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Monday, May 2, 2011

The Day I Got Married (The First Time)

In the Spring of my Fulbright year in Germany, I flew home for a whirlwind weekend of necessary insanity. Husband was going to be commissioned in the US Army, then he was graduating, and two of our very best friends were getting married, and we were the maid-of-honor and best man.

Because Husband was about to join the Army, and my Fulbright scholarship was coming to an end (along with my health insurance through it), we'd discussed having a quick, private courthouse ceremony to get legally married. Even though our parents were all going to be in town, we didn't want them there, because we were really only doing it for the legal status for the Army (a very common occurance with military folk). I figured, if our parents were there, when the pressure of planning and following through with a real, church ceremony started to build up, we'd be able to shrug our shoulders and say, "everyone already saw us get 'married,' so we don't need to do it again." I had no idea at the time how right I was with that assumption - especially when we were told just 7 weeks in advance that Husband would be deploying for a year - three months earlier than the wedding date for which I'd already sent out save-the-dates. But that's another wedding and another story.

I flew out of Germany on Thursday and made it in to Omaha about two hours before my friend (Mouse)'s bachelorette party. We went bar-hopping in the Old Market of Omaha, met up with the bachelor party, and generally had a good time, staying out until the middle of the night.

The next morning, we all had to get up extra early to be on time for the university's Army ROTC Commissioning ceremony. Husband and Mouse (among others) were commissioned, we took lots of fancy photos of all the brand new 2nd Lieutenants, and then we all went out to brunch together.

After brunch, we drove over to Husband's dorm to pack up all his stuff. He had rented a U-Haul trailer that they attached to the back of his dad's SUV. We basically threw all his stuff into garbage bags and threw them in the U-Haul. After he was cleared out of the dorm, we went to the hotel we'd be staying in for the next few days (his parents, the bride and groom, and their parents, and all our other family were all staying there, too). His dad asked the manager of the hotel if it would be okay to leave the U-Haul trailer in one of the parking spots in the back of the hotel's lot for the duration of our stay. The manager said it wouldn't be a problem, so we parked the U-Haul and left it there, only checking on it every time we drove in and out of the parking lot.

The next morning, we all got up bright and early to go to the university's graduation ceremony, where Husband and Mouse both graduated. Afterwards, we went to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha (one of the best in the country) to waste some time before the wedding rehearsal that evening. The wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner went smoothly without any issues.

We had to get up extra early on Sunday morning to get ready for the wedding. The girls got all prettied up, we headed to the church, and everything went as planned. Our friends got married, we all piled in a limo, took a billion more pictures, then went to the wedding reception (conveniently at the hotel where we were all staying), and partied until well after midnight.

The next morning, we slept in, then got ready to head to the county courthouse. Husband did a great job planning everything - he'd set up an appointment for us at 4:15pm with a judge, and he had all the paperwork we needed (fortunately, Nebraska does not have blood test or waiting period requirements). So we drove down to the courthouse, filled out all the forms, showed proper form of ID, and waited for our appointment. Our best friends who had just gotten married the day before weren't able to come down to be our witnesses, so we called in our back-ups - who were working out at the university gym at the time, and came down in their workout clothes (they also ended up being our back-ups at our church wedding, 5 months later - they are exceptionally useful people!).

It was a very informal, quick ceremony (I was wearing a white skirt, at the very least). We didn't exchange rings; I didn't legally change my name. But it was still very sweet and brought a tear to my eye (it also kept me from getting any sense of "cold feet" before the real ceremony - no point in running away if you already have to get a divorce to leave the guy). The whole thing took about 15 minutes.

After thanking our witnesses and dismissing them so they could return to their workout, we went back down to the clerk's office, turned in our paperwork signed by Judge Schwartz (who married us), got all the proper signatures and stamps of approval, and then we were officially married. Not really the most romantic procedure.

We met his parents for an early dinner, then headed back to the hotel. We went up to our room, and less than a minute after we got in, Husband's dad came by, frantically pounding on the door.

"The U-Haul is gone," he told us. Husband ran out to the parking lot to verify that the U-Haul was, indeed, completely vanished from the spot it had been sitting in for the last three days.

Omaha is not exactly the safest town in the country, so our first thought was that it was stolen (evidently, this is a rather common occurrence - people steal the entire thing and drive it somewhere less obvious so they have more time to break the lock off and steal everything inside). We went to the hotel's front desk and asked if they'd seen anyone drive off with it, or if they'd called U-Haul and had it removed.

The person working the desk had no idea what was happening and called a manager to deal with us. It was the same manager that Husband's dad had initially talked to when he verified it would be okay to leave the U-Haul in the parking lot. We told him it was now missing.

"How can that be? We wouldn't have called U-Haul to have it towed. Especially since it was only there for three days. It must have been stolen."

We called the police, who came to the hotel to take our statement and file a report. The officer asked the manager if they had security tapes of their parking lot (they did not - their system was, unfortunately, broken at the time), and again verified that the hotel did not call U-Haul to report an abandoned trailer. The manager confirmed that no one had called - HE would have been the one to report it abandoned, and he certainly didn't, since he had spoken with Husband's dad himself.

The officer told us it was most likely stolen, and, even if they found it, all of Husband's worldly possessions would be gone.

I was overcome with a terrible feeling of guilt and dread. At his commissioning ceremony, his favorite professor had given Husband a pair of Lieutenant rank bars he had worn during the Vietnam War. While packing Husband's dorm room, I'd put the rank bars (at his direction) in one of the bags. Then that bag was put in the U-Haul. And now the U-Haul was gone. With the incredibly sentimental, meaningful Lieutenant bars. And Husband's rare acoustic guitar made from a now-endangered species wood. And all his clothes, cds, dvds, books, etc.

Through tears, I confessed this dreadful news to Husband. His reaction was beyond sad. I could see his soul being crushed with the weight of this loss. My first wifely duty, and I had failed miserably. We'd been married less than four hours at this point, and I'd already crushed his very life-essence.

The police officer suggested we drive around the neighborhood, scanning the area for the trailer. He said thieves oftentimes just drive them around the corner and out of immediate sight. At least finding the empty trailer would give us some sense of closure. He also suggested driving to the near-by U-Haul lots to see if, by chance, the trailer had been picked up by them. Unfortunately, it was now getting fairly late in the evening, and the U-Haul stores had all closed for the night.

Husband and I got into the car with his dad to drive around while his mom and sisters drove the other car so we could canvass the area. After driving around for about 30 minutes, the sense of dread growing steadily with each U-Haul-less street we passed, we decided to hunt down the local U-Haul storage facilities to see if we could possibly see the trailer on their lots, so we didn't have to wait until they opened in the morning to call.

This was before anyone (of us, at least) had GPS, so we had to rely on calling 411 to get an address, then driving around trying to find said address. After another 30 minutes or so, we found the U-Haul location. From the main parking lot, we could see their entire storage lot. They only had two of the same size trailers as our missing one, and neither of them had the right picture on the side (a giant marlin jumping out of the water). Dejectedly, we drove off, heading back toward the hotel.

Husband's mom called us at that point and asked if we'd checked at the U-Haul store. After confirming that we had, she asked if it was the one at a different location, further away from the hotel. Husband's dad asked if we wanted to drive by that store and look. Our first reaction was to just return to the hotel and get some sleep (I had to fly back to Germany first thing in the morning), but we decided, since we were already out, we might as well go look.

The second U-Haul location was much larger than the first we'd found. We pulled in to their public lot and began trying to scan the private lot for our trailer. The lot was much larger, and we couldn't see all the trailers.

But then. There it was. Behind two other, bigger trailers. That giant, blue fish, majestically adorning the side of the orange and white trailer. His giant, unblinking eye bored a hole through my chest.

"I SEE IT!!" I shouted as Husband's dad slammed on the breaks.

We all leapt out of the car and ran up to the security fence. "There it is!" I shouted, pointing between the other trailers.

"I can't see the ID number on the side," Husband replied, negatively.

Of course there are more than one U-Haul trailer that size with a marlin on the side. Of course this one wasn't ours. After all, it was behind other trailers, as if it had been there for a while. And the hotel manager had told us repeatedly that he hadn't called U-Haul for it to be picked up. It couldn't be ours. I could feel the hope draining out of me once again.

But I just had this feeling.

"Let's jump the fence and go check the number," I said, meaning, "Husband, go jump the fence and check the number."

He looked sadly at me, "I just got commissioned... I don't want to get arrested for trespassing and ruin my career before it starts."

And there it was. My opportunity to redeem myself. To prove I could be a good wife. I'll commit minor misdemeanors for you. And learn to cook someday. Totally.

"I'LL DO IT!!" I shouted, and before they could stop me, I was clamoring over the fence.

It wasn't until my feet hit the pavement on the other side that it dawned on me that the lot might have security cameras, or, much, much worse, guard dogs.

I glanced around and didn't see or hear Cujo, so I bolted for it. I ran up to the suspected trailer, and there it was, to the lower left of the jumping marlin: Husband's trailer's ID number.

This was Husband's trailer. I found it.

I am the best wife. Ever.

I started shouting excitedly and ran back to Husband and his dad, who were waiting patiently (legally) on the other side of the fence. I practically flew to the top of the fence.

And then I got stuck.

I'd turned my foot the wrong way, and found myself stuck on top of the fence. It was a chain-link fence (thankfully with no barbed wire), and the top was finished in the little twisted spikes of a traditional chain-link fence. As I tried to balance myself on top of one of the spikes to get my foot unstuck and readjust to a position from which I could properly dismount, I felt myself slip ever so slightly.

And that's when the fence took advantage of me. On my wedding night. Before my husband.

"Oh my God, Husband. The fence... It raped me!"

Husband and his dad, being the heroic gentlemen they are, immediately jumped into action - by laughing heartily at my struggle. After they calmed themselves, they proceeded to help me down. I quickly regained my composure, tried to hide the fact that I'd just screamed "fence-rape" in front of my father-in-law, and we started celebrating the finding of the U-Haul - lock intact. I later learned that my father-in-law informed Husband that I "was a keeper" because of this incident - not my bravery and willingness to break the law on Husband's behalf, but my unintentional wit in the face of intimate crisis.

We got back in the car, and I examined my injuries - just a small scratch on the inside of my leg. And the memory of it's cold, steel fingers that would last a lifetime.

On the drive back to the hotel, Husband and his dad's excitement and joy turned to anger and confusion as it dawned on us that the only way the U-Haul could be safely behind that rapefence was if the hotel manager had called and had it reported as abandoned.

Once back at the hotel, Husband's dad went on a rampage. He explained that we'd found the trailer at the U-Haul location. The manager suggested U-Haul had seen the trailer and picked it up themselves.

The next morning, Husband's dad called U-Haul to figure things out. They informed him that the manager of the hotel had called them and reported it abandoned. They said they would never just start picking up trailers off of private parking lots (like the hotel's).

Husband's dad went on a rampage. The manager refused to speak to him, but told the hotel clerk to only charge him for one night in the hotel.

They dropped me off at the airport, then went to get the U-Haul from the store. Everything was still safe and secure in the trailer.

It was definitely not how I ever imagined my wedding day would be (or really, any day of my life - who ever anticipates being forcibly taken by a chain-link fence?), but I think it was a good trial for us. Every marriage should start out with a crisis on the first day. It's good to learn right whether or not you're willing to break the law for your spouse. At the very least, I know I won't be asking Husband to be my get-away driver as long as he's still in the Army.

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