Names: Preston Gray and Clarrette Bush Gray
Class years: Both Dual Degree c/o 1994/95 (Identify with ’94, walked with ’95)
Number of years married: 20
Current location: Charlotte, NC
1. Where did you meet?
Since we were both dual degree students and NASA scholars, we had lots of mutual friends starting the summer before freshman year. I am not sure why, but we didn’t actually meet each other in pre-college or freshman year and I am sure we had one class together. In fact, parents weekend, I borrowed my father’s van and took my friends out to a party. A couple of guys that my friends knew jumped on the hood of the van, playing around. I didn’t know them and began screaming that they not mess up my father’s car. I found out later that some dude named Preston was the one that jumped on the van. It was not until the summer after freshman year at NASA Stennis Space Center, where we were both interns, that we actually met.
2. How did he propose?
Preston had a wonderful plan to surprise me and propose on New Year’s Eve. We had plans to attend a huge gala with my parents in Mississippi. He wanted to get on one knee and at the stroke of midnight, pop the question. Well a few days after Christmas, my best friend and I drove to Atlanta to pick Preston up. After a dinner and a movie, we returned to my apartment. Preston reached in his pocket and pulled out the ring and said simply “I got you a ring.” He was so nervous and excited that he couldn’t wait until New Year’s Eve to ask me. I was completely surprised! He got on one knee and placed the ring on my finger as I said yes!
3. What do you think are the guidelines for a successful marriage?
Friendship: We started as friends and have maintained that relationship. We really are each other’s best friend.
Respect: Preston is the smartest, hardest working person that I know. He is also one of the funniest. But most of all he is my biggest cheerleader and supporter. That was really important to me as I stayed home for 17 years to raise our four children. He always said it was my choice to stay and my choice to work outside of the home. He supported me either way.
Communication: We talk about everything, eventually. I learned early in our marriage that I like to fuss and get it all out on the table, but Preston needs to think about things before he is ready to “discuss”. So I have to give him time to get his thoughts together and of course that gives me time to cool down. By the time we come back to the subject, the heat of the debate and the temptation to call names or bring up irrelevant information subsides. We can have rational discussions and make good decisions together. Of course it may take months to agree on major issues if ever, but we continue to keep communication open and respectful.
Dating: We have always made time to spend alone, romantic time together. Even when we had four young children and little extra money, we just got creative and made time for one another. I am not very spontaneous, so I would set up the monthly calendar of when we would go out. Preston would pick the spot and activity. We also would plan vacation weekends or over night getaways so that we could stay connected. Now that the children are older, we date weekly. And Preston is still spontaneous and surprises me with fun and different activities (Salsa lessons, hotel rooms downtown,etc)
5. What makes you such good friends?
We have always had each others best interest at heart. We started out as friends, working across the hall from one another during our internship. As a matter of fact, we both dated other people and would give one another advice on situations. We were friends for over a year before we began dating. In that time, I became pregnant by someone else I was seeing and had a little girl. Preston, my friend, was there during one of the most difficult times in my life. He was supportive and a friend through everything. The next summer, we were working together again and by the end of the internship, we both knew that we wanted to date.
We also challenge each other to be better. We both have dreams and goals we want to achieve individually and we continue to give each other honest advice and support to achieve our goals. From homeschooling, to real estate, to investments and career moves, we turn to one another and trust the others opinion to get to the next level.
6. What are your money management tips for newlyweds?
Budget together and meet regularly (weekly or biweekly) to adjust as necessary. Live off of one income if at all possible. That was not our original plan, but it worked out wonderful for us. We married our senior year at Georgia Tech so we were used to having nothing. When Preston hired on with his job, I went to grad school. That meant we had just a little more than nothing. We were able to buy our first house with a gift from his grandmother. So we were getting by on one salary. Our oldest was 4 by this time and we knew we wanted more children. After the 2nd child was born while I was in grad school, I wanted to take a little time off before working. 17 years later and after 2 additional children, I started working full time! The point is because we didn’t get accustomed to 2 incomes, we had the flexibility to make choices. I taught occasionally at a community college as well as flipped houses during that 17 years for additional income. But my main goal was to raise our children and minimize cost by staying at home. We didn’t pay of daycare or after care. No one had to take off of work for doctor visits. I was able to manage the house maintenance and other issues except the yard, I had yard work! We were also flexible to move to different locations and advance Preston’s career, including our move to France for 4 years. We certainly sacrificed in order of me to stay home. The biggest area was in the college fund for the children. So now I am working full time to fund it now that the youngest is in college. We have one that has finished college, one that is a freshman and two to go!
7. Has your marriage changed since you had children? How?
We have four children, ages 23, 18, 16, and 13, and one grandchild, age 2. I would say that our marriage has gotten stronger since we have had children. We married when my oldest was 2 years old, so we had children from day one. We both wanted a big family and were committed to do what it took to raise them successfully. For us that meant learning how to keep our relationship strong and staying on the same page. We are a great team and that is certainly what it takes to raise 4 intelligent, funny, caring kids. If nothing else, they out number us! But we are good at keeping a united front and staying on message: Our goal as parents is to pour into our children everything that God has given us to raise them to be college educated, productive members of society and to be able to take care of themselves ie. get out of our pockets! Even when we disagree on parenting approaches, one of us will allow the other to take the lead. The children may know that there is a discussion between us, but the final decision stands and the overall goal is achieved.
9. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life as a couple?
We are in this together and we have to do what works for our family and our goals. We have taken many roads less traveled, from me being a highly educated stay at home mom by choice, to moving to a foreign country with 4 children and a dog! We live our lives with purpose, trusting God to continue to lead us in our next adventure.
10. Where will we be in 10 years? 20 years?
In 10 years, all of our children will have graduated from high school and college and we will be in our early fifties! That is the beauty of having our children young. We are looking forward to having more time to spend with one another and more resources. I am working now to help pay for our children to go to college without loans, but I will retire as soon as the youngest walks across that stage. In 20 years, we will both be retired and splitting time between our beach house (to be purchased!), our permanent home (who knows where??) and visiting our children where ever they make their homes.