A Fine December Day

My beautiful picture

The Texas state flag flying in front of the Alamo, December 16, 2004.

Today is the ninth anniversary of the day that Van and I eloped at the Bexar County Courthouse in San Antonio, Texas.   We were trying to remember every detail, but time does take a toll on the memory, and even after only nine years, we couldn’t piece together all the events of what turned out to be a day full of enchantment and joy.

It started out rather chilly for Texas in the morning when we took my toddler son to the San Antonio Zoo. We rode the little train through Brackenridge Park and tried to catch chickens at the petting corral.  After lunch (I still remember making gently pan seared scallops with angel hair pasta although Van swears I made this for dinner the night before — he still hasn’t learned to choose his battles) Van whispered in my ear “Marry me today, right now”!  I didn’t have an engagement ring, but Van had given me a pair of gorgeous diamond earrings as an early Christmas gift, and these served as my bridal decorations.

I also had brought my birth certificate from South Dakota, because we planned ahead before I flew down.  We knew that we would elope, the day would just be a surprise.  So when the right moment made itself known, we hurried downtown to the courthouse. My little son was content in his carseat singing along to Willie Nelson‘s ‘Crazy‘  as we searched for a parking spot.  I was wearing blue jeans, a vanilla colored lace trim tank top, and a tan corduroy jacket with little white flats.  Van was also in blue jeans with an off-white button up shirt and a high and tight haircut.

It was getting late in the afternoon and many of the staff were getting ready to leave by the time we entered the courthouse.  As we boarded the elevator for the marriage floor, a justice of the peace asked us if we happened to be looking for someone to do the honors.  We must have looked obvious.  “Thirty-five dollars, and I will marry you,” he said casually, as though he was accustomed to selling DVDs or Folexes out of his file cabinet.  We followed him to a neat, sun drenched office and went through a very quick and — okay, I will say it — rather boring ceremony.  It was cut and dry, run of the mill, nothing special.  My son was our witness, although he spent most of the time sucking his thumb, but it was definitely special to have him with us.

Once we were official, we went to another room full of cubicles and large noisy printers to get our certificate.  We were in shock for at least a few hours afterward.  We even joked that maybe we weren’t really married, maybe the marriage certificate was just an elaborate looking piece of useless paper.  After all, thirty-five dollars?  Had we been taken?  We stared at the receipt that came with the certificate.  That certainly looked real.  It must be real!

At the San Antonio Zoo, the day we got married.

At the San Antonio Zoo, the day we got married.

Van suddenly remembered that he needed to run an important errand at Fort Sam Houston for his ROTC commissioning ceremony the following evening.   He had to pick up something for his uniform at Clothing and Sales, so after running the errand and picking up a nice bottle of Champagne at Class Six, we stopped at the Burger King because my son was famished.  We were still in shock and couldn’t even think about food.

My beautiful picture

Male bonding at the San Antonio Zoo.

While he ate we watched news on the screen positioned above our table and murmured plans for the remainder of the evening.  We decided that the most appropriate way to celebrate would be to drop off my son with the in-laws (wow! now I had in-laws!) and take a trip to the famous Alamo, then a stroll over to the River Walk.  We somehow made it to the Alamo just as the sun was splashing a bit of light across the limestone facade of the monument; then the sky went dark, and Christmas lights began to glow softly everywhere.  It gave the balmy air a romantic, positively magical feeling.  Linking fingers in warm hands, we paced jubilantly to the River Walk, the shock of eloping finally wearing off.  We were in a festive spirit and ready to celebrate!

Alamo

The River Walk is never more beautiful than during the Christmas season.  We ate barbecue, if I remember correctly.  Or maybe it was Mexican food.  It was one or the other.  In San Antonio it has to be one or the other, because they are both phenomenal. We visited the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shop and bought Phish Food to take home and enjoy with the bottle of Champagne.  We gazed at the brightly hued strings of Christmas lights twined around everything and watched the tour boats lazily float down the river to the sound of Mariachi music.  When we were tired enough to go back home we continued to celebrate over ice cream, Champagne and Tequila, and we kept our marriage secret.  At least until the next evening.

Here is just one thing that I love about being married to Van.  After nine years, we still go out on dates just like our first date as a married couple.  We wander around, discovering things to bond over.  We try new food establishments, take walks around quaint Main Streets with fanciful little shops, go people watching in town squares, have meaningful talks about nothing in particular or about the biggest concerns on our minds.  We argue about what events transpired nine years ago on the day we got married and try to piece together those events in chronological order. Then in the end we agree that it doesn’t matter how much we remember because we can remember all the best parts anyway.

— G

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