So, from here on out I’m just going to kind of skip around for a while and write about things as they feel like good stories. I think I write better and more completely that way.
About two months after Nick and I got married, his mother and I put him on a bus in Dallas, TX, and sent him to Navy boot camp in Great Lakes near Chicago, IL. That was a rough day, followed by two months of rough days separated from the man I had chosen to venture into the vast unknown with. Let me tell you, the unknown is a lot scarier when you don’t have your closest friend there to keep you company.
It was a long two months that I spent merely waiting. I literally read a book a day, went for a six mile walk every day, and ended each day writing a letter to Nick just so I could feel close to him. He was the only recruit in his boot camp division to receive a letter every day, and he caught some flack for that, but it was worth it. We had a grand total of three phone calls and I spent the majority of my time just missing him.
As his boot camp graduation loomed closer, he wrote me (I got his letters every Wednesday) that they were giving him a day’s liberty pass for Thanksgiving. They do this adopt-a-recruit thing and if you had family or friends with family that lived within a certain radius, they were able to leave for the better part of the day to celebrate. Lucky for me, my guy had made friends with Chris Norman, and his family, along with his wife Shelly, lived nearby. Shelly and I had never met but we had been given each other’s phone numbers and we were put in contact to orchestrate a few hours alone with our guys.
We spoke on the phone twice I believe before that Thanksgiving arrived and laid out a plan for me to get to Chicago, for us to meet up, and to spend the day with our recruited sailors. This was going to include a lot of firsts for me and well, let’s just say it was an adventure.
My little blue Chevy Corsica was not in the best condition and I had already bought my first plane ticket to Chicago for the following graduation weekend, so I decided to take a Greyhound bus from Evansville, IN, to Chicago, IL on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I boarded the bus that morning excited and scared, but mostly just impatient.
I had one connection to make, so when the bus blew a tire, our schedule got thrown off quite a bit. We had to wait for over an hour before another bus made it to us. I was on my cell most of that time talking to family and hoping that by some good grace I would make my connection.
Even running an hour behind, we made the connection. Apparently they held the bus for me and one other passenger, a young guy going home to his family in Chicago. I’m sure there was a snow storm predicted. I’m sure I probably watched the weatherman warn me about the imiminent snowfall, but as that bus crept along in the snow and ice to reach Chicago, every second I was getting further and further behind schedule.
When we finally made it to our stop, it was dusk and I was on the south side of Chicago. I’m not sure how many people know this, but let’s just say that the south side of Chicago is not the best part of town. The bus let us off at some random gas station and I tried calling a cab, but started to kind of freak out as all the other bus passengers thinned out and the sun was setting and I still had to make it to some train station in downtown Chicago for the next leg of my journey. The guy that I had been on the bus with since Evansville was getting in an unmarked cab and as I watched all my options blink out one by one, I accepted his offer of a shared cab ride.
That was my first ever cab ride. It did have a meter, even if it was unmarked and I got to sit in the front, which was kind of awkward in and of itself. He dropped the other guy off first and then drove me into downtown. I’m sure he was a very nice guy, but I was still a very scared naive girl all alone and that in and of itself made the drive scary. I paid him and quickly got out at the first train station we came to.
I don’t know if this is normal for Chicago at Thanksgiving, but apparently they have different schedules for the mass transit for days, nights, and holidays, and at 7pm on the eve of Thanksgiving they were already on a holiday schedule. I watched the last train of the night leave as I ran down the stairs to it. All I could think was that this was my chance to see my husband and I was going to miss it. I had to get from downtown Chicago to Waukegan where Shelly had agreed to pick me up. I had absolutely no clue how I was going to get there.
I was starting to panic. In the middle of a series of phone calls with Shelly, my cell phone died. So now I am stuck in downtown Chicago at 8pm in the middle of a snowstorm on the day before Thanksgiving with no way of contacting anyone and no rescue plans finalized. It was a moment of sheer luck when I remembered that I had Alicia Abell’s calling card number written in a spiral notebook in my backpack. If I hadn’t had that number, I don’t know how that night would’ve ended. So she has my eternal gratitude for that.
I found a pay phone and finagled a number to reach Shelly. Keep in mind that we had spoken on the phone once, maybe twice, before and that was the extent of our contact. Shelly had just gotten her license and had never driven to Chicago before. She had never driven in a snowstorm either. But she was my second hero of the night. At somewhere around midnight her blue VW Beetle pulled to the curb at the train station downtown and along with her mother-in-law, we met for the first time.
I think its safe to say that we bonded pretty quickly. We were both thrown out of our comfort zones and into this new life as Navy wives together and I am so glad and feel very fortunate that we did. I wouldn’t have been able to see my husband that Thanksgiving if not for her, but the friendship that began on that night is more important than even that. There are so few people in our lives that we can truly count on and finding them is what life is all about.