10. We Drove Thru... and Kept on Driving

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Every year has had a title page and then a bunch of other pages, too, but those have long since been torn off and released. With children, we hold on to every memory.  With marriage, we tear off the calendar pages and release them. Years are not quietly mourned, but celebrated.

We made it.

We did it. 

We're still here. 


Hal and I were babies when we said, "I do." I was twenty-three and five months pregnant. We had only been dating for three months when we found out... it was all a rush and a blur and a spontaneous wtfarewedoing fuckitletsjustdoit type of thing.

We were strangers, trying to play it off like we were in control -- like we had this whole thing figured out.

We would go to Vegas, get married, live together, have a kid... see what happened.

The day we drove to Vegas in January of 2005, Hal's car stank. He was working as a PA at the time, carting around food for people on set... food with sauces that regularly spilled all over the upholstery of his car. (Not much has changed.)

We could only afford one night at the MGM. And I think it was our parents who paid for it. I know they paid for the cake that was delivered to our room. Our two incomes could barely pay our $1250 rent, let alone a hotel room. I was working three odd jobs and trying to fool the world and myself into thinking I was an adult.

Hal was, too.

That, more anything, was why we insisted on eloping. It was also why we wanted to do it alone. WE DIDN'T NEED ANYONE'S BLESSING. We didn't need anyone to witness what we had going on.

We were going to get married.

And have a baby.

And live together.

And hustle together.

And see how far we got.... together.

On the road. And off the road. And on the road again...

That was all we knew.

That was all we needed to know.

And in retrospect, we were totally onto something. Just do it, kids. Just drive and see what happens.
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On our sixth wedding anniversary, we got pregnant with the twins and on our seventh, I wrote this:

The twins were four months old when I wrote that post and Hal and I were barely alive. 

Sometimes I look back on old posts and think I was writing them in order to believe that they were true.

Like the tattoo on my arm that says: "Tell the story until it comes true."

When I first started writing Rockabye, nearly eight years ago, my editor asked how I was planning to end the book. Hal and I were in our darkest place at that time and I told her I was pretty sure it would end in divorce.

It wasn't until I wrote those words down that I realized how badly I wanted a different ending. Archer was barely two and I kept thinking that we had to have more fight in us than this. We had to. That was when we picked out a ring. That was when Hal got on his knee,

“Will you stay married to me,” he said?

And that is how I ended my book. With a giant "yes" and a room full of rainbows...

Months later, we would be okay.

Months after that, I would find myself pregnant with Fable.

The ring that Hal proposed to me with would break soon after. It would break many times during our marriage. Just like us...

...It will break many times more. 

Just like us.


It's Saturday afternoon when I pack up the car. Archer and Fable have theater class on Saturdays and didn't want to miss class to "drive in a car all day," so we're waiting until class is over to hit the road. 

I pack everyone one change of clothes for the 24 hour trip. We have no plans except to hit up The Little White Chapel at some point to renew our vows in the drive-thru. Still, I pack a nice dress... some tights and shoes... something fun and relatively interesting. I throw it in my duffle with my "car clothes" which consist of an oversized maternity shirt, jeans and boots.

"WE'RE GOING TO LAS VEGAS, YOU GUYS!" I tell the kids and start to sing. 

Viva Las Vegas! Viva Las Vegas!

Moments later, Bo is singing along. 

"Peanut Las Vegas!" she sings. "Peanut Las Vegas!" 

All of this was Hal's idea...

It was the greatest idea I had ever heard. 

It was exactly what we were supposed to do. Fuck a ten-year romantic getaway for two. Our marriage was never really about us, the couple, anyway, and while I believe that one on one time is imperative in order to keep a marriage functioning, our marriage was for Archer. And then all of us -- so that we might be a team. All hands in... 
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The kids climb into the car with their scripts in hand and their new parts (Fable is "Daisy" in a play called The Vegetarian T-Rex and Archer is Vernon Hines in The Pajama Game) and we all cheer for them and download the music so that we can sing along. Fable will already have memorized her part by the time we get to the Nevada border and we will have listened to I'll Never Be Jealous Again 43 times 

This is the first time in ten years Hal and I have done this drive together and we hold hands.

"Ten years," we keep saying.

"Can you even?"

"I cannot even."

We keep driving. 
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After five hours in the car and an hour in the lobby trying to figure it all out, we finally make it to our rooms. The blinds come with remote controls and the kids put on shows with the curtains and then bounce on the beds, and after finally getting everyone settled in bed with the radio on low, Hal's "favorite song" (which the rest of us DESPISE) comes on and soon Hal is dancing and the kids are all out of bed and I say, "DUDE! WE FINALLY GOT EVERYONE INTO BED YOU ARE BLOWING IT" but everyone is laughing and, well... fuck it. Let's just dance to this terrible song and never sleep again. 
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So that is what we do. 
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The next morning, I smear concealer under my eyes as Hal fetches coffee.  We're all paying for our dance party/bed jumping/ late night.

Fable's excited because I'm planning on wearing my rainbow dress today. Something old, something new, something rainbow...  I told her I was packing it and planned to wear it with my technicolor dream vest... a ten pound sweater vest from the 80s that I loved for months before my mother-in-law secretly bought it for me.

But when I put the dress on, I soon realize that it is torn at the neck and can’t be fixed with the in-room sewing kit. 

Do you remember that scene in White Christmas where the General doesn't want to wear his military uniform because it's not who he is anymore so his granddaughter takes all of his suits to the cleaners so he has no choice? That's kind of how this felt. Like, okay universe. I will wear my old maternity shirt to renew my vows... because full circle is how we roll and it's a drive-thru and who needs a dress when you have... everything else. 

So I put on my black tunic that I wore for all three pregnancies.

And my new/old vest. 

Something old, something new, something maternity... 

It wasn't the plan but it certainly felt appropriate.


When we arrive at the chapel, it's much smaller than I remember it. Like going back to school or driving past an old house.

"This is where we got married," Hal tells the kids, and we all follow him into the tiny room where the photographer is taking her lunch break.

"This is where we stood."
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I fill out the vow-renewal paperwork at the reception desk. I forgot how easy it is... to do this—to get married, or in our case, re-married... at least that's what they call it here.

"Your second wedding..." they say.

The girls want to hold flowers during the ceremony so they pick their colors: white and purple for Bo and Pink and Red for Fable and Revi. The woman at the desk asks if Archer wants to wear a boutonniere and he shrugs.

"Sure," he says. "How about white to match Bo?"
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The kids get their flowers and we try (but fail) to keep everyone seated. There's another couple in the chapel waiting to get married, too.

We decide, last minute, that instead of renewing our vows in the stinky minivan, we'll class it up in the pink Cadillac.

"The big kids can sit up front and the little kids can sit in the back with you," we are told.

We climb into the pink car and wait for our minister to appear.

But before that, it's this:

"You guys! Stop messing with the mirrors!"

"Dude. This isn't our car."

"Bo, come back! You can't leave! We are having a wedding here in this car!"

"You guys. Shhh, he's coming. Shhh."

When the minister arrives, we are all talking over each other.
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And then, as he proceeds to speak, all is quiet...














And it feels just like it did that day, ten years ago. We shake our heads and roll our eyes like "can you even even believe this? This can't be real, right?"
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It doesn't feel real.

And it does. 
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And it doesn't. 

And it does. 
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And it certainly does not. 
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And soon enough, we're laughing because, is this real? Is any of this really real?
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...All these kids and all this time and all this life. How did we get here? No, seriously? How?
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How were we just here, the two of us, with my five-months pregnant belly and Fable "in my leg... waiting," as she says, and Bo and Revi dancing somewhere in our dreams...? 

At the end of our "service," the minister pronounces us "husband and wife for the second time."

We kiss, and the kids are all, "ew," and then we get out of the car and take a few pictures. And Bo keeps running off, so I put her on my shoulders and ask her to give me 787813 high fives in order to keep her there, and that's how our "wedding" ends. 
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high five


It has not been easy. This road. This marriage. The last ten years have been a giant pain in the ass, if you really want to know.  But they have also been full of more love and magic than I will ever be able to properly articulate. And infinite blessings. And moments that revive and remind and restore and reload us all... 
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Love cannot be quantified or defined. Marriage is not a one size-fits all proposition. And we still have a long ways to go as people, as a couple, as a family, but we're doing it. We're riding together in this stinky-ass van with Archer's musical theater soundtrack blasting and the sunroof open because Hal loves to drive with the sunroof open and my feet on the dashboard in all their cracked-nail glory and Fable having to go to the bathroom and Revi also having to go to the bathroom and Bo trying to unbuckle her seat belt because SHE DOES NOT WANT TO SIT DOWN RIGHT NOW THIS IS BORING. 

And it's all happening right here. 

On this road. 

In this van. 

And before it happened in the van, it happened in my station wagon. 

And before that, in Hal's two-door Civic. 

All along, there has been magic. Maybe that's because we've made a point to look for it. Maybe that's because, in times of struggle and strife, it's all we had to tie to our ankles as we felt ourselves dangle over the various sides of the ship.

The signs were always there. They still are -- and every few miles one appears on the side of the road. And in the time between, there is laughter. 

I think that's the most important thing two people can share -- a sense of humor -- an ability not to take themselves and their relationship too seriously. Humans are human, even spouses. Even the most perfect of perfectly behaved perfect people. We're all messy. We all have our shit.

After the wedding, we grab some lunch at the Rainforest cafe. We walk around the strip, and when the sun begins to set, we head home, stopping first for coffee, always coffee. We are very tired in this life. We are very tired always and forever.
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It's nine-something pm when the kids, who have yet to fall asleep, are suddenly famished. We stop in Barstow. We are the only people in the restaurant besides our waitress. We are the only people in the world. We squish together in the booth, the girls on one side, the boys on another...
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(I would say "it's a sign" but it's just that, that effing song is ALWAYS ALWAYS on.)

We're all tired and completely out of our minds at this point and our waitress most likely hates us, but this is our wedding night and ten years only comes around once, yo.

This is where the magic happens. At 9:16 on a Sunday night at an IHOP in Barstow.

"We should do this every ten years," I say.

"More like every three years," Archer corrects.

"Every one year," Fable smiles.

"EVERY WEEKEND!" Hal proclaims.
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Some girls dream of white weddings in Bora Bora.  For me, it’s a party of six in a Pink Cadillac. It's maternity shirts on accident and 10:00 dinners at IHOP. It's this.

ALLLLLL of this.

This is why we kicked and screamed and moaned and moved and hustled and cried and laughed and built and changed and grew and merged and separated and fixed and spent and saved and held on. This was supposed to happen. We were meant to be a family. It is what we do best. Even when we completely suck at it, we are meant to be together. All of us. And we knew that, I think. We certainly do now. 

This is what bleeds. This is what binds. This is what we'll hold onto as we step from one decade into the next—the magic.

We fucking did this thing, kids. We made a life, here, wherever here is, and we're standing in it together, all hands in.

And it's good.

And it's everything.

And I'm so grateful.
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On January 22nd, 2005, Hal and I went to Vegas for us, the family. And last weekend we returned with our jackpot. Hard fought and hard earned and to be continued... day by day. Moment by moment. One bet at a time.
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