Wanja Ngugi and Steve Rutledge

Recorded October 17, 2021 Archived October 17, 2021 36:17 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby021151


Spouses Wanja Ngugi (35) and Steve Rutledge (49) sit down together to tell their love story and express their deep appreciation for one another.

Subject Log / Time Code

SR tells the story of how he and WN met from his perspective.
WN tells the story of how she and SR met from her perspective.
WN and SR share what it was like being in a long distance relationship for five years.
SR reflects on how things fell into place when he was in a relationship with WN.
SR recalls asking WN's father if he could marry WN.
WN shares how she know SR was "the one."
WN and SR reflect on how losing parents early on in their lives affected both of them.
SR appreciates the relationship WN and his mother have built.
SR talks about what it was like for him to visit WN's home in Kenya.
WN talks about what it was like for her to have SR visit her home in Kenya.
WN reads the poem she wrote about SR.
SR and WN express their love for one another.


  • Wanja Ngugi
  • Steve Rutledge

Recording Location

Mildred L. Terry Public Library



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00:02 Hello, I'm Wanda, go gay. I'm 35 years old today, Sunday, October 17th, 2021 and we're in Columbus, Georgia, and I'm here with Steve Rutledge. My husband.

00:13 And I'm Steve Rutledge age. 49 today is October 17th 2021 already. We're in Columbus, Georgia on with my wife, want to Rosalia go game.

00:26 Awesome. Hi, honey. Hello. How are you? I'm doing good. How are you this morning? Nice weather. I'm sorry. I kind of, you know, wanted to bring you here just to have a moment to really appreciate you and laugh with you. And I just recorded some things about how much you mean to me, and you're some fun stories. I got that are coming together was really interesting here. Is this girl born and raised in Nairobi Kenya or Kenya? Who met this Columbus, Georgia native, Southern, Man, country boy, country boy. There's some fun stories and I've always treasured our relationship and our love. And so, I wanted to bring you here to just share a little bit of that. I'm nervous. So I don't know if you're feeling a little bit too, but my heart was racing a little bit. It's because

01:26 I hold you in very, very high regard, so that we could start with how we met. We have two different stories, actually began. And I will admit kind of different than most people. My story began when I was in high school. I attended pacelli, go Vikings in Columbus, Georgia. I was an art class and I love art is one of my hobbies to draw and I've gotten away from, you need to get back into it, but I have. But the teacher asked me to drop my final project. Something that would be difficult. You never done before. I didn't like to draw a human's eye. Something that's inspiring you, so low and behold. I just happened to see a magazine. I forgot which one it was National Geographic. And it was just pure.

02:26 Beautiful woman on the front cover. She was a Doreen. Her native wear around your neck. Beautiful earrings, beautiful dark skin, tone skin. And I kind of fell in love with it right there. And I said, oh my God, this is somebody that I would want to be with literally what I had around here in Columbus. I felt a Draw 2, it felt grounded with it. So I began to draw draw the face and everything became natural. Where everything was and I just love the colors around her neck and I'll be in the garage restaurant and it was one of the best drivers I ever did to tell the truth and I actually have the outline. I'll print hidden in the closet at the house.

03:26 As I was driving, I was like.

03:29 Yeah, this is who I wouldn't mind being with and of course after graduation all the fun. I forgot all about it. And then as I matured going through different only only a handful of dates and serious relationship. There was this beautiful woman at Columbus State University in front at the front desk. And she smiled as she had, this beautiful hair pin back in an Afro, and then I'm a nerd. And so I'm thinking first thing, an introvert. First thing you think, okay. So just said, if this mess over here to work on y'all's computers and things of that nature was a ticket in that area. Guess who picked up the ticket to go.

04:29 Will have to go help out cuz it was my friend caught on to it. And then we just kept talking after a while. I think we start talk about what we like to do. That's all you like to ride cuz I'm trying to lose weight still going through that process, been away another story. Well, I work two jobs, but I remembered late at night before I can go and I said we go someplace safe at the Civic Center in the parking lot, just outside on the river. But at the time, I me being slow and ignorant and a southern boy didn't think it would be

05:29 Serious, I don't want to embarrass myself. So I just kept doing that. Kept going out picking you up and going out late at night from your dad's place. So yeah, hinted at 10 p.m. Who knew and then and what what really hit the spot was as we were getting serious. After we had to find that we were getting serious with it. That's when I started going back on like God. She look just like that's wrong. And that's how we met do. That's beautiful. I think we should end right here cuz that was great.

06:16 If we open our eyes and look to it, absolutely, which is something you have. I have always admired about you. You're so very patient. Patience is not my virtue. That you have taught me that you can wait and good things do come in time and to to be able to sit in that patience really beautifully. I think you know, uneasiness is a little tough for me or not knowing on the planner. I like things in exact boxes and in our 13, + years of being together. You have really helped me kind of girl that muscle and be a little more losing. So for that, just right. This moment I want to say thank you will. Let me tell you my side of the story, a poem. I wrote for you called celebrating a real man might King. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to read that for you later. But I was a newbie to Columbus, Georgia. My dad had moved here for family reason.

07:16 Then I just finished college. So I'm working at Columbus State as a temp. And then this guy keeps passing by with the school hair. I have always loved your hair. I mean like just from the very first day. He looks good. But then you also seemed a little out of my league and I was like just a little shy of a lot more. Shy than I am. Now, in terms of us obviously and so I just used to think like cool cool. You might not remember this, but I worked as a temp first and then I left him and I had some questions to some people and I found out you were not quite available at that time. So I was heartbroken a little bit. Then I left Columbus for a while and then I came back to be with Dad and I was lucky enough to work back at Columbus State and this time I had an office and so when we had a computer tech things you'd come and my heart would flutter or fixing my computer.

08:16 And you probably are just like yeah it to me. You just seem so cool and easy like you always. All right, nothing truly Ruffles your feathers, which is one of your qualities, that's very admirable. And I'm So eventually I got the guts to have a conversation with you and we said, we should run sometime. So then I waited cuz, you know, we agreed, we would run, I gave you my phone number, if I waited, and I waited some more, then eventually, I had to email you to say. When can we go running? So I know you say you came after me, but I believe I came after you 50, we ended up together. So that's cool. But eventually we got on the phone and even before we went running we had what like an 8-hour phone call on a Saturday night into Sunday morning. And then after the 8-hour, oh gosh. That was an amazing and I'm glad

09:16 Now, you know, I think sometimes you do certain things early on in a relationship and they kind of wore down, but it does still love that. We can sit in our backyard and talk about anything and everything was Ted Talks together and allow ourselves to go into that space. So I remember talking about parents talking about church and you had to get off the phone cuz you were going to get ready and take Mom to church that morning. And so then we went to Starbucks at afternoon and we had a coffee and so, you know coffee is one of my love and you have been introduced to so you don't love it as much but that's it. And then we just started running together late-night visits to Denny's in 745. But yeah, that's kind of

10:07 How it all started, then I left your supposed to follow follow. So I went, I love for 5 years. We are 45 years young. We actually cuz I know when that happened. I was like, I know this, I don't want to hold you back from your goals and what you want to do. That's one of the things I like about you and it wasn't all about your goes like your life experience. And I did not want to hold that bag, and I'll just thought, if it's meant to be, it will be, I'll make every effort to make it work. So we alternated weekends back and forth together. I mean, we actually, there was not a weekend that we miss. One of us was traveling out of the country or had other business. We never were both at our houses by ourselves house, like 5 years and not one weekend move to from what Georgia State to win.

11:07 Hiwet not longer was just it was different. But do you remember not wanting to do long distance and kind of feeling very a little tough? Like, you weren't sure I remember feeling like you are, like, we'll try it. We'll see how it goes. But where could, you know, My Philosophy about friends and long distances, they let nature but this was no friendship. Like I stated it was just that draw. I mean, I am a firm believer that things happen, for a reason and God made that path work. And it is just, I mean, it was Destin, it was destined for you. That was, this is at like that you kind of years before we got engaged and got married a year later. Do you, do you remember a moment or how was it for you, that it came to be?

12:07 That we actually stated because at first, it was like, you know, what date will see how it goes then right? Right. Right, right. And then you got a conversation. I was like, well, you know, this is this really going to be a relationship. I know five years. Seems like the Yeah, Yeah. Yeahs not know. Cuz we are old souls and so to speak sometimes, too. So we when we made the house. Okay, let me see how this goes and then the six and a half year. And you know, I was, I will always ask question. I'm start planning like you know what, you want to spend the rest of the life, our life together and I was like, I got to get things perfect. Every man. Sometimes think you don't got to have the perfect house in perfect bank account rain blah blah blah. And then but you kept reassuring that all that stuff wasn't important.

13:07 Being who we are, you know, we just want to make that happen, right? Then.

13:31 Things are falling into place.

13:40 And things start falling into place to where I started talk to my mom and the expression how much how deep I'll let you know about this is going to be and, you know, mom is very, very protective. Who is this and do you really want to do this? And you know, and she was part of my head to where you want to make? Sure because of the way she was raised Spanish, we could see saw her Hut in my dad. They were lower-middle, very low middle class, but they made it work and she just didn't want to see us go through the same thing. That's why I stay invested so much in me and my sister location and it worked. And then but still I just asked God. I just had that prayer, you know, stop worrying.

14:29 Go for it, make it happen. And I was kind of blind to the fact as well, because I was hearing voices saying, you know, he got to be perfect. Got to be perfect. Got to be the right way. But God was saying, just just do it. I'll clear the path that.

14:46 8 year, we were in when I move back to move back down. That wasn't then. I like that was a sign that he know. I just had to tell Daddy then this thing just in just like they're doing now.

15:09 You are my. You are my blessing to babe.

15:13 But anyways, but then I thought it was going to be a whole, a hold on it. Cuz when I went to Kenya and I asked your dad and then I thought your dad was going to say, you know, he'll know man, his eyes lit up. And then I especially when I had mentioned. Hey, I want to do it the traditional way in Kenya kikuyu way. And you mean it was just everything. I like God, this couldn't be.

15:58 And seeing that picture of fight.

16:08 You know, sometimes I just sit back and I think I thought this.

16:16 I don't deserve you, but

16:23 I've been so so lonely.

16:35 Cuz, you know, I've been doing stuff myself always been.

16:51 This why I don't like going to therapy. But thank you for your honesty. Open me up to my feelings. A lot of times. I don't like to open up because of this very reason but

17:15 Then I just I mean that's when the now that third, I just try to keep it open because, you know, things happen for a reason, you know, God and I couldn't have asked for a better wife, how long we could not? I mean, I thought my dad grew up with my mom is like he was so happy, you know, everything's not perfect. Of course, you know, they stuck through it and I said, that's what that's the part that I wanted, and I was, you know, it took me a long time to get married. And I was like, if he's going to be mad, you're going to be the right one. And then, you know, you got married in Kenya. They got mad in the US. So we had two marriages. So if you can't break up, you can't break up.

18:02 So, tell me about you. How did you know that? I was the one for you?

18:07 You know, I don't think it was a moment though. When I go back, I write a lot. And I don't know that I tell you that, I write a lot or that's how I express myself. So when I go back reading old Diaries, I remember some like I was flying to Kenya and I don't know, you could you remember those were really hard trips like, at the airport would be crying really hard, and was just just going to go to dinner for three weeks, to be with my family, and it was a huge loss in a relationship, but I obviously wanted to go visit my dad. Who is it in Kenya? So I was born and raised in Kenya and my whole family used to live here and then my dad and my brother is all moved back. So now we're really lucky that Michael and his family are in town. Have a little niece and nephew.

19:07 I remember traveling and writing on my trips and saying, all these prayers. So I prayed for you. I always prayed for someone. I wanted to come home to after a long day. I never wanted to be taken care of, but I, and you take great care of me and I didn't even know I needed that something with you, but I prayed for someone who would be really open to, like, I look forward to the end of the day. And when you're coming home. I do look forward to my couple hours before you get home. But I really look forward to telling stories and just you being in my presence, right? I just want to hug you and share quality time with you. And so I prayed for that. I prayed for a persevering man. I prayed for somebody who was hardworking, who if we found ourselves that everything. We owned was gone. We could still be together and build our lives together and boy, I got that. And then a million more cuz you are the most hardworking Folk.

20:07 Best man that I have ever met. I mean and I'm talking about my dad. My brother is my you are. Yeah. Yeah, you know and so I don't know if I often tell you that but I think I think highly of your work ethic I think your mom and dad for your work ethic because I think we are our parents, both in the good parts in the hard part and they instilled that in you in such a beautiful way. He'll keep our house, our home just

20:36 Really beautiful. And so I just wanted somebody, I wanted to hang out with and Adventures. I think that's really one of my favorite things. Is that we go on fun adventures. Like hey, do you want to sign up a new storycorps and your lecture and then you go. What's that again? Bike ride, and that was so or just go to the Civic.

21:02 And do the 60 miles on the North End on the hardest part, which was fun. Our first vacant your first International vacation, getting your passport anyways, but so I prayed for you.

21:15 When I wasn't ready for you, I think. And I think we both weren't ready. We don't often talk about this but we both lost a parent. Very young. My mom died when I was thirteen and your dad when you were 20 or 80. And so I think that affected us watching our parents grieve and not have a spouse. And as my dad said at our engagement or our rehearsal dinner, oh my God, is that he was grateful for you when he was supposed to be talking about his daughter. He was grateful for you because you got through my heart.

21:52 And you've gotten through my heart, the same kind of loneliness, so you may have felt lonely. I felt like I didn't need. Anybody had my dad and my brothers and my family and that was all I needed. And so you chipped away at that pain and that hurt. And just we've created this.

22:12 I don't want to use the word precious, it is precious but it's also very tough. Right? So it's not precious that it's you know, it's just going to get burst its precious in that it's so special. And so you just got to me and just kept tipping at it and that's why my dad was so grateful. And if I was a little out of my dad about that, No, but and so did mama spend, who is like my pseudo mom talked about how special you are? Because I think they both knew me very well and saw how hurt I was and they weren't sure that I could get over that hurt to allow somebody in.

22:52 And so I just am really grateful that you came and that we were patient enough. I got kind of mad towards the end. You put your Mister patient cuz you asked for my dad for my hand. In 2011, December 2011, when you came home for the first time and we got engaged April 27th. So it was just a few years in between those two things, but it was worth it.

23:27 I just feel grateful. I feel very very grateful for the life that we share and for the passion that we share. Now, we challenged each other. We've always handle each other but we continued to go to these new dobs and new growth and so just happy about that. So what I like about us to it's like wherever we go in Columbus or even social posting I get this kind of him when we post our lives together, nothing fantastic or anything like that. Nothing fancy, but I see the so much of the support from the people just like and we're not the perfect couple. We're not divorced, couple but they just cease is like, like what we're doing now is like an example. It it's kind of like it's like, you know, they're making it work, right? And these Hard Time covid Times Hard Times politically and everything like that. But yet they still having fun together this year, you know, there still.

24:27 I have fun. I got to have fun. I thank you for keeping things, spicy and champ, and changing because you know, you know, things would be kind of the monotonous at times with no nothing more to life than just the nine-to-five than just, you know, sit down and think and just open your eyes and see. We going to what makes you happy. What goals? Do you want to do financially socially and emotionally before man, please man, before I wouldn't sit here, talkin about you, no emotions and stuff like that. But yeah, yeah, good good, good for the world and then my mom.

25:19 I no offense to anyone else but my mom loves you, that she loved everyone else, but, you know, it's hard when my mom is is Stone Cold. And she is, once a, protect her children around more stuff like that. She began to see. This is the one this is the one and now you know, she has early dementia, but you know the way you take care of her way, better than because it's just hard to see her go through that. Thank God. You're here for that. But yes, yes. Yes. You just don't know. And the way she lights up when she sees you, she makes a Wanda bottom. Yes. You should have said, yes, if you have a firm bottom and she wish she had it but nothing to me too. Because I

26:19 Told her you were going to be the one pushed back. All she want to do is just make sure this is that she did give a deep breath.

26:30 Just like that. And I think that the Press was not that I made a bad choice. A deep breath. Was that okay, my baby is moving on and I have to read it. I reassured her that you're gaining a beautiful daughter. You know, you already have a beautiful daughter, collect my sister, you gave me another one and she just took on from that and it just went when that happened. I was like, oh my God, this is perfect as it is happening.

26:56 Let's talk about menu for a moment. Because many your mom's fashionista. Diva Canary. Oh my goodness. Absolutely. Gorgeous. She's a, she's a really special woman. And I know that sometimes all of our relationships going to be a little bit complicated. I'm grateful to her, cuz she's the only parent of yours up, Matt, and she's gifted me with this amazing human being that I get to spend the rest of my life with and Jessica back a little bit back to what you were saying about people giving us a port like, who we saw on Friday night, just this weekend. I don't even I meet all of your so Columbus. Everybody Plays. And I'm like, who's Wanda, but it's just beautiful and it always takes me back a little bit cuz there's all this love and support from people. We don't know.

27:56 In such a special way, but I think not I think I know that the reason our love is because we chose it. I chose you. I paused. I thought I was happy with myself. I still had growth, but I chose you and I feel like you made it was a very purposeful choice. I feel that taking nine years of before getting engaged and getting married. We really knew each other well, and we wanted to do this thing together. So we came into it. We are past the honeymoon phase like when years passed a honeymoon phase and all that stuff, right? So, it was just not just, it was, it was a choice and I would choose you over and over again. Thank you, sir. Thank you again.

28:55 Absolutely, absolutely. Do you want to move to like, adventures together? I want, you know what? I want to hear about your experience in your trips to Kenya. Oh my God. Okay. I'll write that. That's a good that you can see. That's why you good at this stuff. Being an African-American Southern country, boy, country boy with blinders on each side. Just thinking life was about, you know, getting the house. Give me a job, working hard, not working, smart, like you got me doing now, working smart at heart, a smart and just, you know, living that life. Find a mate and just, you know, it's probably stay in Columbus and, you know, just live but it went far beyond that. When I met you, you open up to a lot of different stuff. A lot of different Cuisines places to go when I did, when I finally decide.

29:55 Go to Kenya. I was like, oh my God, you know, of course, that's a lot of African-Americans, you. Do you want to go with EB, call home or some place in Africa, so went there and just to just to see and it was a shock. I'm not going to lie. It was a shock to go there and just see nothing but Africans. No, black dark skin and and inviting some people. I say it, you know, you get that. It's not the same as it really is in the same to go and then just to see your beautiful land at Canyon morning like, around from the what is it the west side of Africa, but they're on the east side with came out, just to go there and just see the beautiful and the Beautiful People. The in, it actually felt

30:54 Like okay, I can feel this environment. I can feel this culture cuz it just seems so natural. And then just to when they, when we went on the Safari, just to see the land and how rich and how it reads it is, then how it was plundered. I'm being controlled. It was just a beautiful thing and then just to go and just to see your family, the way it, what I mean and didn't feel like that was that when I was young, Grandma House, Fort Mitchell, Alabama, where my mom's friend in the way everyone interacted back. Then, you know, every Saturday, every when we get together and just have fun barbecue or whatever. When I went to Kenya and, you know, we lost that now technology in every with the. Well, is that saying when we go to go see show

31:54 Grandma and all that stuff. I was like, oh my God, is that same feeling and it's amazing how some of that stuff was maintained while through, you know, adversity and things of that nature back in history slavery and things of that nature how that maintain and it just felt good. You know I'm saying? And I'm seriously thinking about retirement there. So we talked about, you talked about that. So I mean it was just too surreal. It was beautiful and too too Grand to put into words enjoyed. Yeah. Yeah, you will have your Kenyan family adopt you for the wedding ceremonies. And that hopefully honoring my father and my tradition in that way will offer you blessings upon blessings for the rest of your life. That and I know you continue to you cuz the last time I was there you continued the tradition.

32:54 And so that means a lot to my father and to my brother than gosh. It's a great time to thank them cuz they worked really hard the new happened. So it was just really a beautiful experience and I value and appreciate you for taking that into account. Cuz not everybody does that. I think it's about time to end and I'm going to read this really quickly read you this role for you at like maybe 5 snow, like 10, you see how it resonates, but I just wanted, I invited you again here because I want to appreciate you. So this is called celebrating a real man, my king by me.

33:40 Your character speaks for itself. Respect, love selflessness, hard-working and goal-oriented.

33:49 You exude love and Excellence magnetizing others to you. Countless are your blessings upon the world? That's what the world sees, but here are my blessings from you in Ennis.

34:03 You have loved me through my Independence. You have loved me through my Independence.

34:11 My insecurities and indecision, even when it hurts, you.

34:16 You support me without Tire.

34:19 My heart quiet in your love.

34:22 My mind Rebels into Clarity in your Embrace kisses. So Heavenly connecting our worlds, our time. I walk through the pastures of Eden us a long walk by the water with time Everlasting.

34:38 You are Perfection. Not without flaw, but flawless and handling them. The essence of man as ascribed. By God is in you manifested.

34:51 I am recklessly thankful for the blessings in the king of my world.

34:59 Jump Street.

35:01 I think that's beautiful, beautiful, and for me, you know, I'm not worried but I expressed Minds through actions just like any man would, but just to hold and to care for you sometime cuz I am very overprotective.

35:19 I told you, I don't like having people close by me because of that love with. Like you say, we lost our parents. That was the first deep. Love. I lost when lost my dad. Think about it. When I lose my mom, but you take the cake and I don't want to lose that low know what happened one day.

35:37 And my heart would be so fun. But while we share this moment together, yes, got a lot of take advantage of it. Like we're doing that. Exactly. Opening this up to rekindling. It was already there. But just to look through that candle again and to open it all up again. So I love you for that. I love you. Amen. Mustang thermostat.