I am the wife of an important man.
He is a humble man who has done a lot in the span of his career.
There is hardly a place in this country where we have traveled without someone knowing him.
Well, ok, maybe The Dakotas and Wyoming, maybe Utah, but he is well known.
Known as a scholar, advocate, mentor, and leader.
I am lesser known, except in those spaces whereupon they meet me and only think, "oh, that's his wife." I've been called that so many times that my name was not used at all.
Not disrespectfully, but in a way that my only identity was as his wife.
Now, to be very clear, I am incredibly proud of my husband and so honored to stand beside him as he uses his gifts to transform education for so many young people. I remain in awe of this man who met me at the challenge of my faith and has been a steady hand in our life.
You already know my story because while they are my pearls, I have shared that we met when we were in our thirties, we were each pursuing our careers and education, In fact, we graduated just a week apart, he with his Ph.D. and me with my M.B.A. A few months after we graduated, we got bought a house, got married, and moved with my sons that were now his sons, to our new life.
Unbeknownst to us, our lives would change a lot.
I have always been fiercely independent, raised my children after my divorce without the aid of child support or a family member to fall back on. That was a quality he appreciated in me.
When we met, he saw me in a suit, when he first came to my apartment, you could eat off the floor. He was impressed
Each of us had, through the medium of our faith, gone before God and prayed for what we wanted.
By the time we had each done that, we had each had our share of unrequited love, love lost, and love disappointed. We knew we deserved and wanted better.
It was funny, when he stepped off that elevator in that black turtle neck and jeans, coming to finalize his classes at the university where I was working, I instantly knew. So did he.
That spiritual connection.
The next four years were a whirlwind.
We dated, traveled, studied, grew in our career, and he and my sons connected in a way that only prayers could make happen. He became a dad, affectionally renamed by my oldest son as "BD".
When you have a faith about your life, you trust the process, trust the journey. That is what we did.
I would never lie and say it has been easy, these twenty-five or whatever years that we have been together and traveled life's highways and byways, but I would never trade anything for my journey now.
He gets me.
I get him.
When we met and I traveled back to introduce him to someone who, had it been a different denomination, would have been my father in ministry, I was waxing poetic about him, how wonderful he was, yada yada. Pastor Freddy looked at me and said, "and daughter, remember, you are the prize."
It was something I didn't see in myself.
If you grew up like me, the PK, the one with the "not-very-nice-stepmother" and one who was just so different than everyone else, you would know that there are beautiful things within me that I didn't see, was oblivious to because my step-mother made sure I did not see myself as all-that and my father always taught us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
Over the years, I've come to see those things in me that are the good thing.
Growing up in the Black Baptist Church and then, as a young woman in faith, marriage was always held out as the holy grail, the highest attainment of a woman and without it, she was essentially worthless.
That always bothered me, especially as one who early in my life, before I was thirty, had experienced the disappointment that came with a wrong-placed-ring. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I was old before I was young and was considered damaged goods by some in the very church where I was trying to answer the call on my life.
It took a lot of healing and honestly, my husband was a part of that journey to complete acceptance of me and as he says, honoring myself and my pearls.
He is the son of a single mother who had been betrayed and disappointed in love, so he perhaps had a tender spot in his heart for someone who had been through life's sorrows. Whatever it was, he was a healing balm. He saw the hustle in me and when we were "talking" - that stage before dating - he asked me what I wanted to do and I said "honestly, at this point, I just want to be an at-home mom and raise my kids."
God and the Universe hears your whispered-out-loud-prayers and doesn't forget.
That was something I had never considered but was a bit tired of juggling career, school, and taking care of my sons by myself. I was up at before sunlight everyday and was burning the candle at both ends trying to make things happen. When he and I met, there was a bit of just being tired in me that I hadn't been brave enough to utter to anyone. I was so busy in a lot of ways proving to myself and others who didn't care that I was not worthless, not unlovable, and not a waste just because I knew the inside of a divorce court and spent my evenings playing Legos™ or race cars with little boys.
He saw the more because he, like I, had prayed for someone to see the more in us.
We shared our faith and our growth together into who we believed God had anointed us to be.
And he supported me. Everything I wanted to do.
On our first few dates, he bought me a desk and a computer.
All the jewelry I own, outside some cosmetic pieces, he bought.
He delighted in arraying me in new clothes because I had my uniform of a couple suits, weekend wear of a pair of jeans and a couple t-shirts. There was a beauty in me he brought out.
So I spent some time looking at myself in the mirror of time, reflecting through each gray hair in my twists and the dark circles I inherited from my 3x maternal grandmother. Looking at the woman I was seeing, I realized she was more than she thought.
Perhaps because the Creator who molded her said she was fearfully and wonderfully made.
Or that her late mother gave her a name that means of inestimable value and great worth.
Or that she knew she gave with a deep love and compassion that filled her heart.
Whatever it was, I looked at her in the mirror and loved her fiercely.
It is in that loving her, me, fiercely, that I said out loud after twenty-five years that yes, indeed, I am the prize, the good thing.
There is a scripture in the Hebrew Bible that says, "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.
" Proverbs 18:22. NIV
Imagine that. That a partner, companion, one suited for the other, could be so influential in their joint journey in life that this would be a reality.
Proverbs 19:14 NIV says, "Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD"
My husband has been blessed to have an upward trajectory of his career, especially over these past twenty-five years that we have been together. I watched in utter amazement and delight as he moved from institution-to-institution and as receipts of his contributions piled up.
Admittedly, at one point, while cleaning up yet the seventh time our youngest daughter threw up because of her severe and debilitating illness as an infant, I was a bit envious, jealous. I was in my early forties and after looking appreciatively at my upwardly mobile career in brand and product marketing, I was now an at-home mom with school-aged-sons, and daughters who were under three and one was hospitalized more days than she had been alive. I questioned my reason for being. Was this it?
Fast forward almost twenty years from the seven-times-a-day laundry and floor-mopping episodes, and I am redefining myself and presence as my husband is preparing to step into another stellar position.
For a brief moment, I glanced at the naysayers who said I wasted my degrees or that I was "just the wife" as if I had no identity or letters behind or in front of my time.
Then, I had to remind myself of the journey I wouldn't trade for anything and the life I helped build.
We lived on one income because when we got married and were making hand-over-fist-money, I insisted that we build a house in the part of town that was not overly inflated, that we live on one income, just-in-case. That just-in-case happened just three years after we were married when we both experienced a career stall.
I was pregnant with the last child.
So we banded together and the kids never missed a beat, never went hungry, and never knew until they were adults the juggling he did for a season that lasted a year.
That is the thing about being equally yoked and having a partner you envision for what you are trying to build. He knew there was a rock in me, even if that rock would sometimes shake and quake, she was steady.
Denzel Washington's son was in an interview and the interviewer was waxing poetic about his father and the son said, "and Pauletta." He reminded them that his father was no where without the sacrifice of his mother.
Like Samuel L. Jackson's wife.
Like Barack Obama's wife.
Like Morris Chestnut's wife.
Like Martin Luther King', Jr.s wife.
The wives who stood with men with powerful visions and work in front of them.
"You can have it all, but not all at once," Dr. Cheryl Miller, my Archousia sister recently said in a fifty-year retrospective of her work when she commented about taking a step back from her career to raise their children. She who was a renowned artist and lecturer, she quietly kept painting and getting their children to college.
Like so many that I am in the sisterhood of supportive wives clubs.
Like my Mocha Mom sisters.
Like more than I can name who took care of the kids and the house, who volunteered to make their community a better place, who quietly wrote articles, books, painted pictures, took pictures, orchestrated cross country moves, and tended to college choices for their kids.
The ones who have the privileges we have and the ones who don't.
The moms who put themselves on the back burner until they could fulfill this one part of their assignment.
I'm an empty nester now and my husband reminded me the other day that I didn't have to worry about what I was going to eat or where I was going to sleep, that we didn't need me to work to pay a bill. That I was free to do the things I was called to do.
I smiled because it wasn't always like that in my life.
We are in the reaping season of our life.
The part where the hard work and sacrifice of one pair of jeans pays off that I can buy whatever jeans I want that fit this aging body if I want to.
Both of us have more years behind us than in front of us and at this stage are able to appreciate the steps along the way, are able to share nuggets of wisdom to the next generation, and lay a foundation for them to have a sure footing in life when we are gone.
Whenever I glance away and wonder if I was enough or did enough, I can look back through the arch of time and realize the only measurement is the joy in the faces of my family, of them having the confidence and assurance we wanted to instill in them.
I am content.
I am renewed.
I am writing anew this next chapter of my life and in appreciation of where it has been, pausing in awe.
©2023 by his wife, the writer, the muse, the literary curator and critic, the mom, the minister, the advocate, the mentor, the supporter, sipping my latte, appreciating life