  He prefers the word “complexity” to “challenge” when describing the in’s and out’s of his marriage relationship.  Oh yea…they’ll be parents within the next few weeks.  Boom.  

How did you meet your spouse?  What were your first impressions?

A:  I met his mother first.  We lived in the same building in the Bronx.  She was the only person in the building who’d say good morning.  We used to strike up a conversation on the elevator.  Then she told me she had twin sons.  I said “twins are you crazy”.  She had two daughters.  We’d speak casually and eventually I got to meet Peter and Bob before I met his two sisters.  We became friends.  We were friends for a good while before anything happened.  But I met him through his mother.

YS:  What was your first impression of them?

A:  I thought they were too skinny. (Laughter)  Seriously.  I looked and I’m gonna tell you.  My best girlfriend lives in Maryland.  I called Debra and I said, “I met twins.  They’re so bony.  But they’re nice.  They’ve got manners.”  I was very impressed by the fact that they had manners.  I get very turned off if you “Yo” me.  If you start off with Yo I’m done.  They weren’t like that.  They were bony.  Lord, I need to cook for them so they can get some weight.  I even told that to my mother.  My mother asked, “Does their mother cook?”  I said, “I don’t know mama look at ‘em!”

P: We were always out.  It was nothing really serious in the beginning.  Maybe something just clicked?  What do you think?

A:  I used to love to go shopping.  He loves going shopping.  Whenever he was off on a weekend, we’d go shopping.  You name a store, we were in it.  I’ll go in a store and come out with no bags, but I used to love to go shopping.  He didn’t mind.  A lot of young men don’t want to step in a store.  Even today, I’ll say “Let’s go to Homegoods.” We’ll go to Homegoods.

YS:  At what point did you know I could really marry him?

A:  Peter was in school.  He didn’t finish school.  He got a job at the hospital which wasn’t a great job but then he took it upon himself to go back to school to become a technician.  Anybody that can take it upon themselves to stop working and getting a regular paycheck to get a stipend because you want to go back to school to better yourself…I think that’s what clicked with me.  As long as you keep going forward and not back…that was something that I admired in a man.  I didn’t need somebody who was standing still and not doing nothing or not going to achieve anything.  You have to be able to stand on your own two feet and take care of the situation.  My father instilled that in my brothers.  If you decide to get married, you gotta take care of your family.  Don’t depend on anybody else.  And I can say he’s done that.  

P:  The food was good.  (Laughter).  Well that was part of it.  We basically spent more and more time together.  We sat and we would talk about anything.  I realized at that point I was looking to really settle down.  I kept looking in her direction.

Car: We met on 23rd and Market Street on a Thursday in the summer.  I think-

M:  It was Spring.  You act like I wasn’t there.  (Laughter)

Car:  I used to work for the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO) and I was outside sitting on the wall.  That’s how I know the day it was.  I just bought a cheesesteak from the truck.  She was walking by.  She had on a yellow dress.  She had a walk that grabbed my attention.  I jumped down and left my cheesesteak on the wall.  I caught up with her and tried to introduce myself and probably sounded very stupid when I did.  She didn’t give me any play at all.  I mean nothing!  I introduced myself and she walked into the building.

M:  So I worked at PECO.  It was a Thursday because we got paid on Thursday.  I had to run to the bank and cash my check because I needed to make sure that I had formula and stuff for my baby (Cedric).  I was rushing on my quick lunch hour to get to the bank.  While I’m walking out of the building to catch the subway to cash my check he tried to talk to me.  I didn’t have time. The way he came at me..I really didn’t like it.  The whole time I literally was praying, please don’t let that guy still be there.  He jumped off the wall.  I wouldn’t acknowledge him.  The creepy thing was…

Car:  Creepy?!

M:  It was the universe if that’s what you want to call it.  It freaked me out.  It’s a big office building.  I was sitting at my desk, unpacking my pocketbook because I had all these letters to type.  He walked right past my desk.  

Car:  She worked for one of the VP’s at PECO.  I went up there to  see a friend of mine without knowing she was there and I saw her again.

M:  He did this move.  I’ll never forget the move.  He was in rush and walked past me and walked back all smooth!  I put my head down like “how did he find me?!”  out of 30 floors.  I really wasn’t having it.  This was the same day!  Then he went to go see my boss.  

Car:  My friend who she was working for at the time.  I found out her name and a little bit about her.  I sent her flowers the next day.  I kept asking and she finally said yes.  She said, “But I have a son”.  I said, “So what?”  

M:  He honestly did.

Car :  I said “Bring him”.  

M:  I had never heard anything like that before and Rick (Cedric) was a baby.  I pulled out my date book.  

Car:  That’s what led to the first date.

M:  Honestly, he was sending all of that stuff (the flowers and candy), and I just didn’t have time for it.  His friend, my boss at the time, pulled me aside and I thought I was in trouble.  He told me he (Carlton) was a good man and to give him a chance.  His name was Dave Hence. I said “okaaayyyy Dave”.   How did I know?  It was basically, immediately, he took me home, he took him  (Cedric) to daycare, picked up my son.  His eyes looking at him was pure love.  And that love just stayed there.  It was unusual.  Anyone who can love my baby like that is definitely the one because I knew he already loved me.  

Ced: I was at Temple University in Philadelphia.  I’d already graduated.  I was in the gym and a friend of mine named Siobhan called and said “I’m coming down for Spring Fling and I have friend who’s with me.  Can you come pick us up”.  They were taking a Megabus..or the Bolt Bus.  One of those buses that’s a dollar if you catch it early enough.  I knew that the Spring Fling was happening and I knew a bunch of us were going to get together as friends.  I knew who we were as friends.  Energetic.  Not loud…

E: Ummmm… I’d say loud…(laughter)

Ced:  Ok loud.  (laughter) Some people would call us rude.  My questions to Siobhan were “Does she knew who we are?” and “Do I need to curb myself?”  I wasn’t going to.  Is she cool and can she hang?  I picked them up from 30th Street Station.  I asked her name.  She said, “E’Lon”.  I said, “What kind of name is that?  It’s weird.”  Me being the jerk I am.  I asked her what she did.

E:  I said I was unemployed.  You said something crazy or made a crazy face.  I said “You can chill because I’m in graduate school right now”.  Whatever that shade was you can take that back and keep it for yourself.  I’m in his car mind you.  I was like I don’t care.  You’re not gonna look at me crazy like I’m not doing anything with my life.

Ced:  And that’s how we met.  In this very strange and weird, tense situation.  We drove to Temple to campus to meet up with a few folks.  We went to this famous crepe truck on campus and we were hanging out.  I don’t remember what happened between the hanging out on Liacouras Walk and going to the night spot.  Do you remember “E”?

E:  We were just chilling.

Ced:  It was a chill time.  The black alum had gathered at a bar that wasn’t far from the university.  We went and were having a good time.  Wait? Are we telling the real story or the story for the kids? (Laughter)  There were moderate beverages that we consumed.  We started dancing.  Security came at one point and told us we had to calm down.  We just had a really good time.

E:  There was a certain point when I said to him, “Why do I feel like I’m being chose right now?”  He said, “Oh you’ve already been chosen.”  Oh ok…alright.  (Laughter).

Ced:  At that point, I liked her.  I’m used to being who I am and everything else conforming around my personality.  She wasn’t having it.  So fast forward, I hit her up and I started making trips to New York to hang out with her for a few hours.  It’d be really late, early morning, driving back sleeping in the rest stops on the Turnpike because I was so tired.  One of my frat brothers would make sure I called him in the morning to make sure I wasn’t kidnapped or beat up at one of the rest stops.  At the time the New Jersey school system, there were a bunch of school closures and layoffs.  My school was closed but I wasn’t formally laid off so I didn’t have a job.  I decided I was going to move to New York to be around some energy.  I don’t think, until recently, that I admitted that she was a really big part of why I decided to up and move.  I moved with no job but I knew she was here.  We started hanging out.  In September of 2011, we made it official and became boyfriend and girlfriend.  The crazy thing about it was that she had been to Temple to visit our mutual friend but I’d never met her.  She had met my now best friend and met all of our other friends  but had never met me.  Either I was working or I was away.  The fact that I’d’ never met her in all those years…we both say that timing is everything.  Had we met each other several years before, we probably wouldn’t have been together because we were totally different people in the college space.  The fact that I met her after I graduated was appropriate.

 

How did you know your spouse was “the one?”

E:  By the time Cedric proposed we were living together in Brooklyn.  He always says that I challenge him.  There’s something about me that I’m very methodical in how I think about things.  I remember when we decided to move in together.  I’m talking to him one night in his car and he said “Why don’t you just move in with me”.  That wasn’t an option for me…[but]… There was just always something about Cedric…I was always a runner when it got too deep.  There was something about him that I always wanted to stay.  We are two very different people.  Most people who meet us question how we’re even together.  Cedric is an extreme extrovert and I’m kinda borderline extrovert/introvert.  I don’t like people that much.  Cedric will walk into a room and command it.  There’s just something about the two of us that even though we’re so different, it just worked.

YS:  Why marriage?

Ced:  That whole aspect of “I just want to be committed for the rest of my life”….if you think about life, other than this idea or concept of marriage, do you ever commit yourself to anything willingly forever?  I knew that I was not going to meet a better woman than E’Lon for me.  Did I think as far as 75 years from now?   I didn’t think that far.   No.  I thought she’s the best woman I’ll ever meet for me.  I had never found someone that uniquely compatible with me. So if I’m going to do this thing that I’m going to do forever and never again, I would only want it to be with her.  For me.  Some people are thinking about “forever”.  I thought about it as “only”.  The best for me.  It will be forever because it just will never happen again because she’s the only one for me.  Then you look at the data.  I’ve done more in the 5 or 6 years that I’ve know E’Lon.  I’ve grown more in the 5 or 6 years that I’ve know E’Lon.  

P:  You don’t think you would have done this anyway (marriage)?

Ced:  With anybody?  No.  If you had talked to me before I met E’Lon, I said I’d never get married.  I said I’d never have children.  All of those things that I would never do.  The fact that I proposed, got married, and pursued parenthood…that was a shock to everyone.  This idea of forever at the forefront.  That wasn’t it.  It was “she’s the only one”.  That tends to be the common theme among my circle of friends.  It was this idea of, “She’s the best.  There’s nothing that even compares or comes close.”

Car:  When I made my mind up….we were together for 4 months.  I made a decision at that point.  For me, love is a choice.  Love is a decision.  It’s not merely a feeling.  It’s something I get up every single day and I decide and determine that I love this woman and I love this child.  That’s how it’s been for that last 28 years.  Marriage is just a part of..a necessary part of that decision.  This is who I wanted to spend my life with and this is who I want to give my life to.

P:  We were together for about 6 years before we got married.  It wasn’t that out of the blue that 6 years was the cut off.  I think it got to a point where this is what we have to do.  We probably loved each other the first few minutes we were talking with each other.  You just want to be with this person.  The more you want to be with this person, you don’t want to be with anyone else.

A:  My dad told me he was a decent person.  I don’t believe in the afterlife but every once in a while, somebody from my past will show up.  I’ll never forget.  My dad [who was deceased at the time] came through the door and asked me, “What are you waiting for?  He’s a decent person.”  I told my mother that my father was in my room last night.  She couldn’t believe it.  I said, you know how he smokes his cigars and puts on his shirt with his tie and sweater?  Last night, he had on blue and white.  He gave me that message.

YS:  Monique and Carlton.  Did you have examples of marriages in your families?

M:  Our stories are totally different.  My father left when I was four.  He didn’t have a relationship with me and didn’t come back into my life until I was sixteen.  Him and my mom were always talking.  I didn’t even know that he lived in North Philly and we lived in Southwest [Philadelphia].  My sisters and brothers had my father but for whatever reason, by the time I was born they separated.  I just had my mother.  The oldest brother is 22 years older than me.  The sister that’s closest to me, we’re 13 years apart.  I was a latchkey kid.  My mother did all of the working.  The interesting thing though…I didn’t ever feel strange.  I lived in two full blocks and there was only one house that had a father and mother together.  It was my best friend.  Some people didn’t even know their father’s names.  Some saw theirs once in a while.  I felt privileged because I even knew my father’s full name.  I never grew up thinking that because I had a child that I wouldn’t make it on my own.  I grew up around a very strong independent mother who did what she had to do to provide.  I never thought that I needed a man to make it.  However, did I want one?  Yes.  Did I have faith and belief that a man and a woman could be committed together and love each other and have a family?  Yes.  I always thought that even though I didn’t have that around me.

Car:  My mother and my father divorced when I was very young.  It was an ugly thing at that time.  I remember times when my father would try to find my sister and I.  He would always try to establish some time to connection when we were going through challenges.  He was always in my consciousness.  We were aware of him.  Eventually, things softened and we were allowed visitation and at a point in time we lived with him.  We were in high school.  My mother lived in New Jersey and my father lived in Philadelphia.  The interesting part of your question….what that did for me is…my examples of full family…I had next door neighbors in their home when we were growing up.  The Eubanks.  Father, mother, and 4 sons.  It was a safe haven for me growing up.  I got it from the Eubanks or television.  Apart of that drove me that when I was married with Monique that I was determined that my marriage would succeed.  I was determined to be there for my children.  I was determined to have our family together.  Not having that experience was a driver for me in my own relationship.

P:  I had almost the same situation.  Carlton had an opportunity to develop a relationship with his father.  I didn’t.  He was around for my younger years then he was gone.  The last time I saw him, I was traveling with my mother on the subway.  I was getting ready to graduate from junior high school.  She’s had the opportunity to have a mother and a father in the household to develop those kind of values.  My mother was very strong.  She raised all of us.  (Pauses) There are tears coming up remembering her.  I was determined that when we did have children that I was going to be there.  Through hell or high water nothing was going change that.

 

Challenges, Choices, Compromises, and Complexities

YS:  How did seeing your parents’ marriages affect you?

E:  It was important to know that Cedric was the one because I grew up having a mother and father.  I grew up wanting to have that for my own child one day.  They’d argue, and they’d fuss but they were always there.  Always.   The one thing that did teach me was that through the imperfections…we’re going to work through these things.  I think that’s definitely one thing I got from these two.  There are little things I took from them.  He would always call my mom during the day and before he got home.  Do we need some bread or cheese or eggs.  Always the same things.  Every. Single. Day.  Sometimes I say to Cedric, “‘I don’t want you to call me during the day.  But…it’d be great if you could call me and ask me if I need something before you get home.  Because maybe I do.”  It was just the little things that stuck out.  He did that because he cared.  Those were the things that stick out.  Sometimes I’ll say to Cedric, “My dad did this”.  He’ll ask, “Do you want me to be like your dad?”  No, but it’s just the thought.  Those things stuck with me and will stick with me.  Next month, we’ll be married for two years.

P:  Yea we certainly weren’t perfect.

Ced:  I benefited from having a mother and father in the home but also being raised in a house where there was the husband-wife/father-mother was the exact reason why I said I was never getting married.

YS:  Really?

Ced:  Not that it was such a horrible thing per se, but I saw how hard it was.  I think where my maturity was at that time…I didn’t want to deal with the challenge.  I saw first hand how difficult marriage was.  I was in the house when it was great.  I was in the house when it wasn’t great.  I heard, saw and experienced marriage.  So I said I would never get married. That’s really difficult and I don’t know why anyone would ever sign up for that forever when you don’t have to do that.  

YS:  It is voluntary.

P:  No, not necessarily (laughter).

Ced:  It is a choice.  That’s the gift and the curse is that I was able to see a true picture of marriage.  I think if you don’t have it in your home 24/7 and you don’t directly observe it.  You’re at the mercy of what you see in the media and drama and the stories of friends…when you go over to your friends’ house for a sleepover or playdate and everyone’s putting on their best faces.  You don’t actually see it until you’re in it 24/7.  It’s great to be in the great times and really difficult to hold up the facade when it’s not.  In my lesser maturity, I said I never wanted to get married because I saw how difficult it was.  Fast forward to a mature me and I understood that there’s man there’s woman and we’re on this planet.  I love E’Lon and we had been doing this thing for a while.  I wanted to be married to her.  Going into that I was able to make a clear, sound and solid decision because I had actually seen what marriage was.  I wasn’t going into it with the fictitious definition of what it is.  That’s what a lot of people get when you’re maybe raised in a single parent household.  I was able to make the decision be aware of the decision because I was aware on all of the varieties that happen in marriage.  When I decided to propose to E’Lon, I was sure.  I had seen all of the complexities of marriage, I was able to clearly understand what marriage was.  That’s the impact it had on me.  Being aware and being able to make a clear decision.  I think that increases the potential for success of forever.  You know what you’re signing up for versus someone who’s blindsided by the complexities of marriage.  I knew what it was.  I was ready to take on the benefits and the challenges.

YS:  I like that word that you use- “complexities” of marriage.  When does it get complex?

M:  When does it complex?  (Laughter)  What do you want to eat?  Where do you want to eat?  (Laughter)  It’s not all of it but…a good part of it is about being willing to compromise. If you’re not willing to do that, it becomes complex.  It becomes a challenge.  When you’re not willing to compromise…that compromise can be something really simple.  I want chicken for dinner, he wants steak for dinner.  He may say, “we had chicken the other night”.  I know I’m making it sound simple but it can be that simple.  Am I going to argue about chicken and steak or am I going to compromise.  There’s always a way to compromise but sometimes you don’t want to.  Sometimes you say I’m going to hold my ground.  But when you make that decision, you better be ready to get what comes with that.  There are times.  There could be a disagreement about the children.  I was more of the stern parent.  He was the fun-loving, lets go play parent.  There would be times when I would say they have to stay home and do their homework and he’d say they can get to it in a couple of hours.  I’d have to make up my mind whether I’d put my foot down or compromise.  If I put my foot down, I just needed to be prepared that it could possibly lead to something.  The good thing is that it always would end with the main thought being the argument isn’t the point, the love is the point.  As long as you would reflect back on the love, it would be alright.  Whenever it got complex, the first thing we do is pray, and second always come back to the love.  Going to God is love.  Then you’re able to  move on and you’re strong from it.  The relationship is always stronger from it.

Ced:  I use the word complexities because in my relationship with E’Lon, I respond, react and do things with E’Lon that there is not a single person on the planet that I would ever respond or react to in the same way.  Usually, it’s the more calm, tranquil, compromising reaction with E’Lon.  Anybody else- I’m not having it. I viscerally show emotions in a way that I would never do to her.  Out of the billions of people inhabiting this planet, I would never respond to them that way.  That’s why it’s complex to me because then you question yourself as a person.  Am I being true to myself?  Am I really being who I’ve devoted everything to in a concrete, core value way say I’m going to be.  I can say that I’m that, except for.  I can say that I’m that but…I’m always questioning myself because any other day, if someone talks to me like that, I’m taking off book bags, briefcases, and we’re having words in the street.  Versus, if she says it to me- you’re right.  Sometimes, it’s not that simple.  Sometimes, you’re questioning why did I do that with her and no one else?  Because she’s who she is.  Because I love her.  Because, whatever emotion my is in the moment that would lead to something destructive is not nearly as valuable or important as us maintaining the love and respect we have in our relationship.

E:  That’s a complexity right there.  This idea of marriage versus self.  There’s two complexities we have worked through.  One is communication.  What’s the best way to communicate with each other without overpowering each other.  Not just one person getting their way, but both of us being heard.  Also, the struggle between the individual versus the marriage.  Just because we got married doesn’t mean that I disappear.  I’m still a person.  I still have needs, wants and desires.  I think it’s a challenge.  It’s complex.  We’re working through them.

P:  I need to make a statement.  I’m totally impressed with these two kids here.  They seem to know more than we do about how to deal with certain situations.

Ced:  We had great examples.  It’s like getting the answers to the test, before you get the test.

P:  I think compromise is the biggest situation you may have in a relationship.  You’re coming in from being single, you do what you want to do, how you want to do, no questions asked.  Coming into a relationship there’s two people now, not just one.  You don’t want to disappear and be invisible.  You also want to make your point.  You just don’t want anyone to get hurt.  That’s all part of compromise.  If you’re not willing to do that, it’s not going to work.

E:  It’s also without devaluing your point.

Ced:  If we let this argument go beyond what it is right now, are we going to lose everything that we’ve invested.  Am I going to lose the Audrey Cohen cooking for the rest of my life?

YS: And that’s something that you seriously have to consider!  (Laughter).

Ced:  Seriously.  You have to weigh that (laughter).  Am I going  to lose the sacrifice that my parents made to get on a plane for 30 + hours to see us get married?  But it’s as simple as am I willing to lose her?  A lot of times, that is the deciding factor.  

Lessons, Love, and Legacy

YS:  Complex and yet so simple.   What have you learned about yourself being married?

E:  I’m a lot more resilient than I thought I was.  I’m the person that if Cedric says something to me and I didn’t like, I’d shut down for three days and not say a word.  Then I’d decide when I wanted to speak.  Having things on my own terms.  I can talk.  I can communicate.  I can share.  I can be upset and that’s ok.  I can grow as an individual as we’re growing together.  One thing I was afraid of with being married was that us would take away from me or him.  I don’t think that’s what marriage is but sometimes that happens.  I was glad that it didn’t happen.  We’ve continued to grow as individuals as we continue to grow together.

A:  I learned to be a stronger person.  All my life I had my brothers.  Anything happened at school, they were there.  They were my backbone.  I’d tell you in a minute, “You don’t want me to call my brothers”.  It was all 7 of them backing me.  It hit me one day that I couldn’t always count on them.  Especially when my brother Melvin got married and moved to California.  I didn’t talk to him and his wife for three weeks because it changed the dynamics of my life.  It made me a stronger person.  I had to be strong with him and his family.  I had to let them know I wasn’t marrying his family.  I was marrying him.  You either accept me for who I am or you don’t.  You know what?  They came around.  We’re still don’t see eye-to-eye on everything and we may never, but they know who I am.  I think it also made it better for him because he was able to stand up to his brothers and sister.  You have to stand up for yourself even when you don’t want to.

Car:  What I’ve learned through our 28 + more years.  It’s more than what will go on your blog.  Seriously because I’m still learning.  As impressed as I am with Cedric and E’Lon because I do believe that they’re starting from a greater point of maturation that I did.  When I got married, it took me a long time to even learn how to love her properly.  What I thought was loving her was not loving her the way she needed and required to be loved.  Being forthright…telling the truth…telling the truth was a huge deal.  Making sure things were taken care of and that she understood what was going on.  Some things I kept from her because, coming from a macho standpoint, I thought I was protecting her.  It was instead damaging the relationship.  It took about 5 years to learn some lessons that were vitally important. So we’ve had ups downs, the ins and outs, the good and the bad, the ugly.  Through it all, the biggest lessons that I learned was that one, marriage is every single day.  Every day I choose to be married.  Every day I’m looking at her and saying I love her.  Sometimes, that feels good, sometimes that doesn’t feel so good.  That’s the choice I make.  Because of that, we get a new day.  Somehow those days string along, and you’re here at 28 years…32 years…it’s not going to feel great all the time but sometimes it feels REALLY great.  It’s those times that make the other stuff worth working through.  It’s those times that affirm the choice and decision you made those years ago.  We both made decisions about our lives.  The biggest things I learned is that I look at every day as a new opportunity to love my wife and live this marriage.  To extend that love to my children.  That makes it new for me all the time.  That’s why I’m learning and continue to grow.  Because we’re getting older and changing- in all kinds of ways (laughter).  Things that were important to us at 24 are not important to us.  Things that we thought were goals 15 years ago are not important to us.  There are new goals.  There are new complexities now.  The only thing that helps you to work through them is that what did you commit to?  Love.  That helps you work through the new complexities.  Old complexities get replaced by new complexities.  You learn how to live and work and compromise and love your way through all of that.  The last thing is that sometimes we’re working through it’s 50/50 compromising.  I’m doing it, she’s doing, we’re doing it and it’s working.  God bless us.  We done worked that out.  Sometimes, she ain’t having nothing that I’m trying to get across and it’s rough (laughter).  I have to be the one to say, ok, through all the upset and everything that’s going on.  I have to love her through that.  Cuz at the time, she ain’t loving. Ok?  There are other times when I’ve reached a certain point and I’m dependent upon her.  If she didn’t hold on when I was ready to say “done”.  There are times when…marriage ain’t 50/50 all the times.  Sometimes it’s 150/150.  When you’re able to do that and still have joy in your heart about the one you’re with, that’s what makes it special.

A:  We need to eat!

YS:  What do you absolutely love about your spouse?  What legacy do you want your marriage to leave?

E:  Cedric?  Cedric is annoying? (laughter).  Naw.  I love the good and the bad.  I love his energy.  I love his ability to forgive me.  I love his creativity.  I love that booming voice he has on the mic.  I love that he’s caring and kind to myself and to Thor.  I love the thought of what a great father he’s going to be.  I could go on and on.  I love the kind of man that he has become and is continuing to grow into .  With everything that he does and we go through and that presents itself as a complexity, he changes and evolves into a better man.

Car:  The thing that I love most about Monique, from day one and for the last 28 years she has made me want to be better.  She has pushed me.  Sometimes that’s uncomfortable, but that discomfort has helped us do things I never thought was possible and see things that I never thought was in our realm.  She’s helped me to see what I could be.  That was just extraordinarily special.  The legacy is named Cedric and Cierra.  They’re our greatest achievement.

M:  What I love the most about him is that he’s the first person I’ve ever had in my entire life who has always encouraged me to be more than what I am.  He has always supported me in my dreams and ideas.  He has never looked at my out of the side of his face when I have a creative idea.  I just love love love love his support and his belief in me.  I have that with him also.  It’s weird how we don’t see ourselves as others see us.  I believe that he can do a lot of things and he’ll tell me “I can’t do it” and I’m like “Yes you can!”.  He’s like that with me constantly.  It’s helped me advance and believe more in myself.  Because of his belief in me, it allows me to love myself more.  

Ced:  I love E’Lon…I couldn’t have paired up with anybody better.  She’s strong in everything I’m weak in. Whether it be organizationally, in patience, maximizing opportunities…she strategically thinks about things in a way that I don’t.  When I can’t, she can.  I know that I always depend on her to fill that void.  The other part is that she’s an outstanding human being.  Educated, hard-working, strong-minded, and well-versed individual.  I’m the type of person to size up person.  I walk into a room and automatically sizing up folks intellectually, ability-wise…100% of the time, E’Lon, in my view, always outweighs my ability.  Because I’m competitive, I’m always chasing E’Lon.  Because I’m always chasing E’Lon, I always want to do better because I just don’t want her to be the better one in the house.  She always is and will always be, but I’ll always chase the win.  That’s important for me.  And she’s just so darn beautiful.  She’s always the most beautiful one in the room.  Men will admit or not, for your spouse to be extremely attractive, sexy, and physically appealing to you is a very natural necessity.  She’s always the most beautiful woman in  the room to me and that goes a very long way when coupled with all of the other things I love about her.

A:  I love him because he challenges me full force.  Maybe because I saw that with my brothers.  They were all good men and I guess I expected that from him.  Any time he decided I couldn’t do this, oh yes you are.  You have the capability of doing this, let’s get it done.  We may not have had the money to do this now, but eventually we’ll get it done.  Our legacy is E’Lon.  I’m happy that she’s going to have a baby.  I’m mad that I’m not the permanent babysitter.  My goal is to travel.  If I have to take “little bit” with me and put her on my chest, then let’s keep it moving.  I feel that her and Cedric will be great parents because they’ve had good parents.  I’m not going to say we were great but we were good.  I know I’m not going to agree with some of this high tech crap that they have for babies.  I’m going to keep my mouth closed (and it’s going to be hard).  When it doesn’t work, they’re going to listen to what I have to say.  They’re going to make good parents.  Whatever you do, no matter what it is, especially when the baby comes, include Thor.  

P:  That’s the one thing I love about her.  She’s very outspoken.  Short and sweet.

Car:  I love that she’s a remarkable mother.  That was really evident throughout our entire marriage.  Sometimes, I don’t think she sees herself like that.  She’s a remarkable mother.

  1. De'Borah Brown

    June 8th, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    E’lon, I love this. You know your mother and I go way back since we were toddlers. Therefore, I knew all of your uncles and aunts. I wish your grandmother could see Ethan. This would make her day. This is a great story. I’m glad you and Cedric are growing together. Ethan is the icing on the cake. The little one will take your love to another limit for each other. You know I love you like a daughter. Your god brother is always talking about you. He loves you very much. Keep God in your life first and everything else will fall right in place. I love you baby. Aunt De’Borah.

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