Scheming Parents Set Their Kids Up — And It Works

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When Steven Ketcham met Alexandra Budny's mother, she told him, "I'm going to be your future mother-in-law." There was just one catch: Steven had never met Alexandra. But their parents had already decided that their children were a good match.

Eventually, Steven and Alexandra agreed with that idea. But it took some time — and those early days of their relationship came up when the couple visited StoryCorps to discuss how their parents got them together.

"My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002," Alexandra says. "And she had just left her company, so she lost health insurance."

Nadia Nogueira was forced to sell her house — and she moved into a house that John Ketcham had available to rent. For many years before that, he had lived in the house with his son, Steven.

"So, they found out that they both have single kids in their 20s," Alexandra says, "and they decided that we were perfect for each other."

Steven recalls the first time he met Alexandra's mother: "She came up to me and said, 'It's a pleasure to meet you. My name is Nadia. I'm going to be your future mother-in-law.' The first words out of her mouth."

"And we hadn't even met yet!" Alexandra says.

"And we hadn't even met," Steven echoes.

To solve that problem, Nogueira invited Steven over for dinner. But her daughter would have none of it.

"The second I found out about it I said, 'Call him up. Disinvite him. You're not setting me up,' " Alexandra recalls.

"I was pretty disappointed about that," Steven says, "because I remember my stepmother had showed me pictures. And I was like, 'Wow. She's really cute. I would love to get to know her.' "

So the two parents went to work on another plan, one that was a little more subtle.

"They concocted this story," Steven says. "My father wanted me to go and help him move our stuff out of the rental property, and then your mother showed up with you. But we didn't really hit it off that first day."

"My mom called you every day that week, to get you to the house to help her move," Alexandra says. "So we spent a week together — long, long hours ... and by the end of it, we were dating."

"You know, your mother was diagnosed, actually, when we first started dating."

"Yeah. We met because of her diagnosis," Alexandra says.

That was about 10 years ago. In 2005, Alexandra's mother died from breast cancer. One year later, Steven's father also died — from pancreatic cancer.

"But it bonded us together, because we were forced to either support each other, or just move on," Steven says.

When Alexandra's mother died, the young couple bought the house she had been renting from Steven's father and stepmother.

"You know, I think our parents — they realized that if we worked at this, we could create something beautiful," Steven says.

The couple recorded their conversation about their parents at StoryCorps in New York City on July 18, 2008 — the day they got married.

"Today is our wedding day," Alexandra says. "We got married around noon in City Hall."

"I don't even think I said, 'I do,' " Steven says. "I said, 'Of course I do.' Because that's how I felt. You know, I don't think I've ever been so certain about anything in my entire life."

"I'm the luckiest girl in the world," Alexandra says — adding with a laugh, "and will never let you out of my grip."

Today, the couple still lives in the house that Steven's father once rented to Alexandra's mother — the one that got two parents talking about how their kids might hit it off.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo. The Ketchams' story is included in the new StoryCorps book, All There Is.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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