Leaving my office this morning at 6:15AM, I was giving myself a wide berth on time since I wasn’t on site at Michael Unit until 10AM with two beautiful brides this morning but a winter frost hit Texas last night dropping temperatures forty degrees. With wet roads and unexpected traffic situations, I prefer to err on the side of caution. Fifteen minutes early is fifteen minutes late. I prefer to be 30 minutes early always.
Sitting on HWY 20 for 47 minutes to drive less than 12 miles to the 287 exit towards Corsicana, I knew leaving early was a smart decision.
Rolling through Corsicana, my brother in law, Steve called while I was talking to Cindy from a gas station near the Shell station I had just filled up at.
The “odds” of my brother in law and I being so close to each other are rare. After all, a few days ago, Steve was in Canada then California then New York then North Dakota. Steve is a truck driver.
Passing Russell Stover with no time to stop for a candy apple, a text from my 1:30PM Beto Unit bride came through. She was confirming my arrival at Beto. I texted back “I’m at Michael with Audra and Sonja at 10AM and will meet you at Beto at 1PM.”
I had packed two umbrellas for my brides this morning but needed three lol. “A wet day for a wedding is good luck” I told myself as I walked through puddles to the Unit. Sonja was already waiting for me. Audra was in the parking lot but I couldn’t locate her to hand her my umbrella. Michael is a massive Unit. I’m at Tennessee Colony Units at least once a month.
My brides and I sat and waited on our escort, Miss Smith together. At 10:32AM, Miss Smith met us and advised us “the Unit camera isn’t working so we won’t have photos today. I’m so sorry.” We were sorry too. No wedding pictures. Miss Smith is an excellent photographer who always takes amazing photos.
Walking to the Unit, I advised both my brides to use the umbrellas. After all, it was their wedding day and I wanted them beautiful and as dry as possible for their ceremonies. I don’t mind walking in the rain.
Sadly, Sonja’s Fiancee was G4 which meant a no contact wedding. Audra was married first. We chose the area of the visitation area with a Christmas display for our backdrop which would have been beautiful for wedding photos.
Following Audra’s wedding ceremony, I signed her license and prepared for Sonja’s ceremony. We both walked to the no contact area and picked up phones.
I tried not to look at the broken and cracked base of the window separating us. Cracked glass at no contact unit weddings always saddens me. Someone drove for hours to visit an inmate who slammed his fists on the glass. I can’t understand this. The person who had sacrificed their time to visit was met by anger. It’s a tragedy.
The fact that my couples can’t hold hands or hug is always difficult for me. I wish they could touch. I wish everyone had the benefit of a contact wedding but it’s something I can’t control. I looked past the cracked glass at my bride and groom a love story that would one day have a happy ending long after lock up.
Sonja began to read her heartfelt vows which would be hard to follow as her voice cracked with emotion. She had so many memories and many things to say. Her fiancé did an amazing job writing his vows too.
Emotion on both sides of the glass from my couple made me wish they could hold hands or seal the deal with a kiss.
Leaving Michael Unit, our three suv caravan drove to the Tennessee Colony Church for bridal photos.
I unloaded furs, bouquets and my props. The canopy over the door protected my brides from the pouring rain. They might not have wedding photos but they would have bridal photos. Loading up and saying goodbye to both of my new brides, I head to Palestine to Beto Unit.
I’m somewhat hungry and get something to go from the BBQ restaurant near Beto, Gurney and Powledge.
Returning to my suv, I see a text from my 1:30 bride Taylor. A blow out in Ennis. I check the distance to the unit from Ennis and try calling Beto for Chaplain Strange. The line is busy. Taylor has called Triple AAA.
I decide to skip lunch and drive to Beto to locate Chaplain Strange and advise him of the situation. My phone never works at Beto, Gurney or Powledge. I have AT&T. No service (as usual).
I walk up to the guard tower but no one comes out. This is odd. I walk to the gate and hold my State issued ID at the camera and the gate clicks open.
I walk to the shakedown and remove my shoes, belt and watch. It’s 1PM. I ask the shakedown officer to call Chaplain Strange. I have no idea how late Taylor will be but, I plan to visit with Chaplain Strange until Taylor can make it to the unit. I always enjoy our visits and appreciate him waiting on my bride running late due to an unforeseen problem.
Inside the Unit as I wait on the Chaplain, I notice the festive tree and Christmas lights in the window as I wait near the vending machines. Beyond the twinkling lights razor wire glistens from the falling rain. It’s a melancholy moment. The festivity Of Christmas marked by the razor wire of the prison.
I watch officers roll in the shakedown with mail and boxes. Inmates will be spending Christmas at Units as others send cards, gifts and photos to their loved ones locked away.
It’s not uncommon for units to be decorated for the holidays. Most units are. I recall the wedding at Hughes Unit with a backdrop that read “Merry Christmas!” I listen to the trainees excitedly preparing to start their shifts. The shakedown officer asks another officer how his daughter is doing. All prisons are busy places of employees coming or going.
Chaplain Strange and I visit for 2 hours before he leaves to call Taylor. The officer who takes photos has left. The transport officer has left. He leaves a message regarding a reschedule on Taylor’s cell phone as I wonder if she has AT&T too?
It’s less than a minute later when I spot Taylor at the guard gate. She’s a vision in pink and white carrying the Manila folder from the clerks office.
The duty guard is trying to locate the Chaplain while Taylor waits at the gate with 15-20 TDCJ trainees go in and out around her. The Chaplain’s left my side while trying to find a transport officer for the inmate. There will be no wedding photos but there will be a wedding. Chaplain Strange saves the day by finding a volunteer to walk the inmate to visitation. A delay results due to finding the right key. Taylor and I continue to wait. She’s relieved her wedding hasn’t been canceled. I am too.
Leaving the unit, Taylor follows me back to the BBQ joint I was planning to order lunch from at 12:15 when I read her text about the blow out. I unload items for bridal photos.
She’s beautiful and happy leaving while “riding on a donut.” She will drive on to Palestine for a new tire. Palestine is closer than Corsicana. I worry about her getting there in backroads. Driving through Waxahachie, Brandi from North Dakota FaceTimed me. I had talked to Brandi last night regarding her court date next week. I had advised her to sell her truck to cover the cost of her tickets and damage to the apartment building she had driven into a few weeks ago. Brandi always listens to my advice but rarely takes it.
Brandi was also upset that Raul was seeing Parole “the day after her court date.” I advised Brandi to focus on solving her problems and let Raul go. He’s married to Valerie now. We shall see how focusing on Brandi works as I worry about her and her well being.
My daughter in law calls outside of Fort Worth regarding her upcoming baby shower.
Raymon calls about Smith Unit calling Jeremy to the law library for the absentee affidavit. I’m at Smith Unit on January 17th with another client. I’d love to stack Jeremy and Raymon but without a marriage license I can’t.
My niece Leigh Ann calls about our trip to CA in a few weeks and is excited about the box Cindy and I sent to Maddy. She texts photos of Alex and Maddy. Cindy had found a little red velvet coat and dress for Maddy. We still shop for her and send care packages every week. My husband calls and asks if he should keep dinner warm. I send him a photo of the clouds as I drive down the freeway and call him to say I will be home late and eat cereal. I’ve been on the road 12 hours and have at least 2 more hours before I’m home. My days are long but I wouldn’t trade my life or the joy I share with clients for anything in the world.
As I roll into Belltower Chapel and call Taylor to check on her before I meet my next clients. She has a new tire and is headed safely home. I’m relieved. I worry about my clients.