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Celebrating a couple who got engaged in a StoryCorps booth 2 decades ago

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

All right. When you hear that music, you know it's time for StoryCorps. It's been 20 years since StoryCorps began recording conversations between Americans, archiving them at the Library of Congress and sharing them with you on MORNING EDITION. Each Friday this month, we're revisiting classic StoryCorps conversations from the past two decades with updates from the participants.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

DEBORA BRAKARZ: My name is Debora Brakarz. I'm 26 years old.

MICHAEL WOLMETZ: My name is Michael Edward Wolmetz. But call me Mike. I'm 25 years old.

BRAKARZ: And we're at the StoryCorps interview booth in Grand Central Terminal, New York City.

MARTÍNEZ: The conversation between this couple was one of the first ever broadcast on NPR back in 2004. At the time, Michael and Debora had only been dating for three months.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BRAKARZ: So what was the most emotionally painful thing that ever happened?

WOLMETZ: Thinking about it takes my breath away - but my father passing away, of course, just over two years ago. And he was the closest person to me. It was sudden, and he was supposed to pick me up from the airport in New York. And I got to the airport, and I called my house. And my mother said, you know, your aunt's going to pick you up. Obviously, I could detect something in her voice. There's no way that you could hide that. And I was like, tell me what it is. My mother said, I don't want to tell you like this. And I was like, tell me. You have to tell me. Tell me. And she told me that he died in the middle of the night. I stood there and watched the bags go around the carousel. And I waited for my bag, and I went outside, and I got in my aunt's car. And I felt like no other time in my life.

So this is the ring that my father gave to my mother, and we can leave it there. And he saved up, and he purchased this, and he proposed to my mother with this. And so I thought that I would give it to you so that he could be with us for this also. So I'm going to share a mic with you right now, Debora. Where's the right finger? Debora, will you please marry me?

BRAKARZ: Yeah, of course. I love you.

WOLMETZ: So, kids, this is how your mother and I got married - in a booth in Grand Central Station with my father's ring. My grandfather was a cab driver for 40 years, used to pick people up here every day. So it seems right.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BRAKARZ: I wanted to know if there's a vision for the future about, let's say, 20 years.

WOLMETZ: Twenty years? That's a long time. OK...

BRAKARZ: How old will you be in 20?

WOLMETZ: In 20 years, I'll be 45 years old. There's a Portuguese phrase.

BRAKARZ: (Speaking Portuguese).

WOLMETZ: "Every time you make a plan, God laughs." I believe that. So I have no idea what I'll be doing. But I know I'll be with you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WOLMETZ: My name is Mike Wolmetz. I'm here with my wife, Debora Brakarz.

BRAKARZ: It's been almost 20 years. We're still together, and we have two kids, Iago, who's 14, and Luca, who's 11.

WOLMETZ: You know, we went through a lot of tissues during our first interview.

BRAKARZ: I don't say a lot, but I cry a lot.

WOLMETZ: You know, I also cried during it. It really brought back memories of the earliest days of a relationship, also just how much we spoke to, like, our future children. How presumptuous was that? Like, I don't think before saying those words had I even thought about the idea of having children. I was 24 years old.

BRAKARZ: We were young and in love.

WOLMETZ: Yes, I definitely was that. But I was not young and in love with children. I just want to say that it was not at all the intention when we did this to have our proposal broadcast. The intention was to have it recorded for our own posterity.

BRAKARZ: Do you remember what we did right after we came out of the interview?

WOLMETZ: We got on the train. I mean, the whole idea was we did this in a train station, so how could we not just get on a train? And I think we went to a bed-and-breakfast somewhere maybe just outside the city.

BRAKARZ: Yeah. You wanted to celebrate, and you knew that I liked history. So you found this little historic B&B.

WOLMETZ: You had told me how you are part of a history club. And I've only learned later that it wasn't a real history club. It was a "Lord Of The Rings" fan club.

BRAKARZ: I didn't want you to think that I was a geek or something. So I just fudged that it was medieval history instead of "Lord Of The Rings."

WOLMETZ: And this is a lesson. Sometimes, you don't know everything about your partner when you get engaged, especially if it's after three months. What do you hope our kids or our grandkids take away from listening to these recordings?

BRAKARZ: So I hope they will learn who we were back then as a young couple in love, with all these hopes and dreams and no responsibilities.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

WOLMETZ: You're a much better singer than me, so please help me out as much as you can. But...

DEBORA BRAKARZ AND MICHAEL WOLMETZ: (Singing) Love me tender, love me sweet. Never let me go.

BRAKARZ: And then in this interview, they'll meet us as an established couple who went through all the growing pains of getting to know each other, who learned about each other and ourselves and had problems in life but were very fortunate to be able to overcome them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BRAKARZ AND WOLMETZ: (Singing) For my darling...

WOLMETZ: (Singing) ...Debora, I love you. And I always will.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE DOT SESSIONS' "VITTORO")

MARTÍNEZ: Got to have a heart of stone not to cry on that one. That was Michael Wolmetz and his wife, Debora Brakarz. And if you're wondering whether their kids have listened to their interview yet, well, we're told that they tried but found it boring. Check back with us in 20 years for an update. Should be a good one. Both of their conversations are archived, along with all StoryCorps interviews, at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kerrie Hillman

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