This is part ten of the Homey and Me Love Story. It is when I was going to college and was married to Rusty – long before I met Homey, but an important part of the story, nonetheless.
Rusty and I were married. I was now going by a new name, living in a new state, with a new person. I had a new family, and new expectations. It was overwhelming.
The first few months were fun. It was summer. We went to Pennsylvania – where I had a reception with my friends and family. Then we went to the shore, Philadelphia, and other favorite east-coast places. I loved being able to share this with Rusty.
After visiting PA, we went back to Utah, and started our new life together in a small basement apartment in Ogden.
I wasn’t a great housewife. I had a lot to learn.
All day long, I’d read. Rusty worked from 7am to 3pm. At 2PM, I’d go to work. Then I’d come home around eight, we’d eat dinner, and Rusty would watch TV while I read some more. On weekends, we’d clean together, while I sang, “I hate cleaning, I hate cleaning, I hate cleaning, I hate cleaning…” (to the same tune as the Meow Mix song…Meow meow meow meow…You know). I sang so loudly that our upstairs neighbors could hear me. They casually mentioned the song one day. I didn’t care, and stood by my declaration: I hate cleaning.
Summer turned to autumn, and I began school again. Rusty chose to put school off for a semester or two. I was determined to finish college as soon as possible, so I didn’t want to procrastinate it a single day. Plus, I had gotten a job with an airline company – that had an office on campus. In order to be qualified to work there, though, I had to be a full-time student. I felt this job was an answer to my prayers: a benefit of this job was free airfare. I’d be able to go to PA and Boston and see my family. So, I stayed in school and worked.
After beginning my second year of school, I fell in love wit it. I wasn’t living in the dorms, so I no longer had the pressure to be social twenty-four hours a day. Because I was married, I didn’t feel like I needed to go to parties or do the things that single people normally do. Instead of worrying about social activities, I poured myself into school. Between work and school, I spent most of my time on campus.
Another factor that contributed to falling in love with school was that I felt surrounded by like-minded people. I had trouble getting used to the Utah culture. I didn’t hate it at first, I just wasn’t used to it. Some people had a hard time accepting that I wasn’t absolutely in love with the place. As fall approached, I felt an especially strong yearning to be back in Pennsylvania. I missed the trees. Fall was so incredible in the east. I remember a conversation with my mother-in-law.
“So. How is it going?”
“How is your family doing back east?”
“They are doing well. My brothers and sisters are back in school.”
“How do you think that you are beginning to feel about Utah?”
“I like it so far. I’m still getting used to everything.”
“Do you miss Pennsylvania?”
“Yes. Very much. I really miss it this time of year – the trees are changing colors right about now, and it is always so amazing. I have never lived in the desert before. I just miss some of the things back home.”
“Well, you know, you could go to the mountains. We have a beautiful fall here, too. As good as Pennsylvania, I’m sure.”
I hated conversations like that! I felt like I was tricked. I would get frustrated, wondering why I would be asked questions if I was then going to be told I was wrong. I was especially upset because often, the people who were telling me that Utah was better than PA were people who had never been out of the state. I tried explaining:
“You’re right. The mountains are beautiful, but they aren’t the same.”
“Well, they both have trees changing color. It is really dramatic.”
Then I replied, “You know how you laugh when people from the east talk about the ‘mountains’ in reference to the Appalachian mountains – and you think those aren’t mountains…if they think that’s a mountain, they should see the mountains in Utah…”
“Yeah. Those aren’t mountains.”
“Well, that’s kind of how I feel about the trees. When I say I miss Pennsylvania, I’m not saying that I miss the mountains. I love the mountains, and they’re here. I miss the trees. I miss going into Philly. I miss eating a good slice of pizza, -”
She cut me off, “Ligori’s has good pizza-”
I cut her back off, “Ligori’s does not have good pizza.” I continued, “When you ask me if I miss Pennsylvania, and I say, yes, that’s what I mean. And Utah doesn’t compare. I’m sure that if I ever move away from Utah, I’ll miss it, too, and it won’t compare to where I live next either. That’s just how it is. I have nothing against Utah. I’m not expecting it to be another place. But that doesn’t stop me from missing my home.”
“Well, you did choose to move here.”
AHHH! Of course I did! I couldn’t explain myself, and I didn’t know why I should even try. Yet, I was never capable of making the agreeable-small talk that seemed to dominate the lives of the family I had married into. In fact, the more I was required to engage in it, the more I seemed to detest it. Many of the people who were now my closest circle of friends and family were people that I could not seem to relate to in any way. They didn’t understand why I went to college. They didn’t seem to understand why I liked reading so much. They didn’t understand why I was interested in living in a basement apartment while I went to school rather than “move up” in life into a house, give up school, and get a job. I couldn’t get used to these expectations that were as foreign to me as the landscape. Worst of all, not even Rusty seemed to be able to understand. I felt so isolated.
But I did have a haven, a sanctuary: school.
By now, I was beginning to seriously consider majoring in English. I took a few classes that were required for most of the upper-divisional courses. One class, in particular, made an impact on me: College Writing. My professor was amazing. He was intense and smart. I looked up to him so much that I became embarrassed. But still, the class was a saving grace for me. I felt like I found my passion.
Not only was the new Utah-culture shock difficult, but almost instantly, Rusty and I seemed to be growing apart. He worked all day while I was at school. Then I worked after my classes – in the afternoons until evening. We’d finally see each other around 6P or 8PM – depending on the night. It was difficult, but whose marriage, when you are 19 and in school still, isn’t? We had responsibilities now. We couldn’t just hang out all night in the dorms, watching movies and falling asleep next to one another. We needed to pay the bills. I found it amazing how unromantic married life could be.
Yet, we found snatches of time – to wrestle, have fun, and play. While this was good, I found that as school progressed, we had a hard time relating. At the end of a long day, I would talk to him about a book I was reading, and he would gently nod off to sleep as I’d conjecture about a theme or character. I would get frustrated, but would just put my nose back in my book to help ignore my feeling of being ignored. After only six months of marriage, I missed Rusty. I felt so distant. I have to admit that part of it was me. I didn’t talk to him much about classes while we were dating. I was changing. But I was concerned that because I was changing, we were changing that we were growing apart. We’d talk about this, and come to the conclusion that in the future, when we were out of school and more settled, things would get better. We just had to work hard through this time in our marriage.
I have never been afraid of working hard. So I did.
That semester, I did well in school. All A’s. Dean’s list. My College writing professor had written “Brilliant” on a paper I wrote. My Critical Approaches to literature Professor asked me why I hadn’t yet declared English as a major. Even when I was feeling insecure in my marriage and in Utah life, I felt overwhelmingly satisfied with my life at school.
In addition to school, I took a heavy load of institute* classes. Never less than four classes a semester. I found learning to be an addiction. It seemed like I couldn’t read enough, study enough, learn enough. I wanted to soak it all in. I was high on education, and dreamed about being involved in academia forever.
This rush I got from school would, for the most part, make up for the distance I felt from Rusty. In some ways it was alarming. In other ways, I figured that it was just something that happens to any newly-married couple. Rusty didn’t seem alarmed. He felt comfortable and happy. Rusty’s general feeling of comfort in our marriage eased my fears. And for the most part, I could ignore my doubts.
However, one day, I had an especially hard time, not thinking about everything in my life, marriage, and the dissatisfaction that was seeming to crop up. I went to the mailbox that day, just like any other day, and I found a letter addressed to me. I was excited to see the envelope. Elated.
It was a letter from Snoopy. He had promised me (and I had promised him) that we’d write while on his mission. I read that letter. Over and over again. He loved his mission. He loved the people. I loved reading his note. But my elation turned into the most stinging guilt I’ve ever felt. He asked me questions about my life and wanted to know how school was going. I knew, too, that if I’d answer him, he’d listen to me. I didn’t write Snoopy back. I couldn’t. I knew he’d write me back. And most of me wanted that – an exchange between two people who care for each other. But, I was married, and I couldn’t stand the thought of having another letter from him. Or another one after that. I was frustrated yet determined to keep my relationship with Rusty intact. Instead of writing back Snoopy, I’d work harder to open a better dialogue between me and Rusty. I wanted us to share more, be more intimate, I wanted our relationship to mean more. I couldn’t write Snoopy back. If I got another letter from him, I didn’t know if I’d be able to stay loyal to Rusty – at least not emotionally.
I tucked the letter into a box in my closet, and tried to forget about it.
*Institute is a religious learning center for Mormon Students. It is usually a series of classes that are taught either in church buildings or institute buildings (which look like small campuses). You can take any series of classes -on the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, teachings of the prophets. It is primarily designed to help a young adult couple their secular learning with spiritual learning.