Throughout high school my Spring Break was spent visiting family in Provo, going to General Conference in SLC, and wandering around BYU campus dreaming of my college days. In 2008, I graduated and began living the dreams I had been imagining since I was 13. Now days, thinking of my freshman year in Chipman Hall brings back a palpable nostalgia; the kind you can feel, and smell, and makes your brain feel funny because for a brief moment you're back in that time and place.
It's 2015 now. Nearly seven years since the Fall I ventured out to permanently live in Provo. Not just a week long visit, but a new life to explore and discover myself in a different setting. Flash forward and I have a nursing degree, a husband, two kids, and am on the verge of owning my first home. Those seven years are packed with countless memories and people who have touched my life. I've grown attached to the mountains and little slices of Provo that hold my dearest memories; falling in love, laughing with roommates until you can't breathe, acing a final, overcoming trials, getting engaged, becoming a mother...
Paul and I had been itching to leave Provo after we graduated, but as we had children we realized that it's probably the best place in the world to have a young family. We were surrounded by good people, family, nature, attractions, Temples, and shopping galore. As the job hunt continued we realized there weren't any viable options for us in Utah. It was saddening. My heart ached to think of leaving my sister, Ruth. Then to make things worse, Paul's parents moved to Provo too. Could it get any harder to leave?
We prayed. Both together and apart. And we both knew that moving to Grand Rapids was the right path for our family.
In preparation for our move, we spent all of our time (when we weren't packing & cleaning or working on a thesis) to say goodbye. At first the adieus felt nonchalant. I had been living there so long I couldn't seriously wrap my head around the fact that this was goodbye. My grieving process was further disrupted by the fact that I didn't have to pack all of my belongings. My surroundings weren't changing enough to help me process the fact that we were leaving.
Those last few days though... It started with saying goodbye to former roommates. First Marlee, then Ashley. And then Kaitlin Stead (Kunz). Kaitlin has been with me every step along the way. We only lived together for 1 of those 7 years, but our lives always seemed to be going in the same direction. We wed & had children on nearly the same timeline, our husbands were still going to school while we stayed home with the kids, we come from large families and can relate to one another. It felt so right when they moved into our apartment as we left.
Then came my sister. Ruth has been holding down the fort in Provo since before I started visiting for Spring Break. She has seen everyone in our family come and go. With over 10 years separating us, we finally hit a point in life where things were similar. Our kids could play together, we worked out at the gym night after night to get our pre-baby bodies back, we shared recipes, and got equally excited each time Mom announced she was going to visit. My farewell with her is when it truly, deeply sunk in. I was leaving. Tears were shed driving home from her house. (And I realize now that I hardly ever took pictures at her house. I feel like such a dummy.)
Lastly, Ron & Kathryn. Paul's parents have been so good to, and for, us. Their example helped us to loosen up and have more fun with Vincent. They introduced our boy to a whole new world of music, train rides, old phones, tree swings, buttermilk, marbles, and much more. Kate lit up each time she saw her Grandma & Grandpa (they also introduced her to the wonders of whipping cream). Our time in Provo with them will always be cherished.
We woke up bright and early to drive to the airport. The children were calm, the morning was still and I quietly cried as we drove away from what had become my home. Goodbye to Y mount, Helaman Halls, Utah Lake. I reminisced about how good Utah had been to me. Hiking at Arches National Park, camping beneath the desert stars, rafting down the Colorado river in Moab, tying the knot in the Salt Lake City Temple, working nights at the Harold B. Lee Library, building forts at the Brittany, late nights at Park Plaza, climbing up the side of a mountain because we couldn't find the trail head, zip lining in Provo Canyon, watching a Temple being built down the street, flying down water slides, watching fireworks from a rooftop. It's just all so good. Life is so good.
With six bags, two car seats and a few backpacks in tow, we hobbled our way through the terminal. We boarded a plane and flew away. To a new life. A life that doesn't start by being alone. One where I take my family with me and we grow and develop together. Because I already found myself. Provo gave that to me. Now, I help my children discover who they are and why they are so very important to me. Who knows how long we'll be in Grand Rapids, but whatever the length, we're going to make beautiful memories here too.