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My Sweet Valentine

My love story

Barrington H. Brennen, Feb 8, 1998, updated on February 14, 2016

 

 

Annick Mila, my dearest love.

It was on Sunday morning, October 5, 1975, 9:30 a.m., in front of the "Seat of the Scornful" (the name of a long concrete bench where friends gather to sit and talk), Northern Caribbean University, formerly West Indies College, Mandeville, Jamaica. The temperature was about 82 degrees. The wind was gently swaying the flowering Anthurium and Hibiscus flowers.

The Flamboyant trees were gloriously showing their brilliant romantic red colors. It was then that I saw her. The salt-and-pepper skirt, her soft aquamarine blouse – and then our eyes met. It was love at first sight, (for me at least) although I tried hard not to tell her that. Although true marital love is one that develops and grows, the type of love I felt that Sunday morning 23 ˝ years ago I was certain was the type of chemistry that would propel us onward into a romantic relationship. I had no time to lose. Any beautiful girl coming on campus would be a target for eager suitors. I needed to make friends quickly. Where did we stop to talk for the first time? Under a red flowering Poinciana tree.

As someone who likes to talk to everybody I see, I had no problem popping the first question. I deepened my voice to a romantic pitch, straightened my shoulder, and gracefully said with eager anticipation: "Hello, welcome to West Indies College, I am Barrington from the Bahamas.". Then she spontaneously responded in a way I never heard anyone did before. Her accent was different. Her gentle tone of voice was warm and welcoming: "I am Annick from Martinique." After a few more friendly introductory questions we went our different ways knowing that we would meet again, very, very, very soon.  It was to be three hours later in the college cafeteria. God bless meal times in college cafeterias. They are the most popular times for social interaction. During that week there were special spiritual emphasis meetings on campus with a guest speaker. I was one of the main pianists providing music.

Through the years

1976

College banquet at West Indies College, Mandeville, Jamaica

1976

Engagement photo by Jeff Thompson

This is the photo used for the wedding invitation.

1977

Wedding Day, July 21 1977, Fort-de-France, Martinique

2003

Taken in Nassau, The Bahamas, at the Portrait Studio, Nassau Street

2013

Taken in London, England ,during a marriage retreat I conducted.

 

2016 photo soon to come

If there was ever a time I played like the "world’s best pianist" it was that week. I needed to make a good impression. Each evening before the meeting I would provide the musical prelude. My long flexible fingers would glide over the ivory keys with skilled improvisations of hymns and familiar sacred tones. I could feel her eyes beaming on me. Perhaps it was the music, or was it my well shaven face and neatly pressed clothes. We took advantage of every opportunity that week to get acquainted. By the end of the week of spiritual emphasis I had my first sign that there was something special between us.

While eating at the cafeteria table the following Sunday together with friends, she passed to me her first love note. It was a drawing of stick man and woman running up and down a Caribbean hillside. The sentence inscribed on that blue card, of which I still have today, says: "to be with you is my greatest delight." Wow! What a wonderful way of saying I love you without using the words themselves. I learned years later that my swift movement to be by her side those first few weeks were very important. Why? There were certainly other inquisitive and attractive suitors trying to make their introductions. However, the door was already closed. I had closed it.

This was my very first and last serious romantic encounter with a woman. There were several girls I did have a crush on, although I never told them "I Love you." "I love you" are were very sacred words to me. Telling a girl "I love you," implies in a sense the most romantic question — "Will you marry me." Therefore we did not exchange "I love you" until about four months after the first day under the Poinciana tree. Was I lazy or slow? Or was she timid and shy? Certainly not. We wanted to be good friends first before we spoiled it by saying "I love you." Saying "I love you" too early would spoil the genuine feeling of friendship. Nevertheless, deep down inside we knew it. There is something that words cannot fully explain.

It is that comfortable feeling of being around someone. It is the want-to-see-you-again message that you get every time you say goodbye. I could remember the very first time I said I love you. It was on a quiet, cool Friday afternoon, just before the evening vesper service began. I was dressed in my white shoes, white socks, white pants, blue coat, light blue shirt and white neck time. We were waiting for the service to begin. We looked into to each other’s eyes and verbalized those sacred words we both wanted to hear: "I love you." It was spontaneous and mutual. That night in church it was the best sermon ever. The music was the sweetest, and our hearts were the biggest.

Then it happened. We just had to do it. Yep! After being friends for months and exchanging love notes and affirming each other with the words of love and romance, our lips met. It was really my first time touching the lips of woman. It was short and sweet. No caressing yet. Just short and sweet. It was under a tree at a weekend ministerial retreat on a Saturday night.

Never did I realize that love and education could go so well together. Soon after we met my grades got better. Doing research papers got easier. On the first three-week Christmas holiday, as friends, both Annick and I completed three 30-40 page research papers each. Both of us got "A" for all of them. That’s what love can do for you.

There was only one problem. We were spending too much time together. We were not allowing enough breathing space that is so badly needed in all relationships. We almost felt guilty if we did not see each other at every meal and between every class period. Thanks to her older bother who visited us from Martinique months later and talked to us, I learned the valuable lesson that you can kill your love with the very ingredient that makes it grow.

Those last two years in college were wonderful. It was again on Friday afternoon before the evening service I asked the most sacred question: "Will you marry me?" She responded, tipping gently on her toes, with a kiss and "I will." The service that night was even greater than the one year earlier. We set the date to get married. Annick would complete her college degree and I would have one more year (not something I would recommend and would not do it again that way).

With the support of family and friends we got married in Martinique on Thursday afternoon, 5:00 P.M. , July 21, 1977.   After 21 years of marriage, we still say I love you. We still share the warm notes. We still hug and kiss. No, our marriage isn’t perfect. Maybe that’s what's good about it. We have had our share of pains, and disappointments, and we will always. We have our angers and frustrations. But each Valentine's Day I am reminded of the wonderful woman in my life.

She is the woman I love and with whom I will always share my heart, mind and body. To tell the truth, like most Bahamian men, I do have four women in my life. A lover, girl friend, sweetheart, and wife.  But this this case, they are all one woman. They are all named Annick. She is all to me. Happy Valentine!

[ Footnote:  It is now 38.5 years--February 14, 2016.  I feel that same way about her. My sweet Valentine! ]

Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com  or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org  or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.

 

 

 

 
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