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
banquet at West Indies College, Mandeville,
photo by Jeff Thompson
the photo used for the wedding invitation.
Day, July 21 1977, Fort-de-France,
Nassau, The Bahamas, at the Portrait Studio,
London, England ,during a marriage retreat I
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or
write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit
or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.