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‘Marriage is bigger than romance, it’s a spiritual journey’

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BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY
Special to the Birmingham Times

“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Erica Wright ewright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

TANESHA AND CLEM SUMMERS

Live: Roebuck

Married: September 6, 2014

Met: In January of 2009, Tanesha went to a Birmingham rent-a-car sales lot in search of a new car. She noticed Clem, whom she remembered from her college years.  “He was actually really great friends with my high school sweetheart at UA (the University of Alabama) and I would see him when I went down there to hang out. . . fast forward to 2009, I was in the market for a new car and he was working at Enterprise car sales, Tanesha said. “I had scheduled an appointment (with someone else) and he wasn’t there… but, Clem, being a very vivacious and aggressive salesman greeted me excitedly and told me how he could help,” she recalled, “and I immediately remembered who he was.”

Clem remembers their reintroduction but insisted — “for the record, she and I maybe crossed paths once at UA…I didn’t even remember her face…I couldn’t have put those two [connections] together . . . I remembered the name, but there was a time gap, I had been married and had a son and divorced by the time we met in 2009.”

Nonetheless, Clem said the customer must have been “heaven sent.”

 “…my buddy (who just passed) actually didn’t work that day and I don’t know if it was like God or what, I guess it was heaven sent, but I ended up helping her. When I saw her, I saw a beautiful woman and she just seemed so natural with her son, and down to earth… she had Jaylen with her, who I was admiring because he reminded me of my son, Amir,” said Clem, a single dad, newly divorced and raising a five-year-old at the time. 

Clem said he didn’t call her right away because he was in a spiritual zone.

“So when we met it was very innocent. But then she came back into Enterprise to show off the car she did get [from another dealership], this time she was all dressed up and I had to do a double take …that’s when I was like ‘I need to follow up with her’,” he laughed. “I tried to get her to go to a concert, but she already had plans.”

First date: Tanesha said she similarly was on her spiritual journey. “I had just bought a home a few months ago, and I was really just focused on my 5-year-old son,” she said, “so from January to March (Clem and I) just talked on the phone…”.

In March 2009, the two went on their first date at Newk’s on the Southside.

“I was assistant manager at Regions Bank on Lakeshore. He met me there and we had a brief little lunch… it was cool we had a good time. Then we had a second night date at a club [former Ty’s Lounge on 3rd Ave.],” Tanesha said. 

Clem said, “We were both really busy and had been trying to get a lunch date in for some time, so when we finally did it was great… we were reading this book called ‘The Secret” together and we were talking about that and life.”

The turn: By April 2009, Tanesha was headed to Dallas, TX to audition for America’s Next Top Model, and Clem “sent me this long letter [through Facebook Messenger] using words like ‘love’ and whatnot and we talked the whole time I was there (in Dallas)… at some point you just have to make sure you’re on the same page and we were…,” Tanesha said. 

By May, the two began dating exclusively, “It was more of me being honest and direct about what I wanted and what I envisioned for us,” Clem said, “and it may have shocked her a little bit because I was very focused on myself and my son…but I was telling her my intentions and what I felt. At the time we were practicing celibacy…”.

“He really respected that,” Tanesha said. “He was never aggressive and never tried to test me even when we were in the same [physical] space…it was deeper than I had imagined and he was more special than I thought.” 

The proposal: On May 3, 2013, Clem proposed to Tanesha at the Westin Hotel’s Todd English P.U.B. in Birmingham’s Uptown district. 

“It was a surprise, I worked with the hostess and the people at the Westin… I got a room for the night, I brought Tanesha a really nice outfit to wear, but I didn’t know how to coordinate the room [and decor]…I needed a woman’s touch to make the whole thing come to life. She [the hostess] helped me design the night with the rose petals, she wrote the letter [instructing Tanesha on what to do and expect], laid the outfit out over the bed and had everything set up so nicely for her,” Clem said. “We had dinner at the English P.U.B., we were both at YP [Yellow Pages] working as digital consultants and we were doing well… I had a big bonus, I paid for this ring in cash, she wanted a specific ring with butterflies and I had to go searching for it… I wanted the ring to be presented really beautifully with dessert and [the server] went outside and clipped a tulip and put the ring on it, but I actually had to convince [Tanesha] to order dessert so she could get the ring,” he laughed. Clem said he had on a nice suit “so I didn’t get down on one knee, but I just kind of asked her . . . she said ‘yes’ and the whole crowd started clapping.”

Tanesha recalled the moment. 

“I was actually like ‘oh my god, is this happening?’ we’d talked about marriage but you don’t know how close it actually is,” Tanesha said. “When the ring came out on the plate, it was kind of an awkward moment because I was wondering if it was real and if I was being recorded. It was an exciting time.”

Tanesha said she loved the ring and touch of the butterfly and what it stood for. “I was overjoyed because he really went out of his way and listened and got something that was specific and special to me…my heart kind of skipped a beat and I said ‘yes’.” 

The wedding: The pair were married in Avondale at the ‘Avondale Villa’.  Their colors were purple and grey. 

Most memorable for the bride was “the release of the actual butterflies and the christening of our daughter,” said Tanesha, who was four months pregnant at the time. 

For Clem, “dancing with my mom was pretty memorable. I had lost my father previously and he wasn’t there to witness it, so having her there and our new daughter present was special.”

Words of wisdom: Being in tune with God and always seeking wisdom, along with good communication and a true sense of selflessness is how you sustain a marriage, the Summers said. 

“Being able to say what you feel and learning to do that in the most respectful yet candid way,” is key Tanesha said. “And nothing should be off limits in conversation. You also have to be easy to forgive…marriage is bigger than romance, it’s a spiritual journey to becoming the best version of ourselves,” she said.

“Having a true sense of selflessness and knowing that you’re here to serve each other” is paramount, said Clem. “Also, being happy is a personal thing too, you have to be responsible for your own ultimate happiness. If you want to be happy, you have to own it, and having an understanding that we have individual identities…,” he said. “Be quick to apologize and speak up. If something is off kilter, fix it, make sure you don’t go to bed mad, have a conversation about it . . .  I’m of the belief that you should always seek to find the growth in [everything], it’s a spiritual journey to your greatest self. Add value to each other.”

Happily ever after: The Summers run their Birmingham based specialty popcorn company, Naughty but Nice Kettle Corn Co, and are raising sons Jaylen, 15, and Amir, 15 (from previous relationships), and daughters Jacee, 5, and Janaah, 3. “And, ‘Merry’, our family’s furry friend.” 

Tanesha is a College Hills native, and John Carroll High School grad. She attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where she earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing and Spanish and she is Founder and CEO of Naughty but Nice Kettle Corn Co. 

Clem is a Bush Hills native, Hoover High School grad and attended The University of Alabama, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Communications and Information Sciences with a focus in advertising. He’s the Chief Marketing Officer of their company.