Although I was discouraged from doing so, I decided to tour Italy with my mom and her twin sister before returning home. I was told that I'd regret it, that I wouldn't enjoy it as much since I was still a missionary and wouldn't be able to have as much fun, and that I'd wish it was over so I could go home and get released.
None of that was true. I loved it! I wish I could relive it sometimes. It was really fun. In fact, it was better than when I went back alone 8 months later.
During my final interview with president, I asked him about mission rules while I was touring, and he was very lenient. He said he'd understand if I went to bed later than 10:30pm or was unable to follow other missionary rules. He just told me to make sure to wear mission clothing, always wear my missionary tag, and make sure to act like a representative of the Lord at all times. I was delighted, and I celebrated my new freedom by sleeping in the next day.
The next day I met mom and Kathy at the subway station after being worried sick about them all alone in a country where they didn't speak the language. I was afraid they were going to be robbed and then have no way to find me and so on...but they made it in alright without being robbed and it was pouring like crazy. So instead of staying in Milan we took off for Torino.
At Torino we met Elena at the train station. It was so great to see her again. we took her out to lunch for some of the best pasta in the world. Then we picked up Gaia at the day care and we spent the night at their house. I called the family and we just talked and talked all night. Then mom and Kathy talked to Elena all night while I played with Gaia. I've never seen Elena happier. She loved mom and Kathy. They showed her love and empathized with her on the difficulties of raising a child, and they encouraged her to keep doing what she was doing and not worry about if she's a good mother or not.
The next day we went down into downtown Torino. We had lunch and Elena and I showed mom and Kathy the sites. They oohed and awwed at everything and I sat there content in realizing I've had a year and a half to enjoy all these beauties. After we came home and had dinner with Elena and we stayed up talking again.
The next day we went to church in good old Collegno. I was happy to see the beautiful chapel that they have now. That night we took off for Genova and I got to give Elena a real goodbye this time since I'd just been able to tell her goodbye by phone the last time I'd left Collegno.