Forty-six years ago today, my boyfriend and I snuck away to Tijuana to get married. We told no one, no family members, no friends. We dished out $25, signed something written in Spanish, then the man shook out hands and told us we were married. There was no ceremony. He handed us a receipt written in English stating we had paid for a marriage license and explained that it had to go to Mexico City to be registered and then it would be mailed to us.
Al bought me a ring. While trying to find our way back over the border, we got stopped by a cop for going the wrong way down a one-way street. Al bribed him with the money we had left and he let us go. Flat broke, our only choice was to spend out wedding night in my apartment.
Five days later my husband left for San Antonio, Texas for basic training in the Air Force. Not long after, I moved back home to Las Vegas. We never received the license. Maybe it got lost in the mail when I moved. We'll never know. Without proof of marriage we couldn't get the extra money the Air Force provided to married men. So at the completion of basic training, my husband flew to Vegas and we got married again on Christmas Day.
Were we ever really married the first time? I have no idea. Still, because this is the date we thought we got married, this is the day we celebrate. Besides Christmas already had enough going for it. After all this time, it doesn't really matter. The important thing is that we are still together.
Al stayed in the Air Force for 24 years. We suffered the loneliness of separation many times. Waiting in the states while he fought in Vietnam is an experience I never want to repeat. We argued, loved and raised three children while moving on the average of every three years. We never lived anywhere close to our family.
Although I didn't walk down an aisle in an expensive dress, eat wedding cake or throw flowers, it remains the best day of my life.