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May the Force Be With You

widow Oct 15, 2019

Originally Published on 12/26/18

Today, December 26th, is what would be my elope-iversary with my husfriend, Jason. I called him my husfriend after we got married because while we were dating it felt weird to call him my boyfriend. He wasn’t a boy, he was a MAN, so I called him my manfriend. It was a natural transition to husfriend after our elopement.

It was Christmas Eve 2015. We celebrated our “Christmas” that morning, as you have to do when you have split custody of kiddos. We were just lucky to be able to celebrate on the same day with all 5 kids – let me tell you, planning anything with 3 ex-spouses (he was married twice before me) and varying schedules was always a delicate dance. Not because anyone was particularly mean or difficult, in fact we all got along pretty well given the circumstances, it’s just a lot of different schedules to work around, especially with the added stuff around the holidays. I always tried to get all 7 of us together as much as possible, and now that he’s gone I’m so glad for that for so many reasons. Jason was the glue that held us all together, but I was the mastermind and planner. I made sure that we had activities to do, I planned vacations and staycations and I was the household “mom”, because duh. Because of that, the kids have 4 years of memories TOGETHER. They have 4 years of memories with their dad and me doing fun stuff – being spontaneous, going on trips, having adventures and experiences. My son has a BFF in Jason’s youngest kid, a bond that I think will always be there. I have a connection with these 4 kids that I never expected to have, and I’m so grateful for that.

I went off topic – it was Christmas Eve 2015. We opened presents that morning and then dropped the kids off at their other parents’ houses on the way to the airport. Before getting there, we stopped at Party City in Frisco, TX to buy the only Han Solo costume left in the Dallas Metroplex, because yeah, I called around. Natch, I already had a Princess Leia costume. We get to the airport in time for our flight, which is timed so that we can get married at the chapel in Vegas at 9pm, and Darth Vader will officiate. Then we will spend the night and catch a morning flight home on Christmas Day. Y’all, if you’re gonna elope, WHY NOT have Darth Vader officiate your wedding? WHY NOT dress up as fictional characters from your childhood? Life is about having fun and making memories, and fam, we sure did.

So we get to DFW airport and park in the up-close parking – it’s like $17/day but we reasoned that we’d be parking there for less than 24 hours and it was a special occasion, dammit. Well thank the lawd for that, because we walked in and couldn’t find the Virgin Airlines ticket counter. I bought our tickets on Virgin Airlines because I’ve heard the planes are amazing and high tech and generally awesome. I wanted to try out something fun and new and make this trip as memorable as possible. Well, it was certainly memorable, but we didn’t wind up flying Virgin Air.

As it turns out, the Virgin Airlines ticket counter is located at Dallas Love Field airport. Not DFW airport. Y’all, my stomach did a backflip. I looked at my watch. I looked at Jason. He said, “We’ll never make it,” I said “Let’s run,” and I took off. He had no choice but to follow me. Thank goodness we were both in tip top shape back then. We got to the car in the close parking lot (see, it worked out), and took off to Dallas Love Field Airport. It’s about a 25 minute drive and I’m driving my mom-mobile at like 90mph. Pretty sure that’s the peak speed of any mom-mobile.

Let’s talk for a second about why Dallas has 2 airports. SIDE EYE. Just kidding, this was all totally my fault because I could have looked at the tickets to see that we were flying out of Love Field. In my defense, for the longest time, like YEARS and years and years, Southwest Airlines was the only airline to fly in or out of Love Field. How am I supposed to know that changed?

Anyway, so we get there in time. Hallelujah! Parking is much less complicated at Love Field because it’s a smaller airport, so we park and run in to the ticket counter. Out of breath, we go to check in, but they won’t let us. The plane has already begun boarding, and they can’t let anyone through security once that has started. I didn’t know this was even a rule, and I’m still not sure why, but there you have it. So here we are at Love Field with a dilemma. Do we go home with our tails between our legs in defeat and try again some other time or do we make it happen now? How badly did we want to get married? How important was this to us? How likely would it be that we would find the time for just the two of us to travel without any of the kids?

I never cared about getting married. I didn’t need a ring or a title. I always told him, hey, if you want to marry me, you have to ask me. While I was open to continuing our relationship either married or not, I was not going to treat this like a lazy decision. If we were going to get married, I wanted a proposal. Having said all that, I’m so glad we did get married. Saying “my husband” was much easier, in my opinion, than explaining “my husband, well not really because we decided not to get married but we live together and merged our families so we might as well be married, etc etc etc”. Anyway, it doesn’t matter because I was his forever, and he saw that and proposed about a week and a half before we decided to elope. It was the night of his work Christmas party and he chose that night because we would already be dressed up so there wouldn’t be any suspicion on my part around going out to a fancy dinner or anything. I said yes, obviously. We kept it a secret from everyone and sneaked away to get a one picture at the party to commemorate the night.


Official engagement photo.

Y’all, I wanted to tell my BFFs so badly, but at the same time I didn’t. I remember the text conversations we had that night because I had this huge secret I wasn’t sharing. I remember the pictures of the pretty desserts from the party that I shared on Instagram because of what I wasn’t sharing with you all. I loved having this just for us. I loved that we had a secret from literally everyone and that this truly was just about us.

So anyway, as we were standing at the Virgin Airlines ticket counter evaluating our next move, the kind lady, whose name I have forgotten now, asked the nearby associate at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter if there are any available flights that day. There’s one that leaves in an hour, but it has a stop in Austin before going to Vegas and we wouldn’t land until 9pm, so we would miss our Darth Vader reservation. It costs the same as our flight on Virgin Airlines – $600 for both of us round trip. I was surprised by that considering it was last minute, but airline pricing continues to baffle me to this day. I don’t know if they helped us out because it was Christmas Eve, because we were going to get married, because we were nice people on a day when people can be jerks if things don’t go their way or if that was the standard pricing and they didn’t help us out at all, but we took it as a sign – we booked the last minute flight and I got on the phone with Shel, our contact at the chapel. I figures hey, it’s Vegas, everything is open all the time so we’ll be able to reschedule for tomorrow, it doesn’t matter that it’s Christmas.

Wrong.

The chapel would close that evening and remain closed for Christmas day, reopening on the 26th. The best he could do was book us an early reservation for the 26th and we wouldn’t lose any money, or we could find another chapel but Darth Vader wouldn’t marry us, plus we would lose our reservation fee. At this point it was less about the money than it was about Darth Vader. We had committed already with our own costumes, so we went ahead and took the spot on the 26th. I was grateful for his help on Christmas Eve, and boarded the plane. We were happy, we were going to make this a great time. That’s one thing I loved about Jason – he rolled with the punches. Something doesn’t work out? It’s okay, we’ll figure it out and laugh along the way. On the plane I’m thinking okay, we need to schedule our return flight home, we need to extend our stay at the hotel, we need to see if we can get a refund on the Virgin Airlines tickets and we need to see if the marriage bureau is open on Christmas – I told you, I’m the planner. But, we’re in the air and there’s nothing I can do about it in this moment, so let’s just wing it and have some drinks on the plane. Cheers.

 

The flight goes as scheduled and we land in Vegas on time. Y’all, this was probably my favorite trip we ever took. We were so happy, despite the epic fail at the beginning.

Shel the coordinator was amazing. He booked Darth Vader for us on the 26th at noon and was available via text all day on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There are not a lot of people who would be willing to accommodate people like us on Christmas, but he was helpful throughout and if we were annoying him, he didn’t show it. We ate and gambled on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which we found hilariously ironic. We liked the older part of Vegas – downtown as opposed to the strip. We walked from our hotel downtown to the marriage bureau, which was open on Christmas, to get our marriage license, and then kept walking to the strip to check it out. He had given me a Fitbit for Christmas that year, and the first day I wore it I logged like 25k steps.

We had fun killing time until we could get married the next day. We got souvenirs for the kids and bought a Christmas ornament for our tree and a gaudy Vegas picture frame that we would later put a picture from the ceremony in. I extended our hotel stay by a day, booked our return flight and was able to get a credit for the Virgin Air flight that we missed. Awesome, right? It’s amazing how helpful people can be when you have a good attitude.

The morning of December 26th, we wake up, go to a breakfast buffet and head back to the room to pack and get dressed. We check out of the hotel in our costumes, because honestly that’s not the weirdest thing the hotel employees saw that day, I feel sure of that. A limo picked us up and the driver was so proper. We laughed at how silly this all was – it was morning, the day after Christmas and we were dressed like Han and Leia in a limo. Weird, but okay. Our reservation is at noon and our return flight home is at 4 – easy. We will get married, change clothes, eat and then head to the airport.

Once we arrive at the chapel, there is one other couple in front of us getting married by Elvis, who I think is also their Darth Vader because of how much swagger Vader had. We sit in the waiting area with this rando named Ray. I have no idea why this guy was there, but we invited him to be the guest at our wedding. I hope he remembers that day as well as I do – the day people dressed up as Han and Leia invited him to be the only guest at their wedding in Vegas.

Ray, our wedding guest.

Finally, it’s noon. We get a “practice run” and then we go for it. The chapel is quaint. It has a small stage at the front, god-awful curtains, cheap fake plants everywhere and 6-7 rows of pews to sit in. It’s dimly lit and all around kind of dingy, but it’s not like we were expecting The Ritz. Ray is cheering us on the whole time in the front row, Darth Vader does his thing and we do the I-dos. This was not your traditional ceremony, obviously, I mean DV made me vow to “stay sexy” as opposed to vowing to stick together through sickness and in health. We did light a unity candle though, which seemed oddly traditional and unnecessary considering everything else.

So, we did it! The ceremony finally happened! Jason really wanted me to make a postcard-style honeymoon in Alderaan picture for him, so we went to the top of a parking garage to get a good picture of us with the desert in the background and I Photoshopped the Death Star in later. For those not familiar with Star Wars, this is ironic because the Death Star blew up Alderaan in A New Hope. Spoiler alert. Honestly, this movie has been out for over 40 years, so if you haven’t seen it by now, then I’m not sorry for spoiling this one part.

It’s at this point where Jason calls his older kids and tells them. I waited until we got home to tell my son because he was really little at the time and couldn’t grasp it like the teenagers could. The big kids were happy, which made me feel like I was doing great already. Being a stepmom is no joke, y’all.

Getting to the airport after our ceremony was much easier than getting to the airport in Dallas because there’s only one choice in Vegas. Our flight home had a layover in Phoenix, and then we’d get home later that night. We board the plane for the first leg of our flight and it was very uneventful. We get to Phoenix, find our gate and wait to board while we’re messing on our phones and taking selfies, still riding the high of eloping. We finally board the plane, ready to get home.

They deplane us because of weather in Dallas, bummer. Our flight gets delayed by 30 minutes. Then another 30 minutes. Then an hour. Then another hour. As it turns out, there were some serious tornadoes ripping through Dallas. They keep pushing the flight back until finally, they cancel it at around 11pm and work to get everyone booked on another flight the following day. It was a madhouse. We’re pretty sure we saw Cloris Leachman, and we spent like an hour trying to determine if it was really her. People were mad, grumpy and worried. One man found out his house was completely destroyed in one of the tornadoes. He was no longer in a hurry to get home because he didn’t have anything to go back to – what an awful thing to have happen right after Christmas. We found out Jason’s youngest kids’ house was hit pretty hard – windows broken and such – but everyone was safe so that eased our fear. My family didn’t live where the tornadoes hit.

We stood in line at the Phoenix airport for ages, just people watching. We weren’t mad or grumpy, but we were worried. Was our house still standing? Everyone was safe, and that’s what mattered to us. It was difficult for the airline to schedule all of these people on another flight because the flights the following day were already close to full because it was the Sunday of the Christmas holiday – a heavy travel day already. We considered options – could we rent a car and drive? How far was Phoenix from Dallas? Could we fly to a nearby city and drive from there? We finally settled on catching a 6am flight into Austin, ironic because we stopped in Austin on our way to Vegas, and then renting a car to drive up to Dallas.

It was after midnight when we found a spot to “sleep” in the airport. I woke up first – pretty sure this was because I never actually fell asleep – and went to get us coffee and muffins for breakfast. The cafe employee was cheerful and I was too, even though I’m not a morning person. It’s never the right answer to be rude, despite whatever you’re dealing with personally. I got our coffee and went to wake Jason up. However much of a non-morning person I am, Jason was ten-fold. That man loved his sleep, but we had a flight to catch. It was uneventful and we rented a car in rainy Austin. It was a little white Kia. It rained the entire drive up north to Dallas. Have you ever stayed up all night and then driven for 3.5 hours under a gloomy, cloudy sky? It was hard to stay awake, and we took turns driving to be safe.

At one point we stopped to use the restroom and get some food and the women’s restroom was out of order so everyone was taking turns using the men’s. Jason stood guard for me as I went in and this big truck driver guy was PISSED that a woman was using the men’s restroom. Jason was like, “What do you want her to do? The women’s is out of order, it will just be a second,” and the guy was having none of it. He legit almost started a fight with Jason – I’ve never peed so fast in my life. I appreciate Jason’s willingness to fight some rando over my right to pee indoors, but if I can help it I’m not going to let it get to that. That guy was an ass though.

After what felt like the longest road trip of our lives, we finally drove through the thick of the storm and made it to drop of the rental car at Love Field where my car was parked. We finally got home in the mid-afternoon on December 27th to find our house still standing. We laughed at what a ridiculously eventful trip it wound up being and took a nap.

Our relationship was full of stories of spontaneity and hilarity. We were always laughing and grateful for each other. Sure, we fought and argued like any normal relationship, but at our core we had deep respect for each other. We did things and had fun and I’m so thankful for the “might as well do it” nature he had when I would throw out a crazy idea, like dressing up in costume and getting married in Las Vegas.

Eloping was one of the craziest and most fulfilling things I have ever done. All of my greatest accomplishments and happiness has stemmed from taking a step outside my comfort zone. So now, as I have 6 months of widowhood under my belt and approach a new year, I’m ready to take chances and get uncomfortable to make my own way and build a great life for my son and myself.

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