Paul and Vanessa Babicz, Chicago Land Love and Marriage Done Right!
Paul and Vanessa Babicz, Chicago Land Love and Marriage Done Right indeed. Paul Babicz or Pauly as he is known in some circles is a dedicated husband and father. At times with a Starbuck’s Caramel Macchiato within reach, Paul works full time in the medical field, plays drums at his church, co-teaches a class with his wife and just enjoys life. Paul‘s humor, loyalty, determination and creativity guaranteed him a special place in the heart of Vanessa —- his bride of 30 years.Even as the grandson of Polish immigrants, Paul had known since high school that he wanted to marry a black woman. You can feel the joy Paul emanates just speaking of his Vannie. He speaks of her as if he just met a new girlfriend. While telling me about his life, marriage and family, Paul was full of laughs but kept it very real. Enjoy their story.
What is your ethnicity?
I’m second generation Polish. My grandparents came here from Poland. My lovely bride Vanessa is Black and a quarter Cherokee, which makes our children an interesting racial mix and so beautiful.
How did you meet your wife?
A buddy of mine told me of a college that had seven girls to one guy on campus; and being a young man I had to go and check it out. I am from Chicago andVanessa is from Florida, so we met in the middle at Lee College which is now Lee University in Cleveland, TN. That was in September of 1975. She and her friends were at the tennis court and wouldn’t you know it — we started talking. I only did one semester there before returning to Chicago. So, Vanessa and I maintained a long distance relationship (while she continued her education there) which actually made us closer and even more fond of each other. We wrote letters back and forth, I called her in the evenings and every weekend (There were no cell phones back then, just expensive long distance rates. MCI must have loved me because I helped keep in business). I also would fly down to visit from time to time and sometimes fly her here. One year, I flew down on Valentine’s day to surprise Vanessa. She was walking to class and I just went to her. Vanessa asked “What are you doing here?” I answered the obvious and of course I got the biggest hug in the universe.
Funny we communicated without the Internet or cell phone technology. It would have come in handy because Vanessa spent hours trying to decipher my chicken scratch handwriting (Paul so fondly recalls). Email would have been great. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining because I would do it all over again. My wife was worth every penny I spent on calls, travel or postage. Can you tell I’m crazy about her or maybe just crazy? I would love to give you the whole story of how I feel the Lord brought me and my soul mate together in an amazing tale; but you would have to write a book. I can tell you, that I was not about to let her get away. I was willing to take a chance and approach her just to see if Vanessa would like or talk to me. I won her heart. There has never ever been any reason to look back, unless you count the head full of hair I had back then.
That’s fine (chuckling). I totally get the picture. How could I not? What a wonderful story and attraction. How long had you known each other when you got married?
Almost 4 years. We have been married now 29 years and soon to be 30 in June of 2009. It’s been an amazing journey. I have known Vanessa more than half of my life. As a matter of fact, I credit her with the outgoing personality I have today. I as a bit shy when we met and she over time helped me out of that shell. Thank you honey!
When were you married?
We were married on June 9, 1979 in Hallandale, Florida at her home church.
Was this your first interracial relationship?
Yes, it was my first real relationship — period.
When did you first realize that you could love a black woman?
I liked a girl in high school, but we never dated. When I was in high school I was attracted to the black girls. I knew then, I knew my soul mate would be a beautiful black woman whose heart matched mine. Even though she was (still is) beautiful, I loved Vanessa inside and out. She had a winning personality and wonderful disposition.
How did you feel about interracial marriage and relationships before you were in one?
Although I knew I would marry a black woman, I didn’t really broadcast it. Right before going off to college, I told my best friend that I was going to marry a black girl. So I really wanted to be in an interracial relationship from the get go. Race was not so important, I was just attracted to black women and I got myself a good one with outstanding character and personality. Vanessa is as good as they come. I was blessed to find her.
Do you feel any different about interracial marriage and relationships now?
Not really. I see my two of my girls in two different relationships. One is dating a white guy and the other is dating a black guy. All I want is my girls to be happy and for them to get the love and respect they deserve from good men; also to be in a strong relationship like mine and their mother’s. I know we have set a good example for them to follow.
I can’t imagine that after 30 years it would matter now, but did you ever face skeptics and criticism from friends and or family about your interracial marriage?
No, my friends have accepted us for who we are. As a matter of fact most of the time my wife is the only black person in the crowd. This has also been the case in the churches we have attended over the years; and people have loved her just the same. I’m the one always teasing her. Funny how it all turned out and we laugh about this. Not everything is a laughing matter, but you have to be able to have fun with what could otherwise very serious. A sense of humor is so important.
Do you recall how you first informed your friends and family of your interracial relationship and subsequent marriage?
Well, my Dad really didn’t mind, he said “You are going to live with her.” And he got along great with my wife. My mom on the other hand was very cold towardsVanessa while we were dating. Vanessa never even gave it a second thought. She knew I loved and supported her no matter what. That was another thing that made me love her even more. My mother once said to my sister: “I didn’t want one of those in my family.” My sister responded: “What do you mean Ma she is a woman just like you?” I’m glad my sister spoke up when my mother said that to her. Not to excuse her or anything, but mother was never really around Black people All she knew were the negative images she’d seen depicted in the media. Unfortunately I lost my mom before we got married; and she never got a chance to see her wonderful grandchildren whom I know she would have truly loved.
What about your Vanessa‘s family?
Now, with her family at first both parents weren’t too crazy about bringing a white man in the family. Remember that was a while back. Even though people did marry interracially, it was not as common as it is now. Vanessa actually did have a cousin who had married a white guy so the idea wasn’t totally foreign, but I was the first in her immediate family.
Did you or she face any criticism from them?
Vanessa faced a little, but it didn’t faze her. She handled the situation with my mother with such class; I knew it would be no issue. Anyway, I had her back.
How was it handled?
Vanessa‘s aunt advised her mother: “Give the boy a chance and meet him.” Ironically after they both met me, I eventually became their favorite son-in-law.
Have you ever felt pressure or experienced a significant difference between your non interracial and interracial relationships?
Never any real pressure. You just don’t get the stares when with a person of the same race. When we rode the “L” trains in Chicago in the 80’s we might have had people staring at us, but I always stared right back and got in trouble with my wife for doing it. She rises above that kind of thing and has just never let it bother her.
Do you feel that there are societal criticisms and pressures concerning interracial relationships from both the blacks and whites?
Just like I stated earlier my friends, co-workers, church forks have all accepted us for who we are, as the couple and family we are which has been good. Societal pressures would never have stopped me from having my relationship with my beautiful wife.
We have a daughter 28, a son 26, a daughter 23, and another daughter 16.
Did race figure into child rearing for you and your wife?
No. Our children never really thought about color or race as we were always Mom and Dad. One day however, our middle daughter came home from school and said “Mom am I black?” She had heard someone at school or something. That was ironic because we never taught them to see the color in people; we taught them to see that we are individuals no matter our skin tone.
What was your response to her and your other children?
My children were blessed not to experience the racism as children as we protected them by not making this an issue in our household. Any advice would have always been that as a person, you are created by God and made in his image so love so where as humanly possible, treat people all the same.
Where do you live?
Northlake, IL. It’s just outside the great city of Chicago.
Do you think Northlake in general is a good place for interracial couples and families?
Northlake is a small city of about 12,000 people, and being a suburb of Chicago it’s not bad. Our neighbors have been very good. We lived in the city for 10 years and had no problems.
Do you have any suggestions for anyone interested in or just entering an interracial relationship, regardless of race?
Well, first and foremost trust in the Lord Jesus Christ because he will guide you. Every relationship has challenges and ours really is no different. We put the Lord in middle of our relationship and it has worked for all these years. Don’t let what people say stop you or hinder you if you truly love that person love will conquer all with the Lord’s help.
Would you be available (for one week only) willing to answer a few of our readers’ questions for a future publication?
Sure, if I can help any young or older couples starting out and share my experiences it would be great.
Thank you Paul. I feel like you have taken me back in time with you.