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‘I didn’t want the first date to end . . . so I took her out for five days straight’

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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 Barnett Wright bwright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

MAURICE AND FANCHON MUHAMMAD

Live: Bessemer

Married: Aug. 5, 1995

Met: November 1993, the two were introduced over the phone by a mutual friend and agreed to meet in person. That night, Maurice picked Fanchon up from her parents’ house in Bessemer and took her to 22nd St. Jazz Cafe on the Southside.

It was a blind date, Maurice said. “We had a mutual friend named Eric Guster and we were in a real estate appraisal class when he said, ‘hey man, I got this friend I want you to meet’. And I said ‘bruh, I’m literally just coming out of a relationship, not right now.’”

Guster, currently a Birmingham-area lawyer, then called Fanchon and told her he had a friend he wanted her to meet. “He called me over to the phone and [introduced us] and said ‘what y’all doing tonight?’ I’m looking at him like, ‘come on man’, and he said ‘yall, go to the movies or something’. And [Fanchon didn’t have any plans] so I asked her out,” Maurice recalled.

Fanchon said, “I was 22, I had just graduated college [at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University], and I had no expectations, so I said ‘yes,’ . . . We went ahead and went to the 22nd St. Jazz Cafe and had a great time. The first thing I wanted to know was if he had any children and he said he didn’t, so we were all good,” she laughed. “The thing that got me with him was that he made me laugh, we had a good time.”

First date: The two had such a great time that Maurice asked Fanchon to go out again the next night. They went to the Wildwood Movie Theater in Homewood and saw “Carlito’s Way.”

“We talked about everything from old school hip hop to [politics], world religions, and favorite childhood shows,” Fanchon said. “He was very intelligent, but not in a snobby way, he was witty. We were able to laugh and talk about serious topics, and I had never met anyone that I could go so deep and so shallow with all in the same conversation. We felt like we had always known each other, the conversation was never-ending.”

“I didn’t want the first date to end, so I kept the date going,” Maurice said. “We went out every night for five days straight. I really enjoyed the time that I spent with her, I enjoyed the conversation and becoming her friend. She was very attractive, but more than being attractive, it was hard to get her off my mind.”

The turn: November 1993, on the way home from one of their dates over the five straight nights. “He asked me if I was seeing someone and I said ‘no’, and he said, ‘how would you feel about making this exclusive, just between me and you?’ And I said ‘yes’” Fanchon said.

“Most of the time, 23-year-old men are not thinking about settling down and starting a family, but most don’t meet what they are looking for the first time they look,” Maurice said, “I wasn’t a big relationship guy… I wasn’t the best at it, but when I met her, it was good.”

The proposal: November 1994 in Nashville, Tenn. at an Italian Restaurant. Fanchon had flown in to meet Maurice for homecoming weekend at his alma mater, Fisk University.

“I was asking about her flight in and decided that was a good time to do it. I said, ‘our relationship has gotten to this point, and I think it’s time to make the move’ and a chair got in my way and I tripped on my way down getting on one knee,” he laughed, “but I asked her if she would marry me, and she said ‘yes’,” Maurice said.

It was important to Fanchon that Maurice had her father’s blessing before he proposed which he had “. . .we were pledging the same fraternity and ended up being line brothers [Omega Psi Phi], so we had already had the conversation.”

“I’m a daddy’s girl and he’s very protective of me and I knew that that show of respect was a big deal for my dad, so I was relieved to know that he had gotten that part out of the way. I used the restaurant’s phone to call my mom and let her know that he had proposed to me. So, we spent the weekend at Homecoming and started planning the wedding,” Fanchon said.

The wedding: Sixth Avenue Baptist Church [Birmingham], officiated by the late Reverend John Porter. Their wedding colors were ivory with a touch of peach and gold.

Most memorable for the bride was a moment with Maurice’s late grandfather. “He was not a man of many words, and after the processional, he came and hugged me and said you’re the prettiest bride I’ve ever seen, and that meant so much to me coming from him. It was such a wonderful welcome into the family,” said Fanchon.

Most memorable for the groom was “how beautiful my wife was coming down the aisle, and how beautiful the ceremony and decorations were,” he said. “And the reception, I was floored when we got there, it was dynamic! Our reception was two levels, we had the whole downstairs and upstairs of the Bessemer Civic Center… One of the other things that did it for me was my mother’s adoration of Fanchon. I’m an only child, and [after the wedding] she said thank you for making me the mother of a daughter,” Maurice said.

Words of wisdom: “You have to find and keep yourself whole and healthy to give [of yourself] in any relationship. On an airplane, they tell us that to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you assist the child… and that goes for a marriage… you have to keep yourself centered, whole, and healthy and not putting the responsibility of your happiness onto your spouse. My happiness is my responsibility and when I’m able to be whole, I’m able to give more to my spouse and my children. You have to love yourself in order to be able to give love. It helps to be friends and to always hold each other in the highest respect,” Fanchon said.

Maurice said, “One of the major reasons for marriages breaking up is unmet expectations. It’s not finances, adultery, or anything else, it’s unfulfilled expectations because you expect someone to fulfill you when you actually need to fulfill yourself and bring your fulfillment and your joy into your spouse’s life. One of the biggest things I think about when it comes to marriage, and one of the things I talk about the most with young men and marriage is ‘liking your spouse’. You have to fall in ‘like’ with your mate. I say ‘like’ and not ‘love’ because love can be obligatory… But when you like someone, and you really like to see them happy, you’ll do extra things and bring things out of yourself because you like to be around them and want to see them happy . . .” he said.

Happily ever after: The Muhammad’s have three children: Nayirah, 25, Asad, 21, Samad, 17.

Fanchon, 50, is a Bessemer native and Hueytown High School grad. She attended Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism, the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB], where she earned a master’s degree in education, and Samford University, where she obtained an education specialist degree, and a doctorate of education. Fanchon, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., works as the curriculum coordinator for Midfield City Schools.

Maurice, 52, a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., is an Edgewater native, who grew up in Forestdale, and attended Minor High School; Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn.], where he earned a bachelor’s degree, and Miles Law School, where he obtained his a Juris Doctorate. He serves as chief magistrate for the city of Bessemer.