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‘Never come off of the honeymoon’

By Anita Debro
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 who would, please send nominations to Ariel Worthy at aworthy@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

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Live: Birmingham

Married: Dec. 6, 2003

Met: At church.  Christie, a special education teacher from Thomasville, Alabama, was visiting Michael’s home church, Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church, to support one of her students’ baptism back in 2000. Michael took notice.

“She was pretty,” he said. By the time Christie came through the fellowship line, Michael had already decided to ask her out — for ice cream. “He asked for my number right there in the fellowship line,” Christie laughed. “And this was before we always had our cell phones so I had to write my number down on a church program.”

There was also an instant attraction for Christie. “He was tall,” she said. Michael is 6’9 and Christie is 6’1, so height was important to her. After the brief conversation in the fellowship line, Michael knew something good was going to happen. “I told my mother that day that she was going to be my wife,” he said. “The night before I met her, I had prayed to God. I was ready to settle down.”

First date: “We exchanged driver licenses,” Christie laughed.

“I have a series of questions that I ask during a first conversation,” Michael recalled from the first time they talked on the telephone. “Where are you from? what school did you go to? when is your birthday? You know, just to see if we know some of the same people.” He was astonished to learn the answer to one of those questions. “When she told me her birthday is December 29, I just didn’t believe it.” His birthday is also on December 29.  So when they met up the first time, they had to take at each other’s driver licenses to compare the date of birth. “At that point, I wasn’t even going to fight it,” he said. “I knew God was trying to tell me something.”

The proposal: Christie and Michael dated for the next two years. For Christie, Michael was exactly what she was looking for in a mate. “He was a praying man, a college graduate and a God-fearing man.” Michael was taken by Christie’s devotion not just to him, but to his family as well. “She jumped in to help take care of my grandmother who was in failing health.”

Even though Michael knew he wanted to marry Christie, he still held back asking for her hand, thinking that he wanted to be on a stronger financial footing. He changed his mind after a boys’ night out, where his friends urged him to go ahead and ask her. So he did just that on Valentine’s Day 2003.

The couple met at Ruth Chris Steakhouse that night. It was crowded and Christie remembers pointing out that some of the couples there would likely be getting engaged that night. But she did not think it would be them. “I had no clue,” she said. Roses were on the table waiting for her and just before dinner, the waiter brought out a napkin folded and inside was a ring box.

Michael had already asked for her hand and her family agreed.

The wedding: The couple married at Evergreen Missionary Baptist 10 months after the proposal. “I remember it being the coldest day of the year,” said Christie, who does not like cold weather. “It was very cold,” Michael said.  The two remember being surrounded by family and friends who had traveled both short and long trips to celebrate with them. Christie recalled telling herself that she was not going to attend the full reception, sure that she just wanted to be with her husband after the wedding. “But I danced the entire night,” she said. “I think we were still there when they were packing up to leave.”

Words of wisdom: Michael said it is important to keep that feeling of excitement and love in a relationship. “Never come off of the honeymoon,” he said. Michael also said communication and prayer are essential.

Christie said having someone who can make you laugh makes it much easier to stay together. “We are always laughing,” she said.

Christie said it is also important for the couple to spend time together.

Happily ever after: The couple has two daughters, ages 12 and 7.  Michael is currently the executive director of the City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office Division of Youth Services.  Christie is a special education teacher for Head Start in Birmingham.  They enjoy traveling, dining out and spending time with their two girls and extended families. In the future, they are both eyeing entrepreneurship and Michael is already planning to buy a two-seater vintage car when the girls head off to college.