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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
LADERIAN AND ALEXIS PICKENS
Live: Pleasant Grove
Married: April 15, 2006
Met: In 1989. They were kindergarteners at Gilmore Elementary in Jackson, Ala. and grew up in a small town where everyone knew one another “…we used to play together and were friends all the way up till high school, then I moved to Wisconsin” Alexis said, “it wasn’t until after I graduated and came back [to Jackson] that we [got together] …. In 2003, I came home for my uncle’s funeral and LaDerian attended, and afterwards we started talking and have been talking ever since.”
LaDerian said he had a crush on Alexis since they were in kindergarten “and when she would be absent I used to take her burgundy blanket [she used during nap time] and sleep with it,” he recalled. “But when I saw her at her uncle’s funeral I finally got the nerve up to just ask her out.”
When Alexis began her move back to Alabama from Wisconsin following her uncle’s funeral she and LaDerian got a chance to get to know each other as adults.
First date: August 2003, at a Cabaret show at the National Guard Center in Jackson. “When I saw her that day she was just so beautiful. My brother was there, he said ‘she da one’,” LaDerian recalled. “. . . we danced our hearts out that night.”
Alexis remembered searching for the perfect ensemble for the night and thinking “I gotta be extra sexy because I knew we were going to know everybody there, and since I had moved away and was coming back, I wanted to make sure I was looking good,” she said. “All he did was smile at me the whole time, and he was looking all handsome. We had a real good time.”
The turn: For Alexis, it was in May of 2004 after she moved back to Birmingham when she realized LaDerian was willing to go the extra mile.
“He kept telling me that he was going to move [to Birmingham] to be with me and I really didn’t believe it, but he did,” Alexis said. “And I have a son from a previous relationship, the fact that he was willing to take on the task of helping me raise my son, I was thinking ‘ok, this got to be the guy right here.’”
For LaDerian it was simple: “She was the one person I ever had a crush on for my entire life, and it is like a fantasy come true to not only get to date her, but get to start a serious relationship with her too,” he said.
The proposal: June 2004, in Los Angeles inside their hotel room where they were for LaDerian’s family reunion. They recalled being able to see the ‘Hollywood’ sign from their room, but things didn’t go according to plan, said LeDerian.
“I tried my best to get her to go for a walk with me on the beach, but she was pregnant and wasn‘t feeling good so I ended up doing it right there in the room. I just got up off the bed, pulled out the ring box and asked her to marry me,” he said.
Alexis said the caterers didn’t show up at the reunion [on time] “we were literally out there starving for hours, it was hot… So, by the time we got back to that room, I was not budging…”.
LaDerian soon changed the energy in the hotel room — and Alexis’s mood.
“We were just laying down and watching TV and he got up and got down on one knee and I was like ‘what are you doing?’, and then he came out with this little box and asked me to marry him. I didn’t see it coming. I had no idea he planned on doing that. I said ‘yes’, and that definitely got me and up out the bed then,” she laughed. “He put the ring on my finger, and we went down to the lobby and found his mom and auntie and I was showing my ring off. I could tell by the look on his mom’s face that she already knew he was going to ask me to marry him.”
The wedding: At the Jackson Community House in Jackson, Ala., officiated by Rev. Tommy Moore. Their colors were pink and white.
Most memorable for the bride was a myriad of thoughts and emotions. Their infant daughter, Devin, was in the hospital on the day of their wedding. “I ended up having the baby when I was five months pregnant, so she was in and out of the hospital with a lot of respiratory problems, and she was actually in the hospital [their wedding] day. I really wanted to call the wedding off until she [was well], but we ended up going through with it… . When I was getting ready to come down the aisle with my dad, I was praying ‘Lord, please don’t let me fall, and please don’t let nothing happen to my baby while I’m here’,” Alexis said. “And as I was walking down the aisle, I was looking at him [LaDerian] and I was thinking this guy really loves me and my son, and now we have a beautiful daughter together, and that I’m so blessed to have him and all my family here, and my dad here to walk me down the aisle.”
Most memorable for the groom was walking by the bridal dressing room and hearing Alexis say, ‘he saw me, he saw me, he saw me’ and she started crying,” LaDerian said, “I didn’t even say nothing, I just kept walking. I knew it was her emotions and being upset about the baby…”.
A month later after their daughter recovered from her hospital stay, the couple honeymooned in Savannah, GA.
Words of wisdom: “The biggest thing is communication and talking instead of holding stuff in,” said LaDerian. “Go ahead and get it out of your system, that way you won’t have so much bundled up [inside] and you can get ahead of the problem and work all your obstacles out. And you can’t forget to flirt, I flirt and pursue her like I did in the beginning, he said.”
Alexis said it’s important to spend time together. “Getting out together, helps,” she said. “My husband works so much, and I have to beg him to slow down and take a break and go do something [fun and relaxing]. Going dancing and spending one-on-one time together is important… [in order] to stay strong and be on the same team, you have to have that alone time,” Alexis said.
Happily ever after: The Pickens share two children, son, Hikeem, 22, from Alexis’ previous relationship and their daughter, Devin, 14.
Alexis, 36, is from Gainestown, Ala., and attended West Allen Central High School in (Wisconsin). She earned an Associate’s Degree in diagnostic medical sonography from Virginia College Birmingham and works as an ultrasound technician for Cooper Green Mercy Health Services.
LaDerian, 36, is from Gainestown, Ala., and attended Jackson High School. He graduated from Remington College in Mobile where he earned an Associate’s Degree in electronics and computer engineering. He works as a master electrician for Pick Electric in Pleasant Grove.