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From Disparate Childhoods to a Dynamite Marriage

From Disparate Childhoods to A Dynamite Marriage

From a purely geographical standpoint, my wife and I grew up in the same world. Although we didn’t know it at the time, we were exactly 26.2 miles from each other as kids. In every other category not measurable by running a marathon, however, our childhoods were worlds apart.

For one thing, she still has never been to Bermuda while I, ahem, visited the adorable knee-high-socked island nation five times before I turned tween.

My childhood was defined not by luxurious possessions but certainly by immense comfort. It was a 2-story suburban home with a sloped front lawn that glistened like a drugstore postcard in wintertime. It was an always clean in-ground swimming pool punctuating a well-manicured backyard. It was a furnished basement with a brand new copy of NHL ’94 for Nintendo. It was a blue ribbon prep school that, when it snowed, could pass for Hogwarts. It was golfing in knickers and those cute little hats. It was air-conditioned rides to and from school in the burgundy leather seats of a Cadillac Sedan deVille. It was a stay at home mom. And it was family vacations to Jamaica, Florida, Niagara Falls, countless Civil War battlefields of the mid-Atlantic region and, of course, it was five glorious weeks spent in Bermuda shorts and knee high socks. As a child, I was spoiled by an upper middle class mom and dad who were, and still are, the gold standard for loving parents. Mine was as stable as childhoods get, and I loved nearly every second of it.

Meanwhile, 30 minutes south and in a variety of rented homes and apartments smack dab in some of the poorest and most volatile neighborhoods in Philadelphia, a young redheaded girl routinely stepped over a drunken, passed out father as she came and went school, often alone, in used clothes her family received from church donations. Meals were from bags and boxes, bought with food stamps from corner stores. Homework was rarely checked. Cars weren’t owned until she bought her own at age 17, the same year we met. Maybe my wife’s childhood wasn’t technically squalor, she did always have a roof over her head and food to eat, but it was damn close. Bermuda, needless to say, wasn’t on her radar.

From Disparate Childhoods to A Dynamite Marriage

And yet we came to find each other, accidentally, as is often the case. We came together in a common place and fell in love, despite the radically different paths we took to adulthood, despite the privilege of my youth and her childhood scars. Over the past decade and a half, we’ve gone from disparate childhoods to a dynamite marriage by harnessing the individual strengths culled from our distinctive upbringings.

It’s not always neat and tidy because she and I don’t always gel perfectly while we work hard to give our own two children a childhood worth cherishing, to keep a sturdy roof over their heads and better food on the table, but the symbiotic relationship of have and have-not coalesce in such a way that we manage to balance the inherent desire (and financial capacity) to spoil with the necessity to ground two upper-middle class kids in the unfortunate reality of life as it exists outside their comfortable suburban home.

Someday, we may even pull our socks up and visit Bermuda together.

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3 Comments

  1. This is such a great piece. Like you and your wife my husband and I come from very different backgrounds. There are even times we may have crossed paths oddly enough, but being in such vastly different spheres meant we wouldn’t have paid each other any mind. Those different backgrounds definitely made things challenging when we were younger, but our core values were the same and continue to be. I think that’s why you two (and us two) work so well together-that balance is needed and necessary and it’s incredibly fortunate that your kids (and ours!) are grounded in reality while still feeling loved, safe, and comfortable.

  2. This is a beautiful post! Made me search through the archives for how you met. 🙂 It’s amazing how life brings people together.

  3. Really nice post.
    I enjoy hearing back story and these sort of details. It’s cool that you two can use the gifts each of you has from your different backgrounds and have a good marriage and a happy home.

joc