But marriage. Somehow, this made things better. It made me feel like less of a screw-up. After suppers each night, my wife would hold my arm, we’d sit on the shore of the Choctawhatchee Bay. We’d say things like: “I can’t believe we’re married.”

Mobile, Alabama—“Just Married.” That’s what’s written on the back of a ratty tailgate in white shoe polish. The plates are North Carolina. The old Ford Ranger has seen better days.

I’m at a gas station when I see the truck. The windows are rolled down. The vehicle is empty. The young couple is inside the convenience store, paying for gas.

I am at the pump, filling my tank.

My friend is nosy. He is inspecting the small Matrimony Wagon. He peeks into the truck bed.

“They sure don’t travel light,” he says. “There must be ten pink suitcases in there.”

Welcome to marriage.

Tonight, my friend and I are on our way home after playing music in Mobile. It was a pathetic venue, but the music wasn’t bad. And besides, I’ve been playing pathetic gigs since I turned eighteen. What’s one more?

I’ve played some doozies. Bingo parlors, bowling alleys, rundown bars, a shoe store clearance, and the dreaded all-you-can-eat seafood joint.

A girl exits the store, walking toward the vehicle.

My nosy friend is almost caught red handed. He trots away from the truck. He lights a cigarette and pretends to be inspecting my tires.

The girl reaches through the window and grabs her purse. She counts a few dollars, then steals handfuls of change from her ashtray. She counts quarters in her palm. She darts inside.

Money. It’s hard to come by when you’re a newlywed.

My friend tells a story: at his wedding, twenty-five years ago, his sister placed a money tree on the cake table. People clipped dollar bills to the branches to fund the couple’s honeymoon.

“We had ninety bucks on that tree,” he tells me. “We needed that money for our honeymoon, we were flat broke.”

My honeymoon was no lavish affair, either. We went to Charleston on a shoestring budget. I’d hocked a guitar to help fund the trip. We rolled into town on fumes. We ate like paupers, we stayed in motor-inns.

We were on top of the universe.

The phrase of our honeymoon week was: “I can’t believe we’re married.” We said that a thousand times per day in that first week of marriage.

It was the greatest week of my life.

I spent every dime I had. By the time we arrived home, we had no place to live, a truck with a worn out transmission, and my bank account was dry.

But I couldn’t believe we were married.

We lived in the guest room of my wife’s mother’s house. In the evenings, I sat at the family supper table knowing I was the lowest-achieving member in my wife’s clan.

My wife’s brother was a contractor, her father was a famous salesman, her mother was Scarlett O’Hara. I was a fledgling redhead who needed a new transmission.

But marriage. Somehow, marriage made things better. It made me feel like less of a screw-up. After suppers each night, my wife would hold my arm, we’d sit on the shore of the Choctawhatchee Bay. We’d say things like: “I can’t believe we’re married.”

Love is not just powerful stuff. It is power.

My friend has an idea.

He reaches into his wallet and removes two twenties. He tosses them into the just-married truck window. He giggles.

I decide to follow his lead. I only have eight dollars on me, but it’s only a gesture from one human to another. Because I believe in love.

I toss my dollars into the vehicle. They land in the driver’s seat. My friend and I chuckle like idiots.

And we are almost busted.

The young couple is walking out of the convenience store. They carry Styrofoam cups and snacks. They’re leaning so close to each other they look like a four-legged creature with two heads.

I bolt for my vehicle. My friend jogs behind me like the Little Engine That Had Two Knee Surgeries. We slam our doors and drive away.

We don’t talk for a few minutes. We are middle-aged guys with gold-plated memories.

“You know,” my friend says, “I really hope those two have a fun honeymoon.”

Me too.

I can’t believe we’re married, Jamie.

23 comments

  1. theholtgirls - August 8, 2018 6:25 am

    What fun! You are awesome, Sean. I’m glad y’all weren’t busted!

    Reply
  2. Peggy Savage - August 8, 2018 11:00 am

    I live in Mobile. .sorry I missed your gig. Know it was great. Thanks for helping out those youngsters…they will always remember your kindness…..

    Reply
  3. Marilyn - August 8, 2018 12:14 pm

    Your story brought back happy memories of when I got married. We lived in an upstairs apartment and that’s where we had our honeymoon because neither of us had any money. We had some very lean years with four children quickly added to the mixture, but they were good times and somehow we managed to buy a nice house and life was good. So much has changed in the nearly 62 years. Thank you Sean for stirring up memories.

    Reply
  4. janiesjottings - August 8, 2018 12:19 pm

    Sean, I remember that feeling of “we’re married” for our whole first year of marriage. That was the sweetest year! We’ve been married more than 44 years now and I still feel awe that we’re married and how great it is. Thank’s for the reminder this morning. Also thank’s for leaving that cash for the newlyweds. You and your friend blessed them with a memory that they’ll share with others in the years to come. Awesome!!!

    Reply
  5. Connie Havard Ryland - August 8, 2018 12:28 pm

    Sweet. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  6. Sue Cronkite - August 8, 2018 12:29 pm

    Another great chronicling of a fine deed done.

    Reply
  7. Susan Self Jacobs - August 8, 2018 12:32 pm

    Imagine how those two young people felt. To be blessed by an unknown. I am so thankful for the person that shared Sean with me.

    Reply
  8. Shelton Armour - August 8, 2018 1:08 pm

    I am so happy your marriage still gives you the giggles. May that last forever.

    Reply
  9. Carol - August 8, 2018 1:22 pm

    If we’re lucky it happens,,cherish it !!

    Reply
  10. Penn Wells - August 8, 2018 1:35 pm

    Spontaneous acts of kindness. Let’s hope it’s contagious.

    Reply
  11. Summer - August 8, 2018 1:51 pm

    Such a sweet story and a sweet gesture. But, Sean, you have to stop referring to yourself as “middle-aged.” You’re the same age as our oldest daughter. And we also have a 12-year-old. Haven’t you heard 60 is the new 40? WE’RE middle aged (in our dreams anyway). You’re just a youngster 🙂

    Reply
  12. Pat - August 8, 2018 2:50 pm

    I nearly fell out of my chair laughing about the four legged creature with two heads! But I’m so thankful you and your buddy didn’t get busted! Some day that couple may be writing an article about finding money in their truck and I sure hope you and your buddy get to read it!

    Reply
  13. Susan Swiderski - August 8, 2018 3:12 pm

    What a kind thing to do! You and your pal made that couple’s day even brighter.

    My hubby and I have been married nearly fifty years (!) and I STILL have moments where I can’t believe we’re married. Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

    Reply
  14. EdnaB. - August 8, 2018 3:35 pm

    This one brought tears to my eyes. You and your friend gave these two youngsters a lifetime memory. I don’t ever remember having a honeymoon, but I have the most wonderful children and grands and greats. You are such a blessing, Sean. You and Jamie have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  15. Susie, too - August 8, 2018 4:42 pm

    Reminds me of when my husband and I first married, we had no idea how truly little we had, because we had each other and that meant everything. Still does.

    Reply
  16. Kelly Joe Ray - August 8, 2018 5:05 pm

    As an Alabama native it pains me to say it but the worst gig I ever played in my life was at the blue max in Mobile Alabama. We were a southern rock band…the club is a discotheque… That occasionally booked live bands like KC and the sunshine band. I was with Doug Mays and storm. They ask us to play for 15 minutes and take 45 minute breaks so they could play records. We got paid 1500 a night…5 nights…No Thanks to our agent Troy Parker. So the worst gig was one of the most profitable ever. And all we did was get has an airport cheeseburger, drink beers and hit on girls. Life it’s funny like that sometimes,.. in retrospect…

    Reply
  17. Janet Mary Lee - August 8, 2018 5:36 pm

    I just love the things you do!!!!

    Reply
  18. Mary F Tomlin - August 8, 2018 6:23 pm

    I was 18. He was 21. We married in South Alabama, drove to Marianna,Florida. He had $200. Not to spend on a honeymoon, but $200 to his name! We went to the caverns. We lived in some ratty places, worked hard and 54 years later we have a nice home, and a good retirement. Our start in marriage makes us appreciate what we have now.

    Reply
  19. DM - August 8, 2018 7:19 pm

    That so rocks what you did. You must have giggled like school girls all the way home.
    PS…just passed 20 years and we still say we can’t believe we found each other.
    Honeymoon remains the absolute best week of my life.
    Love ya’ll and “all yall’s” kindnesses.

    Reply
  20. Jack Quanstrum - August 8, 2018 7:30 pm

    Wonderful story for a hot summer day!

    Reply
  21. Catherine - August 8, 2018 8:35 pm

    This leaves me smiling all over. 😊

    Reply
  22. Glenda - August 8, 2018 10:12 pm

    Simply stated; i love how you write so that it chokes me and makes me smile at the same time, pretty sure that you could make a chicken smile, ijs

    Reply
  23. muthahun - August 8, 2018 11:31 pm

    Way cute, Sean. Y’done good.

    Reply

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