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‘Who you are is great, but blend into one person with your spouse’

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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.

TAMARA AND DAMIEN LITTLEJOHN

Live: Gardendale

Married: May 6, 1995

Met: January 1990, at an Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity party in Great Hall at the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB]. Tamara recalled going to the party. “We danced, and when we get to the end of the song, he asked me for my phone number… he pulled out the biggest sheet of paper you have ever seen to take down my number and it almost made me change my mind, but since there were no other numbers on the paper I went ahead and gave it to him. He was shy but he  was very cute, and really funny… that’s one of the keys to my heart.”

Damien remembered the dance and “I asked her what her name was three times. I thought she couldn’t hear me over the music, but it was me who couldn’t hear her,” Damien laughed. “She got a little irritated with me and turned around and yelled ‘my name is Tammy.’

Tamara laughed at the memory. “I guess all he saw was the black jumpsuit I was wearing, but I had on my pink and green belt too,” she said.

First date: A week later, they met at the Pizza Hut on Green Springs. Damien didn’t get a good look at Tamara at the party where they met because the lights were low and knew she was attractive, but didn’t know she was “that fine, ” he said.

“…when she got out the car and I saw her fully, I was like ‘oh, ok, this is what my frat was talking about’,” Damien said. “We went in and ate pizza, but we had to cut it short because she was headed home [to Florence, Ala]… I was very comfortable talking to her.  We talked about our interests and found out more about each other. It was a quick date.”

The turn: Spring 1991. “There was nothing that was ever complicated about our relationship, we always got along, everything was always easy, and I could always be myself…,” Damien said. “After we had gone to church together and she had met my parents and she seemed so comfortable with them, and I met her parents and I was comfortable with them, I knew she was it.”

A year into their relationship Tamara recalled sitting in her apartment when Luther Vandross’s song ‘Here and Now’ came on “and I was thinking, ‘this is it, [Damien’s] going to be the one…’ Here and now became our song,” she said.

The proposal: January 1993, at Tamara’s apartment in Crestwood.

“It was without a ring. We broke up December of ‘92, and January of ‘93 we got back together, and honestly, I wanted to lock her down so I asked her to marry me,” Damien said. “I got down on one knee just as I was about to leave, and proposed. I got her a ring later on that year.”

“It was not very unromantic, but I was excited anyway because I was in love with him and knew I wanted to marry him,” Tamara said. “So then, we went to go look for rings, and I showed him about two or three rings and he wouldn’t let me know what ring he was going to get. But he bought me the one that I absolutely loved . . . . [that summer] he gave me the ring right before we went to my friend’s birthday party. He walked into my apartment with the box in his hand and he said, ‘here, you might want to wear this tonight’, Tamara laughed. “He did not get back down on one knee and re-propose, he just gave it to me.”

The wedding: First Baptist Church Florence, in Florence, Ala. officiated by the Rev. Joseph Marshall and the couple’s colors were teal and white.

Most memorable for the bride was the surprise her groom had for her as she was about to make her entrance. “I was standing there holding my dad’s arm and the doors opened up and [Damien] was singing,” Tamara said. “I was stuck, I just paused and stayed there for a few moments, and started crying my eyes out. He says he was off key, but I don’t remember none of that, I just knew the man I was in love with was standing there serenading me in front of all those people.”

Most memorable for the groom was also his surprise serenade, but for different reasons. “…I was a little bit off key and my fraternity brothers was laughing at me while she was crying… I was singing our song ‘Here and Now’ by Luther Vandross.”

The couple honeymooned in Cancun, Mexico. “We loved our room and we loved being in the ocean. It was beautiful, you could see the white sand all the way down at the bottom, it was gorgeous,” said Tamara.

Words of wisdom: “Learning how that person wants to be loved and how they need to be loved and being able to reciprocate that,” Tamara said. “If that person needs you to be their right hand all the time, or that person needs you to push them, then you have to be willing to [put yourself aside] and do something to better that person to help the relationship to grow.

“Love is the key thing, you’d be amazed at how loving somebody for who they are and how they need to be loved can turn your whole relationship around. You learn how to love somebody by learning how to talk to them… learn to agree to disagree,” she said.

Damien said, ‘When you communicate with someone else, you’re talking to someone with totally different life experiences, that was raised a different way. Some of the biggest challenges we’ve had to meet was learning ourselves, and learning how we were raised affected us [both] good and bad… who you are is great, but you have to be blended into one person [with your spouse]. You have to totally understand who the other person is and realize that that person is going to be different than you.”

Happily ever after: The couple has two children Alexis, 21 and Kiersten, 17.

Tamara, 51, is a Florence Ala. native and Bradshaw High School grad. She attended Lawson State Community College where she earned an associate degree in nursing, and Huntington College in Montgomery, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in organizational and resource management. Tamara works as a MDS [Materials Data System] at Aspire Physical Recovery in Hoover.

Damien, 49, is a Woodlawn native and Ramsay High School grad. He attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB] where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned a Master of Divinity. He is an Ascension Hospice Chaplain for Ascension at Home in Birmingham, and Pastor of Bryant Chapel AME Church.