After thirty years together, Cokie and Steve Roberts know something about marriage and after thirty distinguished years in journalism, they know how to write about it.In From This Day Forward, Cokie and Steve weave their personal stories of matrimony into a wider reflection on the state of marriage in American today.
Here they write with the same conversational style that catapulted Cokie's We Are Our Mother's Daughters to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. They ruminate on their early worries about their different faiths -- she's Catholic, he's Jewish -- and describe their wedding day at Cokie's childhood home. They discuss the struggle to balance careers and parenthood, and how they compromise when they disagree. They also tell the stories of other American marriages: that of John and Abigail Adams, and those pioneers, slaves and immigrants. They offer stories of broken marriages as well, of contemporary families living through the "divorce revolution". Taken together, these tales reveal the special nature of the wedding bond in America. Wise and funny, this book is more than an endearing chronicle of a loving marriage -- it is a story of all husbands and wives, and how they support and strengthen each other.
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January 22, 2001
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Excerpt from From This Day Forward by Cokie Roberts
We are often asked how we met, usually by young peoplewho are still wondering about this marriage thing. When doyou know you've found the right person? How can you tell?The problem is summed up by Steve's twin brother, Marc,who likes to put it this way: Choosing a mate is like beingtold to walk through a forest and pick up the biggest stickyou can find. But you only get to pick up one stick and younever know when the forest will end. In our case it was evenmore complicated. Since Cokie is Catholic and Steve is Jewish, the kind of stick each of us chose was also an issue -- toourselves and to our families. But in another sense we werefollowing a familiar pattern, meeting and marrying young.We both have brothers who married at twenty. Like us,Cokie's parents, Hale and Lindy Boggs, met in college, wherethey worked on the student newspaper together. Steve's father, Will, met his bride, Dorothy, on her seventeenth birthday. And he used to look around at gatherings of his children and grandchildren, when the tribe had reached eighteen, and say with considerable pride, "See what happens when you walk a girl home from a birthday party?" Our story is not quite so romantic, but typical of our life -- public and private threads woven together. Steve was nineteen, Cokie eighteen. It was the summer of 1962, between our sophomore and junior years in college, and we both were attending a student political conference at Ohio State.
CR: I saw Steven across the yard and he looked familiar to me because I knew his twin brother. And I kept thinking, Is that Marc Roberts? He doesn't quite look like Marc Roberts, but he looks a whole lot like Marc Roberts. And then I got up close to him and he had a name tag, so I said, "Are you Marc Roberts's brother?" And he said, "Yes, are you Barbara Boggs's sister?" And that's how we met.
SR: I had actually heard of Cokie all that summer. I had been recruited by one of my Harvard professors, Paul Sigmund, who was looking for student journalists to put out a newspaper at the World Youth Festival in Helsinki, Finland. I didn't know that our trip was financed by the CIA, or that Paul would later marry Cokie's sister, making us brothers-inlaw as well as co-conspirators. Another recruit was Bob Kaiser, then at Yale, an old friend of the Boggs family, and in Helsinki he kept telling me about this girl he knew at Wellesley, Cokie Boggs. But Bob made a critical mistake: he stayed in Europe. I went home early for the political meeting, and since I'd heard about her from Bob, I knew who she was when I met her.
CR: But he has this picture in his mind that I was wearing a pair of charcoal-gray Bermuda shorts and I have never in my life owned a pair of charcoal-gray Bermuda shorts. It was 1962. It might have been 1932 in terms of men and women. The fact that I actually spoke at this meeting was highly unusual.
SR: But I also found that intriguing. I think from the very beginning, the fact that Cokie was so independent-minded and so forceful appealed to me. I mean, she was not the secretary sitting at the back of the room taking notes.
CR: Although really, I took quite a few.
SR: We started flirting, writing notes to each other during these endless meetings, and Cokie has actually saved some of them all these years. On a long list of people who had been nominated for national office, I scribbled on the side, "You're so efficient it hurts." She wrote back, "I'm the youngest child of an insane family -- somebody had to be efficient, otherwise we'd starve!" I answered, "Be efficient, but jeezus -- don't ever get comfortable. It's such a deadly disease!" That statement probably defines the word "sophomoric," but it also shows how little I knew about myself I was actually looking for comfort and I think she might have known that. Her final word on the "deadly disease" question was, "Would that I could ever have the opportunity to catch it!"
CR: And then we went back to school. Our dorms were only twelve and a half miles apart, we later learned, but at first he didn't call me. So I think I called him and invited him to the junior Show. Is that what happened?
SR: That would be typical. I remember sitting in the audience, watching her sing -- a symbolic way to spend our first date. I remember afterward she was wearing a bright green dress, and we went to the Howard Johnson's down in the village for something to eat.
CR: And then I came home and I'd had such a good time, such a good time, I went dancing up the stairs singing "I Feel Pretty." And then he never called.
SR:I didn't call because I was petrified. I had this rule that I didn't call a girl more than twice. I really liked her and I enjoyed the show, but I was unnerved. I was a typical guy. I was nineteen. But there were other guys from Harvard who went to Wellesley regularly and I would hear from them, "Cokie Boggs asked after you." So we had this long-distance communication. I knew where she was. I knew where to find her.