All of a sudden he was gone. I was so scared. I was scared that we were going to grow apart. Scared that we wouldn’t be interested in each other when he got home. And if I am honest, I was scared to death that he would come back from his mission weird. I couldn’t blame him if he did but I was horrified of that, nonetheless.The day after Steve left, my two best friends kidnapped me for a girls road trip to Southern Utah. Oddly enough, even though they kidnapped me, I drove…not sure how that works. I have the $500 speeding ticket on my record to prove it. As I saw the police lights flash behind me in my rear view mirror, I remember vividly thinking, “Well, this is a great way to start off the 2 years of missing Steve. What a sucky few days!” Even with the sight of me with my perma-swollen crying eyes, the cop didn’t care and wrote me up for speeding 13 over in a construction zone. 🤦🏻♀️
I had quit Utah State when Steve left on his mission. The thought of braving that bitter cold without him was just not happening. I convinced my best friends that we needed to move to Oahu and enroll in college. So we packed up our suits and made our way across the ocean for BYU-Hawaii, the complete opposite of snowy Logan, Utah, aka Heaven. And moving out of state was the first check on my goals bucket list. I even got straight A’s, which was not on my list, but it was a bonus anyway.
We spent our days going to class, eating junk food, hiking, sleeping on the beach, over-drafting my bank account and hitch hiking. The true crime, podcast listener now hyperventilates about the fact that we hitch hiked around the island on the daily, but we were young and dumb and having the time of our lives.
But, all good things must come to an end and our time in Hawaii was up. We were all headed our separate ways. My brother was student body president at a small college in a teeny farming town in central Utah. He convinced me that Ephraim, Utah was the next stop on my bucket list. My family jokingly referred to me as the “One semester wonder,” because I kind of just headed wherever the wind took me. I am sure Steve was so confused at my bipolar attitude towards higher education and living arrangements, but he also knew just how much wanderlust I had. I knew that if I was going to be married in a couple of years, I better hit the road and get to checking my boxes.
I moved to Ephraim, Snow College, and my roommate was a girl I had never met before. I adored her the second I met her. Her name was Aubri and she was weird, funny and addicted to sleep, just like me! She was everything I wanted in a roommate. She also had a missionary boyfriend, so a lot of our time was spent laying in our beds across the room from each other and telling stories about our long lost lovers.
The letters continued to roll in from Steve. I faithfully sent off the weekly letters and every last dollar I had would go towards sending packages to him. I remember one time Steve begged me to send him the soundtrack to Newsies, which slightly freaked me out. Maybe he was becoming the weird missionary that I was scared of. Maybe it was inevitable. But I sent it to him anyway imagining missionary Steve dancing to King of New York.
Near the end of my semester, I got a call from my oldest sister. She lived in Las Vegas and had 3 kids. Her husband had just been deployed to Iraq and her sweet 2 year old, Lincoln was newly diagnosed with Autism. She was so scared to face it all on her own. I remember without hesitation I said, “Well, why don’t I come live with you? I can help you with Lincoln and help you with your kids.” I remember the shock in her voice when she asked, “You would do that?” I had zero hold ups, I was already packing my bags to move to Vegas with my big sister.
The transition to moving in with my sister was pretty flawless. Vegas probably sounds like the perfect place for a young, unmarried girl. I actually pulled many all nighters, but not because I was out partying. Most nights one or a few of her kids would end up in my bed and I got my first real taste of motherhood exhaustion. Every day I would do ABA therapy with my nephew and every night, my sister and I would watch reality TV and get a huge 44oz Coke Slurpee. It was our ritual and I loved it. When you are a “step mom” to 3 kids, you realize it is the little things that make life so perfect! That is why I now feel so passionately about Coke Zero and the Bachelor….everything comes full circle!
When my brother in law made it back from his deployment, it just felt natural to stay on as their “nanny” and we all made the move up to Northern California together. Time was quickly drawing to a close and our letters to each other began to include much more about our future together. There was only one last goal I needed to accomplish before he came home. My heart needed to experience Europe. As an artist, it had been my dream for as long as I could remember to walk the cobblestone streets of Paris. So, with only 3 weeks to go before Steve was home, my other sister and I flew to France together.
We stayed in Paris for a few days and then road tripped our way to Germany. We toured the romantic road and still, to this day, Germany is one of my favorite places ever. It was beautiful. The week was over and just like that, I was checking my last box on my bucket list. I had accomplished every last goal. Now all that was left was Steve.
I remember the day so vividly. I was at the airport with Steve’s family keeping my eyes wide for the first sighting of that dorky missionary across security….and then, I spotted him, but he wasn’t dorky at all. He was my Steve. The same Steve that made me laugh and flirted with me. He made it to baggage check and we embraced each other. It was perfect. I know it doesn’t make sense, we were both young 21 year olds but we were still crazy in love. I made it into his arms and I was finally home. Wanderlust had led me back to him.
Here is the thing, I could just wrap this up with a bow and say, “and they lived happily ever after.” I mean, we eventually did….spoiler alert, we get married! But, it was a little bit of a roller coaster to get there.
Links to past stories of us: