Speeches & Childhood Memories

When I was 11 years old, my parents got married. It was a small ceremony at church, right there in the pastor’s office. I only remember my aunt being there. While they were preparing to jump the broom, I, dressed in a white dress and curls, was in a zone, wondering what was taking so long. What happened to the weddings where the couple only said, “I do” and kissed to seal the deal, like on TV? It only took them two minutes–tops–to wed. My folks were on that extended plan.

My mother asked me why I looked so sad. Wasn’t I happy that my Mama and Daddy were married? Honestly, that 30-minute ceremony was the furthest thing from my mind. I was more excited about the weekend-long sleepover at my best friend’s house,which I later found out was put in place so my parents could go on a “honeymoon” (I still shudder at the thought). Basically, it was just another day.

Back then, my parents being “married” didn’t mean much. I lived with both of them most of my life, and that’s all I knew. Everyone who lived on our end of the neighborhood knew my mother and everyone definitely knew my daddy–the Mean Man With the White Car. When his car stopped at the corner, kids who I’d just been playing Red Light, Green Light with were suddenly gone with the wind.  Whether it was before I went to school each day or late night when my father would return home from work, I saw my parents together everyday. Most of my close friends lived in two-parent homes, but as I got older I recognized that I was in a different position that most of the kids in my neighborhood and school. I remember a girl in my fifth grade class asking me, “You got a daddy?”

Those memories came to me just yesterday as I was listening to students present their first speeches. The assignment was to introduce another student. A junior, who I’ve already nicknamed “Smiley,” introduced an upbeat freshman, who I’ll call Jamie. Before Smiley concluded her speech, she mentioned the most memorable thing about Jamie was that she was raised in a two-parent home, unlike herself and her friends, who are all raised by single parents. Her tone and delivery sent one message: Must be nice.

I was taken aback immediately. almost 20 years later after the parental unit said their vows, things haven’t changed much. In fact, they’ve gotten worse. According to the 2006 Census Annual Social and Economic Supplement, “12.9 million families in the U.S. were headed by a single-parent, 80% of which were headed by a female.”

How many other students in that classroom consider living with both parents an abnormality, instead of what it should be?

Since I’ve gotten older, I finally see the value in the rings that circle each of my parent’s fourth finger. I understand what that special bond of marriage means and why it was so important to my mother that I was as happy as she was that April afternoon. But while I was sitting in that chair in the pastor’s crowded office, I only cared about what so many children today long for—I had two parents, instead of just one.

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