How We Got Married
Well now -- how am I ever going to explain to my children answers to questions like, "How did you and Daddy meet?" "How long were you engaged?" "How was your marriage?"
Fito and I met January 23, 1983. It was Fito’s birthday. He was wearing a yellow polo shirt and designer jeans. I was a missionary. My companion, Sister Schuster introduced me to Fito, explaining to me that he was one of her newest baptisms. After finding out he was from El Salvador, I quickly struck up a conversation because in my previous area I worked with mainly El Salvadorians, and had grown to love their food, their music, and their culture. That Sunday conversation blossomed into a friendship.
Fito’s church calling was to help the missionaries, so he worked with us; two to three times a week. He was always cheerful and willing to work hard.
As a new convert, he had questions about the church so almost all of our conversations were gospel related. The friendship that had blossomed grew. I had much respect and love for this young man who had been searching for the truth, and then after many years, having found it-- was a dry sponge-- and I became the water.
Hard times came to visit me in the mission field. I became the sponge and Fito the water. His humility and desire to do the right always inspired me and helped me to keep going. I don't know when exactly it happened, or how, or why, but I came to realize that I depended on Fito, and that my love for him was not just as a friend.
I sensed he felt the same, but me being a missionary, nothing was said. The only thing to be done was to wait and to do the work that was at hand. Before my mission ended, I had been praying for almost 6 months about Fito. As I told my last companion, "If I still feel the same way that I feel now -- I'll marry Fito."
I went home and two days later, he called. Several things were said that were not said before, but still there was a fear, hesitancy, wow. This is happening fast! Is it only emotional or am I spiritually in tune? Within two weeks, I was back in Houston. I stayed in Houston one week. Within that week, I realized that I was in love with Fito, but now I had to decide and he had to decide, too.
Could we live together even though we were from two different cultures? And so on and so on. You know all the doubts that one has. After the week was over, Fito, Pablo (a friend of Fito's and mine from Mexico), and I drove to Kansas. The next day we left Kansas and made the trip to Washington, D.C., where my sister, Colleen, was getting married.
During this week and a half, I came to know and understand Fito better. I ate with him, talked, sang, and laughed. We were together almost 18 hours daily. I came to know more of his weaknesses and strengths. The more I was with him, the more my doubts eased, and I grew to love and respect him more. He went home, and the week of Christmas without him was almost more than I could bear. Oh how I missed him.
(Now 26 years later, reading this, with an 18-year-old daughter, who feels the same way about a young man, I see this with different eyes... no wonder my parents were petrified. They really liked Fito, but as he could not speak English, and they were not able to really talk to him, they had many concerns. On the other hand; I was 23, I had served an 18 month mission, lived on my own for several years, and I believe they trusted my judgment).
I went back to Houston in January, found a place to live, started school, started work, and began my new life. One Sunday evening, Fito and I had a long talk, not about anything in particular just a discussion. Now to fill you in, I had prayed about Fito during the mission, after the mission, with him, without him.
The whole time I had prayed I always felt the same -- peaceful. Never in my life had I felt so good. However, even though my heart and spirit were convinced, my mind still had doubts. I am a very analytical thinker and to be honest, the language and cultural differences frightened me. That night, as Fito and I talked, this doubt left. From that point on, I knew I could, and would, wait until Fito chose to marry me.
On Thursday, January 19, 1984, in the evening, Fito, Pablo, Jennifer (one of my old missionary companions who was from Canada, who had come to Houston for the week on vacation), and I, left Houston to go to Arizona (1179 miles or about 17 hours). We were on our way to go to the Temple. It would be Fito's first time to enter.
Friday, the 20th, we drove and slept. When we arrived in the mountains of New Mexico, we stopped to take pictures. After playing in the snow for about 10 minutes, we headed on our way again. Within 10 minutes, I noticed red and blue flashing lights. I pulled over, yes, I was speeding. No, I didn't have a license tag -- well, just a temporary one. The officer told me that because of my situation if he were to give me a ticket I would have to be bonded, etc. so he lectured me and then he let me go.
The reason I did not have a tag, was that my parents had bought the vehicle for me right after my mission and I had headed to Houston, enrolled in school, and had not found the time to go and get the vehicle tagged. I know it is not a good excuse, but that is the way it was.
We wound along the mountains, weaving left and right, slowly descending into the valley. In the afternoon, we were approximately an hour from arriving in Las Cruces, New Mexico (791 miles from Houston). The highway had been blocked by the military. They were testing missiles. Fito and I cleaned the car the hour we waited to receive the okay to continue. Then we were back on the road to Las Cruces. As we left Las Cruces, we switched drivers. Pablo was driving with Jennifer in front; Fito and I were in back.
You need to understand that when I say in back, that I mean the back of the pickup. My parents had bought me a little Mazda pickup and we had put a camper shell on the back. We had put a mattress with some blankets and pillows so that is where we were when we took turns in the back.
We were about 30 minutes outside of Las Cruces, when we came across another roadblock. Nevertheless, this time I was nervous. It was the border patrol. We were stopped. They asked to see papers. Of course, none of us had any. Well, the interrogations started. To be honest, I do not think I have ever felt so humiliated in my life. In the beginning, there were two men who were rude, rough, and just plain mean. They were going to seize my truck and send me back to Houston on a bus. Pablo would be sent to Mexico, Fito to El Salvador, and Jennifer to Canada.
I guess there was a shift change or something, because two other men came and the two rough men left. One of the two new men was a member of our church and he helped us.
Jennifer could stay with me, and I was allowed to keep the truck. Fito and Pablo were put in cells, and Jennifer and I were commanded to leave. We had been stopped about 3:00 p.m. and now it was 8:00 p.m. We were told that we couldn't see the guys until Monday and that they would be in El Paso, Texas.
Jennifer and I talked, and even though we wanted to go directly to El Paso, we decided it would be better to go on to Arizona, because Rachel (another missionary companion of mine) and her family were expecting us. Jennifer and I drove to Phoenix (390 miles), arriving at 2:00 a.m. We called Rachel, told her what had happened, and told her we would drive up to Flagstaff, Saturday afternoon.
Saturday morning, January 21, we arose, checked out of the motel, and drove over to the temple. What a beautiful day it was! The sun was shining; the sky was a rich warm blue. There were orange trees lining the streets. Everything was green and there were flowers everywhere. We went to a Spanish session in the temple, and afterwards walked around in the peaceful, tranquil atmosphere of the temple grounds.
Even though everything was gorgeous, I had a deep, sad, sickening feeling inside me. The man I loved was in a detention center. As far as I knew I'd probably have to go to El Salvador to find him. I had many thoughts, but one thing I realized; I did not want to live without him by my side. Jennifer and I made jokes about the whole situation. I think we did it to keep from crying.
Now I'd like to share with you a special experience we had at the temple. While we were in the session, one of the workers kept looking at me as if she knew me. She seemed familiar to me, too. I looked at her name tag, and it read Diane Shaw. She had been my piano teacher for five years, while we lived in Colorado. Wow, what a surprise! You need to understand that we moved from Colorado when I was 12 years old. I had not seen her since. After we left the temple, we went to her house and talked with her and her daughter Emma, who was my age and had been one of my elementary school friends. We visited with them and then drove to Flagstaff, Arizona, which is about 2 and a half hours north of Phoenix.
We went to Rachel’s house where we were treated like royalty. We had a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. After dinner, we continued talking about the situation. I then called my Bishop in Houston, and he gave me the phone number for Fito's lawyer. His lawyer told me he that he had been working on Fito's papers for almost a year without any luck. He said Fito needed a concrete reason to stay.
I asked the lawyer, “What if he's married to a US citizen?”
The lawyer said, “Well, that's probably the most concrete answer to the problem.”
So I thought—we will just get married in El Paso and then head on back to Houston where his lawyer can start to work on everything. However, in talking to Rachel’s parents, I found out that if you are married outside the temple. You can't enter again to be sealed until one year later. All of my life, I had planned and dreamed of a celestial marriage; one in the temple, where I would be sealed forever to my husband and children.
No, I thought, I can't get married outside the Temple. But there was the problem of recommends. We both had recommends to enter the Temple, but not one to be married. Robin's father was a bishop, and it just happened to be Stake Conference (a regional meeting in our church). So he called and explained the situation to another visiting church authority and received permission to prepare the recommends. BUT...only if we got an Tokay from our Bishop in Houston. Saturday night, I tossed and turned the whole night and kept waking up. I don't think I slept at all.
First, you need to understand that the wife of our Bishop in Houston wanted Fito to marry her daughter. She had done everything she could to set them up and to get them together. As a result, I was afraid of that reaction. In addition, I knew I needed to call Fito in the morning, to tell him that if he wanted to--we could be married Tuesday in the Temple. We weren't even engaged!!
Sunday morning, January 22, I called Fito.
I explained everything that I had done, that I had spoken to his lawyer, and from what I understood, was that because of the civil war in El Salvador, he would be detained in the immigration detention center while he tried to complete his paper work to enter legally.
Fito had also learned the same. He had met several individuals who had been in the detention center for years while trying to do everything needed to emigrate legally. Immigration had a backlog of cases and it could be years before his case would even be considered.
I need to add, that Fito was extremely quiet and shy at this time in his life. I knew that under the circumstances that he would not consider it proper to even approach me on the subject. Therefore, being the take charge type of person that I am…
I told him what his lawyer had said about marrying a US citizen and then asked him to marry me. He said yes.
We talked some more, and decided why not. We were going to do it anyway, so why not a little sooner? After speaking with Fito, I called home. No one answered. I then called the Church. The clerk went to get my Dad.
“Hello Dad, this is Tammy.
I just called to tell you that while traveling through New Mexico, immigration detained Fito. And now he's in El Paso, Texas in a detention center.
Consequently, we decided to be married Tuesday evening in the Arizona Temple.
I just called to invite you and Mom.
Oh, and by the way, can you send me enough money to get Fito out on bond?
No I'm not in Texas, I’m in Arizona.
Yes, we’re driving to Texas this afternoon.
Then Monday I will get Fito out, and we will drive back to Arizona on Monday and get married Tuesday.
Tokay thanks, I love you. Bye." (If one of my children does this to me?!?)
Jennifer and Rachel, by now, were excitedly planning everything. And I was in a daze. I was getting married in two days. Rachel went to the closet and pulled out a wedding dress and veil that belonged and had been used by her sister. They so graciously let me borrow it. The dress fitted perfectly. And I mean perfectly. The sleeves, the bodice, the length—everything!! It did not need any modification of any kind!
In addition, she had a bouquet of silk flowers and a veil that they were also going to lend me. We messed around for a bit and then I took a nap while Rachel was so kind, washed our clothes, and helped prepare for the trip. After sleeping for two hours, I got up, then Jennifer and I left. We drove through the mountains, thinking it would be quicker route, but the mountains were covered with snow and ice, making us arrive even later.
Jennifer had found out that Pablo was already in Mexico. His mother lived in Cuidad Juarez, a city in Mexico, just across the border from El Paso (El Paso is 524 miles from Flagstaff). We drove into Mexico without a problem, but we hadn’t been across the border 10 minutes, when we were stopped by the police.
He asked me where my tag was.
I answered in Spanish that my car was new, and I didn't have one.
He then asked me if I had been drinking.
I said no.
He then told me I spoke Spanish extremely well and wanted to know how I had learned it. He then proceeded to give us directions to Pablo's house.
Naturally, we got lost and ended up calling Pablo to come and get us. We called from a store. I paid for the call and two sodas. The bill was $.55. I liked Mexico. When we arrived at Pablo's, I called Mom. She had already sent the money, and she and dad would arrive in Phoenix, Monday at 11:00 a.m.
Monday morning, January 23, 1984. Today was Fito's birthday, and it was exactly 1 year since the first time we had met. I woke up early, and drove to El Paso. The first place I went was to the airport, because Pablo was expecting his visa. His visa wasn’t there. Therefore, I decided to go ahead with the business of things and just leave him and Jennifer in Mexico to enjoy the day.
First of all, I went to Western Union and got the money, and then went to the detention center. I arrived and found out the bond was set for $5,000. I thought, no problem. The bond companies will want 10% -- but as I started calling companies, they all wanted 30% to 35%.
Now, I started panicking. I don't really know what happened, but I guess I had just reached the point of frustration, of fatigue, and of exasperation. I started crying, and I couldn't stop. One of the supervisors saw me, and I guess felt sorry for me. So he asked me if I wanted to go see Fito.
I said yes and went with him. Well, I think it would have been better if I hadn't seen him. My eyes were red from crying. He wasn't worried when I had spoken with him previously, but I think by the time I left, he was. My parents were in Arizona waiting for us. And I didn't see any way possible to free Fito.
Earlier, when I had called one of the bond companies, the secretary mentioned to me that I could go talk to the immigration judge to see if he would lower the bond. As a result, after talking to Fito, I decided to drive downtown to the courthouse. I arrived just as the District Attorney was leaving. I ended up crying again and told him my story, and he immediately lowered the bond to $2500.
But we had to get the Judge's signature. I told the Judge my story, and he wanted to lower the bond to $1500, as I only had so much money, had to pay for the bond, and also pay to return to Arizona.
But the District Attorney refused, so they agreed on $2000. Then I went to the bond company, the same one where the secretary had advised me, and she had already been preparing the paperwork. I purchased the bond, and then drove back to Mexico.
Pablo, Jennifer, and I went to a shopping mall, so that I could buy white shoes for the wedding dress. While we were shopping, Jennifer told me that she had spoken with her parents. Someone had called them and had given them false information. With this, they had told her to come home immediately. She was upset and had to make a decision. She and I were going to cross the border, let her make some phone calls, and then she would go back on the footbridge to talk to Pablo, while I would go get Fito.
When we got ready to cross through customs, for some reason, they suspected us of something. I think it was the fact that the car looked as though it had traveled 3000 miles and they did not want to accept my story that I was in Juarez buying shoes. We were stopped, and they proceeded to unload every single item and check the car. Just as the border patrol had done when we were stopped the first time. They only found my shoes with a receipt from Mexico.
Hence, Jennifer went to call, and I left for Fito. This time, when I saw Fito, he was happy and I was overjoyed! We drove back to the bridge, and I went to find Jennifer. I could not find her. Fito and I went window-shopping. I went back to the bridge. I still could not find them. Fito and I went to eat dinner. I went back to the bridge, and I couldn't find her. I then went back to the car worried. What if immigration had her? I thought a thousand different things. Then I decided I would go look one more time. I found Pablo and Jennifer.
(The reader needs to understand that this is in the days before cell phones. I had no way to communicate with Jennifer, and every other time we called somewhere, we had to stop and find a pay phone, and use a calling card).
We left, stopped at a gas station, filled up, and Fito called our Bishop. He received permission for us to be married. The bishop told Fito that he was old enough to make his own decisions. Then I called Rachel's dad, and gave him the information so that he could have the recommends ready. And we were off. By now, it was 9:00 p.m.
As we left El Paso (El Paso, TX is 430 miles from Phoenix, AZ), we came to an immigration Checkpoint. It was the same checkpoint, where Pablo and Fito had been picked up earlier. Fito had been lying down with his head on my lap. The guard didn't even see him, and we passed without a problem.
We arrived in Phoenix at 3:00 a.m. We went to the Shaw’s to spend the night, but no one answered our knocks. We found out later that they had prepared for us, but from their room, they couldn’t hear us knocking. We also found a note to call my mom and dad. We went and called them, and then went to a motel.
After checking in, I realized I was getting married that afternoon, and I hadn't shaved in four days. Therefore, at 3:30 a.m., Jennifer and I left Fito in the motel room, and we went to buy a razor and shaving cream. Finally, we found an open store, and returned to the motel where I bathed, and then went to bed.
On Tuesday morning, January 24, 1984, after an hour of sleep, I arose. Fito was already showering. We dressed and Jennifer drove us to the Temple. As we arrived, Fito remembered that he had forgotten his recommend. I went on inside, while Jennifer and he returned to the motel.
Once inside, I saw Rachel and her mom already waiting. Yes, they had the dress and the flowers ready. There was a small dilemma: there had been a miscommunication, and the people at the Temple didn’t know anything of our plans. However, quickly and very willingly, they prepared for us. Fito returned, Mom and Dad showed up. We all went to do various things. Fito and I went and had an interview, and then we went to change clothing.
We went through this session with mom at my side and dad as the escort for Fito. What a blessing for me, because also at my side were two of my favorite missionary companions and the mother of one which quickly had become dear to me. In addition, the Shaw’s spoke Spanish and were there to help us near the end of the session.
After this session, which ended at about 10:10 a.m., we quickly changed, as we had to be at the clinic at 11 a.m. We had been told that it would be about three hours for the State to receive the results for the blood test, but lo and behold, we were in and out in 30 minutes.
We then drove to the courthouse to obtain a marriage license. As we were waiting, the fire alarm went off. We evacuated the building. I thought the day had been going too smoothly. We waited outside for about 45 minutes as they checked the building.
We then reentered and got the marriage license. Now the tuxedo was next on our list. We drove to the first store. There was nothing there. We then drove to another store.
My Dad: Well, let’s try this store.
Tammy: Look, at that pretty dress.
Fito: We aren’t here to look at dresses.
Tammy: I know, but it still is pretty.
Fito: Are you sad that you don’t have your own dress?
Tammy: No, not really. I’m just glad that I’m getting you.
Clerk: May I help you?
Tammy: Yes, we are looking for a white tuxedo. It needs to fit him and we need it today, actually, in just about an hour and half.
Clerk: We don’t have any in white that we can use today, and in fact, the only one that we can get ready on such short notice that would fit him is this grey one? Also, to be truthful, you can drive to other places or call them and you will not find one in time. We have a tailor on staff that can alter anything right now.
(Now years later, I can’t even believe our luck in being able to find a tux that fit that we could rent and have altered that quickly…and I did want white, but he looks good in any color…)
We went to eat while they were preparing the tux. In addition, we called the Temple and set a time for the wedding: it would be at 3:30 p.m.
For the first time ever, Fito and I knew when we were going to be married and it was within two hours. Then as we were in the car, Fito asked my parents for my hand in marriage.
We went and picked up the tuxedo and drove to the Temple, bought a couple of things, and then went to be married. Dad was one of the witnesses and said the opening prayer. The Temple worker then proceeded to talk to us, to give us counsel, and married us or sealed us for time and eternity. The whole ceremony was in Spanish. It was beautiful.
Afterwards, the photo session began and it was fun. Then Jennifer and Rachel gave us a wedding gift. They gave us a place mat set and a huge bag of popcorn and I mean huge-- the size of a large trash bag. They put a note on the bag that we couldn't leave the motel room until everything was finished.
Anyway, we then went to a restaurant to eat. By now, Fito and I were completely exhausted. We waited an hour to be served. Then because mom and dad were with old friends, the conversation went on and on. Finally, around nine or 10 o'clock we left.
Wednesday morning, January 25, we left for Houston, (Houston is 1179 miles from Phoenix, AZ), drove 12 hours, and slept in the truck at a wayside park. Thursday, we passed the same immigration checkpoint and were stopped. We promptly showed them the court papers and proceeded on.
Later, as Fito was driving, we were stopped by the police. He got a speeding ticket, which really wasn't fair. The trip to Houston is 17 hours. I drove 13 of those hours and sped the whole way. When Fito drove, he always drove about 55. What happened is I started to tease him and without realizing it, he was going 70. That is when he was stopped.
We arrived in Houston about 10 p.m. on Thursday evening, January 26, and drove to Fito's apartment. Pablo was already back in Houston. Pablo and Fito had been roommates, so when we entered the room, Pablo got up and started to remove his bedding. I told him, “Go ahead, and sleep in here tonight. Fito and I are dead tired.” What a fine honeymoon! Ha!
There is one other thing I wanted to add. Fito and I had not been engaged, and as I was an immediately returned missionary, we were trying to be very discreet as to our relationship. Most people in our congregation did not even know that we were dating.
So when we came back from a weekend trip, married, you can imagine the surprise that many people felt. The night that we came back to Houston, our bishop called us and asked to come to the church on Friday evening and meet with him, which we did.
Fito, had been serving as Young Men's President, and the Bishop extended the call to me to serve as Young Women's President. We were both excited that we were going to be working together and going to be working with the youth.
On Sunday morning, however, when asked to sustain me to the Church calling, only a few members raised their hands. The reason was that someone in our ward had spread terrible rumors about what had actually happened.
When we had returned to Houston a couple of members did call us and warn us about the rumors and advised us to go to a different ward. However, Fito and I decided that we had confidence in the members, and knew that they were our friends and just needed the correct information. As we continued to go to church, we found out that most people were very happy. In fact, when we told them the story of what we had done and how it had happened they were excited and pleased for us.
Now, 26 years and 10 children later: having lost a child, survived marital problems, having our restaurant burned down, going through bankruptcy, civil litigation, repossessed vehicles, having moved 12 times, working together, going through school, having a child almost die and then be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, having a son get married, having a granddaughter, seeing them go off to college, excel in life; remembering births, all the silly, giggly times of babies and toddlers, years of dancing at parties, eating Pupusas, watching sunsets, working in the garden …I would not change one thing.
Can you believe this dress was borrowed and did not need even one alteration? What are the statistical chances of that happening?