I never thought there would be shotgun weddings in the new century. I never thought that I would be a party to a shotgun wedding in the new century. I never thought that my own daughter would be the one holding the gun on me!
After a bitter end to a twenty year marriage, I had made a decision that I would never, ever marry again. I knew that I did not want to be alone, but I thought it would be an adult relationship with no wedding ring involved.
One lonely day, I was looking through the internet ads and found an ad that struck a cord. The man was in his forties, six foot tall, never married and did not want any kids. I could tell by the ad that he was above average in intelligence and a country boy at heart, which were the two qualities I was specifically looking for. On a whim, I decided to answer the ad.
Jerry wrote back that night and soon we were sending regular emails to get to know one another. Jerry lived about an hour away from me and I was hoping here was someone I could have as a friend. We soon exchanged phone numbers and talked for several hours at a time.
Things were progressing nicely and we decided to meet. I knew the first rule of dating someone from the internet was to meet in a public place. There was a small restaurant tucked away in the mountains about half way between our homes, so I suggested it to him as a place to meet. He agreed and we set our first date.
My sixteen year old daughter, Jeni, was very encouraging, though I have to admit, I had cold feet from the beginning. The dating scene had never appealed to me and, after twenty years of marriage, I felt I was completely unprepared.
Jeni, with her 16 years of wisdom, came to my rescue. She had her girlfriends come over to help me get ready. So there I was, surrounded by 10 giggling teenage girls, more horrified by the minute as they combed my hair, picked out my clothes and even painted my toenails. I was only allowed to select the color of my underwear! In my infinite wisdom as a 41 year old mother, I said, “White for the first date, black for the second and red for third!” They searched my drawers, but finally found white underwear that fit my description and also played up to their own ideas of what one would wear on a first date.
The closer it came to time to leave for the date, the colder my feet were. Jeni finally shoved me out the door with a “Oh, go have some fun, Mom. You’ve earned it.”
Yeah, right, I thought. How does one have fun going to meet someone for the first time.
I finally made it to the restaurant in all my painted up glory. The place was quiet, only a couple of other tables had customers. The waitress was an acquaintance so we visited a few moments before she showed me to my table. Jerry called my cell phone almost as soon as I sat down. He was still about five miles out and was double checking the directions. It appeared to be a good sign. We were both a bit early and one thing I really hate is to arrive somewhere late and have someone waiting on me. I was pleased with the way things were going, but still shaking in my heels.
I ordered a glass of iced tea and settled into my chair. The window looked towards the foothills of the Manzano Mountains. Two hummingbird feeders had been set out and it looked like a hundred birds hovered and fought over the feeders. They were dazzling in the early evening twighlight and a midsummer’s evening with perfect weather helped me to relax a bit.
It was just a few minutes later that I heard the bells ringing as the door to the restaurant opened. I watched has the man glanced around the room. He caught my eyes and smiled before closing the door and walking confidently over to the table.
I nodded and smiled as he slid into the chair opposite me. His sky blue eyes were twinkling as he glanced around the room. I could see he really appreciated the view of the mountains and the hummingbirds just the other side of the window from us.
The conversation flowed smoothly between us from the start. There would be short stretches of silence, but they were not uncomfortable, more like companion silences. Jerry picked up a menu and browsed through it briefly before asking if I was ready to order. I already knew what I was planning on ordering, so I nodded. The first surprise of the night was when he placed his order and it was identical to what I had in mind even though we had not discussed it before hand.
The meal was a bit of a disappointment, but the company was wonderful. We talked until it was time to close the place down. We wandered outside together and the sun was just setting to the West. It was beautiful. We stood there in silence, leaning against his truck and watched it as it exploded into Technicolor before fading into a soft glow.
It was still early, around 9:00 and neither of us was in a particular hurry to leave. He asked if I would like to find some place a bit quieter so that we could watch the stars for a while. I had to laugh to myself. I hesitated only long enough to tell myself I was 41 years old and if I wanted to go “parking” with a man, I could. I asked myself if I trusted him, and I did. There was something about him that spoke of confidence and high morals and I knew I would be safe.
We took his truck and drove about five miles to a spot where an ancient elm tree grew by the side of the road. The small rest area was deserted. He took a blanket from the back seat and we spread it across the bed of his pickup. It was so quiet, just the crickets chirping and an occasional howl of a coyote off in the distance. The stars were a twinkling blanket above us as we talked and told each other of our dreams.
There were many coincident in our lives. He had been born on a small ranch next to where my mother had been born. I could hardly believe it when he told me about where his house was. Though he lived through the work week in Los Lunas, his home was in Alto, NM on what was once my great grand parents’ ranch. It seemed that our lives had intersected hundreds of times, though somehow, we had missed meeting each other.
I felt as if I could discuss anything with him and I did, from telling him how nervous I was about meeting him, to the girls helping me get ready. When I told him about them picking out my underwear based on my color choice, he started laughing. “After my shower, I went through my drawers. I had a choice of white, black or red.”
I grinned, “And which did you choose?”
He laughed even harder, “White.”
We talked until nearly 2 am before he drove me back to pick up my truck. Both of us had work the next morning, and he gave me a warm hug and a smile before seeing me safely off.
I drove the half hour back home in a haze. Everything had gone so well. No sooner did I step into the house when my cell phone rang. It was Jerry making sure I made it home safe.
The date had been everything I could hope for and so much more. After that first night, he would call every chance he had and I just knew he was the man I had been hoping to meet. I was soon going to his place to spend the night and we went with friends to his home in Alto. I pointed out the old family cemetery and he introduced me to his family. This was perfect. Here was a man I could love and respect without the complications that went with the wedding band. My life was going to be perfectly pigeonholed and everything was wonderful.
It was then I got the shock of my life. “I want us to get married.”
Oh, no. Not my perfect bachelor. He did NOT say that, did he?
He did not give me time to get over the shock of the statement, not question, before launching into his list of well founded reasons of why we should get married. And I thought I wanted to date an intelligent man. I was left floundering under his calm logical list, topping the list was that we had already confessed our love to each other.
Looking back, if it had been just me involved, I would have jumped at the opportunity. Instead, this decision would have major impact on my two younger children and my elderly mother. To buy some time, I said, “If we get married, when do you want to do it?”
His calm, already thought out reply was, “As soon as possible. I would prefer to do it before your son goes into the military in September.” He glanced at the calendar and said, “We could go to the JP at the courthouse on August 31.”
Oh, my gosh, that was only three weeks away. It was amazing that he had taken my oldest son’s anticipated leave date into consideration. I tried to tell him that I was just as happy without the marriage license, and would love to be committed to him forever. He just shook his head, “No, we’re getting married on August 31.”
I did the only thing I could think to do, and that was to stall for more time. The next morning, my mom had a Doctor’s appointment in Albuquerque and she was bringing my two youngest kids down so the four of us could go. Jerry and I met up with them at a cousin’s house and we set off to the appointment.
While we were in the waiting room, I decided I might as well get their input as they would be the ones most affected by any decision I made. I looked at each of them a moment, trying to think of the best way to break the news. I decided just to blurt it out, “You know that confirmed bachelor I’ve been dating?”
That caught their attention fast, “Well, last night he popped the question.”
It was Jeni’s reaction that surprised me the most. She jumped up and started dancing, yelling at the top of her head, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I sat in stunned surprise as her little brother David joined in her dance of glee. Luckily, the waiting room was all but empty as this was causing a major spectacle.
Jeni calmed down at last and looked at me, “You did say ‘yes’, didn’t you?”
I choked back a grin for a minute, “I thought I’d better run it by you three first.”
“Mom, you ARE going to marry him.” She gave me a fast hug before starting to dance again, “He’s perfect for you.”
David was in full agreement with his sister. “I’ve never seen you so happy, mom, as when you’re with him.”
And I thought those kids would be very leery of having a step dad.
I finally glanced over at my mother who sat in serene silence with a huge smile. “What’s your opinion, grandma?”
“I think you’d better marry him.”
It was now four against one on me remarrying. By the time mom’s doctor’s appointment was finished and we had gotten back to Los Lunas, I had two calls from Jerry. I told him everyone approved of the match during the first call. “Good. Now, I can call my dad.”
The second call was a quick, “Where are you?”
I told him and almost before I could hang up the phone, he was there as well. Somehow, this seemed to be snowballing down hill. I thought I finally had a break when he said, “Well, Dad has thrown a monkey wrench into our plans.”
My hopes for remaining unmarried were quickly dashed as Jerry went on, “Dad said he’s been waiting 45 years to see me get married, so we’re getting married at his house instead of the courthouse.” There went my hopes that his family would not approve of me.
Before I knew it, Mom, Jerry, Jeni and David were making all of the decisions. Instead of Levi’s at the courthouse, Mom insisted on a dress to honor their family. Jeni was to be the bride’s maid and my sons would give me away. At that time, all I could think about was the fact that I did not want to get married. I had been there, done that, and hated most of the experience. My once cold feet were suddenly icier than ever.
The three weeks sped by. Not only was Jerry’s dad insisting on being at the wedding, so was his sister from Utah and daughter from Texas. They were traveling hundreds of miles for the blessed event.
The day of the wedding dawned sunny and beautiful. The bride was trembling from head to toe. Jeni looked radiant in a blue cotton dress that matched my cream colored one. I hid out most of the morning before the wedding in a spare bedroom trying to tell myself this was a good thing. Jeni looked in on me often and finally threw her hands up in disgust. “Mom, Jerry is perfect for you. Now, get out there and get married or do I have to go borrow Grandpa Don’s shotgun?”
Knowing it was not an idle threat; I went out, glanced up at the wall where the shotgun was displayed, before being married under the pine trees on top of the mountain. My groom and his family were wonderful as was my own family.
Today, six years later, I feel getting married again was the best decision I never made and I thank heaven there are still shotgun weddings in this modern world.