New Year, New Start

My best New Year's Eve was in 1970, after a bitter divorce from a cruel and loveless man. Left with nothing but my three children to care for, I felt as if my love life was over at the age of 24. My only goal was to raise my children to the best of my ability. I knew I would never meet a true, good, decent man. However, on Halloween night, after taking my children out for a night of trick-or-treating, my single cousin talked me into going to a dance club with her while my mother watched my children.

We were trying to have a good time and were on our way to the ladies' room when all of a sudden she stopped. "Look at that man," she said. "Do you remember him?" Yes, I did, and after all those years, he hadn't changed very much. The three of us had gone to the same elementary school for two and a half years before I'd moved to the city. She asked him if he remembered me. To my surprise, he immediately replied "Yes," said my name, and then added, "I never forgot her."

He asked for a dance, and of course I said "Yes." While dancing, we had time to catch up. I told him I had three children and was recently divorced. He told me he had never married and had served five years in the U.S. Army, traveling around the world. He asked me for my phone number and a date. Although I was thrilled, I politely declined. He said he had often wondered about me while he was in Vietnam.

A few days later, encouraged by my cousin, we went back to the club on a Saturday night. There he was, tall and handsome. We danced and exchanged phone numbers. After a few dates, he asked me out on New Year's Eve. I was so happy. For Christmas, my mother bought me a beautiful gold-and-ivory pantsuit with little gold heels to match. When my date saw me, he exclaimed, "Wow, you are beautiful!" He made me feel as if I had been transformed from Cinderella in the kitchen into Cinderella at the ball. He told me that he felt as if he had always loved me, since grade school. (Back then, he was the first boy who'd ever asked me for a date, I was the first girl he'd ever asked out and, he now pointed out, I was the first and only girl to turn him down.) He said he still loved me, and he asked me to marry him. He told me he would raise my three children as if they were his own.

For Christmas, he had a stereo delivered to my home. I did not see him on Christmas because I spent the holiday with my family. So on New Year's Eve, he gave me a second gift, the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was a gold watch covered with diamonds and sapphires. His love had made me feel as beautiful as he said I was. He took me dancing, and we danced to every song. He kept his arms around me and held my hand all night long. He introduced me to all of his friends and told them I was the most beautiful, wonderful girl in the whole world and that he was going to marry me. No one ever made me feel as he made me feel! He treated me like royalty. When the clock struck midnight, we were on the dance floor -- where he gave me the sweetest, most tender, loving kiss I had ever had. I was on top of the world. He treated me like no man ever had. He made me feel special and confident. I believe I began to fall in love with him that night.

When we arrived at my house, he paid my mama for babysitting and made sure that each of my children had party favors.

Needless to say, we were married one and a half years later. I wanted to be sure I wasn't dreaming. I wasn't. Although we have been married over thirty years and have had many wonderful New Year's Eves together, that was the best night of my life. It changed my life, and that of my children as well.

The first thing he does every morning and the last thing he does every night is give me a kiss and tell me, "I love you."