my mom is the best…..
October 31st could have been one of my most favorite days of the year as a kid. By the first of October my friend Lora who lived a few houses from me and I would begin planning our costumes. We generally would dress in the same theme. I remember some of our costumes being witches, old ladies, and hobos. My favorite by far was the Hobo. As a matter of fact I think I was a Hobo on more than one Halloween. We didn’t have giant Halloween stores to purchase our customs so we had to make them ourselves out of clothes that we already had. Growing up in a small town that had a highway running through the middle of town we were only able to go Trick or Treating on our side of town. Unfortunately for us we lived on the smaller side of town. But we were not going to let that stop us from gathering all the candy humanly possible that night. Now Lora and I were very astute and we would have a plan as to how to hit EVERY house on our side of town. I can remember days before the 31st we would take off on our bikes to try out our new path. You see we only had a few hours in which to do this as we had a curfew. In this plan was a time where we would work our way back to one of our houses just to drop off a very heavy bag of candy. We didn’t want to take any chances of being so weighted down that we couldn’t move efficiently. There was also the possibility of a bag tearing and spilling out all of our hard work. This happened one year to me, I remember that it was cold and wet that night and my paper bag could not bare the weight of all my candy. As we where running to our next house on our path my candy spilled out onto the sidewalk! Luckily we were a team Lora and I, as I stood guard of my hard work splattered on a wet sidewalk Lora ran to the last house we were at and was able to talk them into giving us another paper bag. A very grateful me scooped up all the candy into the new bag. Now onto our route as time was ticking off our clock. I don’t know if we ever made it to every house on our side of town but I do know that there wasn’t another duo more determined to make it happen. At the end of our route we head to our separate homes to discover what treasures we were given by our neighbors and our neighbors neighbors.
Summer days were hot in Kansas but oh those summer nights….
Living on Mechanic Street in Towanda, Kansas was a great place for summer camp outs. Some of my favorite memories were made in the back yard of Lora Gurney. Lora lived two houses down from me with her two older siblings Linda and Larry. Lora’s house was such fun for me, there always seem to have a litter of kittens being born, had copper cups that made the water I drank so cold and have such a great taste. Oh, and the best thing for me was when Lora’s camper refrigerator was full of hot dogs from Oklahoma. What made the Oklahoma hots dogs so tasty? I really don’t know but they were red and chilled just perfectly for a tasty snack under the stars on a warm summer evening.
Our camp outs consisted of flashlights, lawn chaise lounges, pillows and sleeping bags. An occasional bag of chips and maybe a few Ding Dongs or Twinkies would make its way to our camp out courtesy of my dad, thanks dad. Lora and I would set up our lounge chairs side by side in her backyard facing away from her house looking out towards the edge of town where light was scarce and you could see the stars sparkling in the dark sky. We would begin our night talking in a rapid speed about everything and anything that came to mind. As an adult I think back about those conversations I realize laying under the darkness of the sky with the stars dancing in front of us gave both of us a sense of security. Security of the physical kind knowing that God had a perfect view of us with just the stars above us, and that we were under his protection. But more profoundly we shared the security of conversation. Knowing that what we talked about would be accepted by the other with each giving comfort to the hard things we feared or mourned. Caring advice as to how to handle certain situations that preteens go through in life. Dreaming about our future careers, children and spouses, what would it look like to be an adult? We also did a lot of laughing. Oh my I can still feel the pain in my belly from laughing with Lora. Those nights are filled with what true friendship looks like to me.
As the night became late we would drift to sleep with the satisfaction of great conversation with a trusted friend. Around 4 a.m. I would wake up with the cool of dew beginning to fall on any of my exposed skin and I would slide my body parts into the sleeping bag, by 6 a.m. the sun would begin to show its light and cars begin to head to work so I would slide as deep as I could into the sleeping bag and still leave a little crack to breath in fresh air. Soon to wake up with Lora smiling at me with muffy hair and me reflecting that smile back with hair all tied in knots stretching and reminiscing of the previous nights events. “Did we really eat 8 hot dogs a piece?”
Folding up our bedding and lounge chairs we both would head to our own houses for breakfast. My mom would ask, how was your night? I would tell her it was fun and then begin to share with her some of the jokes I learned that night before and talk about the dew that woke me so early in the morning. All was good as it should be after a night with a friend such as Lora.
Who am I? Good question ! Let me answer this from the different stages of my life. Starting at age 5.
I am a girl with dreams literally I would dream of my future husband and life as an adult. I had an imagination, a need to be independent, loved and happy. At age 10 I would have said that I was funny and had lots of friends. I had a great sense of imitation, I could imitate just about every teacher in our school. Picking up on those little movements, sounds and the personality of the teachers whom I saw on a daily basis was so easy for me. Still wanting to be independent but scared a bit of what that would really look like. Knowing that I was struggling in school I did not want to disappoint my parents and teachers. I was the first to make friends with the new students and would stand for those being bullied.
The 15 year old me… I am finding my way in a “large” school. Following my older brother who was so talented in music and stage…” no I can not sing like my brother” was a common answer I would give to every teacher and older student that heard my last name. Determination to make my own path to independence. I loved hanging out with friends at school. I was an advocate for those struggling in life. I could play the clarinet, but I didn’t know how to read music…. yes you read that right, I never learned how to read music but I could play the clarinet and my senior year I picked up the Alto Saxophone for our Jazz band. How did I learn enough to stay in the 1st/2nd chair? I would play quietly through the music in band, picking up on notes that were familiar to me I could then piece together the music correctly.
The 20 year old me… In college and hoping to find that special person who the 5 year old me dreamed about. Unsure of her future. Sensing that God had something so very special for me I could not wait for life to happen. 30 year old me, a mother of 2 and wife of the husband I had dreamed about when I was little. Independent, fun, caring, still believing in the importance of accepting others where they are in life. 40 year old me. I am a successful student, leader of the Kansas State Secondary Counselors, mentor to new school counselors, helper of students who are struggling and mentor to those who are ready to fly off to college. The 50 year old me, educated, leader, confident, a great friend, loves to explore, golfer, traveler. I became a grandmother and love every second of it, still a mother and wife and luckily a daughter to both of my parents.
Not 60 yet, but looking back at my thoughts of who I am at different ages I see that there is a theme of loving my family and independence, married the man of my dreams, I am a good friend and accept others no matter where they come from.
This is something that use to embarrass me whenever the topic would come up. As I have aged I have found that my struggles in school have made me strong and that I should be proud of what I have accomplished, pushed through and Conquered! Siri tells me that the meaning of the word conquered is as follows: It is a Verb Meaning to overcome and take control of (a place or people) by use of military force. To successfully overcome (a problem or weakness). To climb (a mountain) successfully. Or to Gain the love, admiration or respect of (a person or group of people). Let me tell you that all of these examples of the meaning for Conquered are correct when it comes to my School Struggles.
1. To overcome and take control of (a place or people) by use of military force. I was born on May 22, 1961. I entered kindergarten as a very young five year old and ended my school year as an older five year old. Starting the first grade was exciting for me, I was going to get to go to school, have three recess periods, eat lunch at school and have NO NAP Time!! Yipee! I felt as though I was being set free into the world of independence! First semester went well but by the time second semester rolled around I become ill contracting several different illness’ that I was out of school for what seemed a life time but in actuality it was several months. This army of illness included tonsillitis, German measles, mumps and tonsillitis again. Mom and doctor were discussing taking my tonsils out. The decision was made to wait on the surgery so my immune system had time to build up an army of its own. I remember during my time at home that my teacher Mrs. Jan Hall would stop by my house twice a week and bring me homework. She would talk through the teachings the best she could sitting at the end of the sofa bed that mom had pulled out for me to rest on. When I returned to school it was late April early May and it was a tough adjustment for me. Sitting in a classroom with kids who obviously had advanced way past my knowledge I was feeling so behind and scared. Passing me to second grade that year was a very tough decision that my parents had to make. Take me away from my friends whom I had such strong bonds with and hope that I would catch up or hold me back to do first grade again. I can’t tell you what the right answer should have been I can only tell you that from that point on I knew that I was behind everyone else in my classroom and the only way out for me at that time was to kick in my social game. Those who know me knew that I had a killer social game, I would even venture to say that I believed that I was the best in my grade maybe even the whole school. But social game only gets you invited to birthday parties and sleep overs. Social game does not put you at the top of the Spelling Bee, Math competitions and reading circles. In order to succeed educationally I needed to kick in my army of learning. This did not happen for me until many years later.
2. Siri definition of Conquer: To successfully overcome (a problem or weakness) It wasn’t until I married John, unknowingly the four star general to my army, he trained me in the fine art of study, test taking and learning that I was able to complete college. This was not an easy task for me as I had done so much damage to my GPA during my first years of school that I needed to bend a knee and retake classes that I had done poorly in. Getting my degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Special Education was the largest battle I had and because of my General John and God I was able to come out of that battle a winner!
3. Siri Definition of conquer: To climb (a mountain) successfully. The battle to gain my Bachelors degree was just the bottom of that Mountain that I needed to climb. Gaining admittance to Grad School and being accepted into the School of Educational Guidance and Counseling at Kansas State University Was the climb. With the battle of my bachelors behind me I was ready for the climb. Using the tools John so graciously gave me had given me the confidence in this climb. When I finished all of the classes in the grad program I had to take a comprehensive test of all areas that I was taught. I took the test, and met with my academic adviser to hear the results. In all areas I was tested in I finished in the top third in my class, and in one area I was the top score! Wow, Mountain climbed and conquered in a way that left few battle scares. This brings me to the last part of the definition.
4. Siri definition of Conquer: To Gain the love, admiration or respect of (a person or group of people). Because of my early years of educational struggles I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself. I would see our friends wives becoming successful Doctors, CPA’s and Pharmaceutical reps, which reflected back to me in the form of all my failures and under achievement in school. But it put a fight in me to build my army, fight my battles and to climb that mountain. The end result was that I gained the love admiration and respect of ME. Who was the biggest obstacle in my educational journey. The confidence gained of one’s self is the biggest battle won in the game of life. Don’t let your own self stand in the way of your dreams.
Wedding Day July 16, 1983. The day started like any other except is was raining which was very unusual for a hot July day in Kansas and I was as nervous as a cat. Half excitement to be marrying my best friend, a person whom I could be just me with, half nervous to be standing in front of everyone. You see even though I was a cheerleader and class President I absolutely hated being the center of attention. (I loved being in charge, and still do 😉) Luckily I will be marrying a man who loves the spot light who is willing to stand in it until I become comfortable. I asked Ronda Tole to ride to the church with me. We stopped through the drive through at McDonald’s in El Dorado for lunch as the wedding was early afternoon. We arrived at the church the same time as the florist and I could smell the aroma of the yellow roses that would be in every bouquet and flower arrangement. Heading downstairs to begin bridal prep my mom arrived all excited and ready for the day. I turned the electric rollers on and unpacked my wedding dress, shoes, undergarments and make up. As I began to curl my hair I could hear that other wedding participants were beginning to arrive, listening carefully to hear John’s laugh in hopes that he too was in and not going to leave me at the alter.
Wedding complete , cake and punch were served and final photos were taken. As John and I ran to his car our friends and family cheered and threw bird seed at us, wishing us luck and good fortune. Sitting in the passenger seat with a large smile and a grateful heart John and I headed to my childhood home in Towanda to change for our honeymoon.
Now change to my mom Pat, as John and I were headed to Towanda Mom was beginning to clean up the church when it struck her that she had locked the front door of our house. Now this was something that I don’t know ever happened in the 20 some years of living with her. Our home was only locked at night when we were all in bed fast asleep. I never had a key and didn’t know if one ever even existed. Well, mom had read somewhere that burglars read the Obituaries and Wedding announcements making note on their burglar calendars of the days and address’ where homes would sure to be vacant. Who knew? My mom did and she was no ones fool, not even a burglar’s. So before she left for the church she locked the house up tight. Now cleaning up and thinking of John and I heading to the house to go on our honeymoon she remembers her safety precautions and jumps into the air as she shouts to my father, “get the car keys and meet her at the car! I forgot to give Jayme the keys to the house!”
Back to John and I heading to the house to change and begin our life together. We were so excited and planned to run into the house change quickly and leave before anyone gets home. We were ready for our trip and were done chit chatting with others. We pull into the drive way, John opens my car door still wearing his Silver Tailed Tuxedo to help me out as I was wearing my wedding dress vale and all. As John opened the screen door I reached for the front door, turning the knob, well, it didn’t turn, trying again wondering “Huh” John tries to open the door and exclaims “its locked!” Me, “What? Mom NEVER locks the door.” Thinking how are we going to make our great escape to our honeymoon if we can’t get inside to gather my suitcase and change my clothes? We stepped down off of the porch John went around the house to see if the sliding door was unlocked. No such luck it was locked tighter than a tank. That is when I looked up at the window to the kitchen which was in the front of the house, I noticed that mom forgot to lock the window. “John if you could lift me up I can take the screen off the window and slide into the kitchen.” Now the Window was a good six, seven foot off the ground so in order to accomplish this he had to lift me up over his head. Lifting me in my dress was another issue as it was full and had many layers, just trying to find me in it was a challenge. John bends down and lifts me up, not able to see anything except my many layers of dress in his face, I direct him and take the screen off. Lowering me to the ground I notice that the same car that drove by as he was going to lift me drive by again very slowly looking at us as we were standing out front of the house. Now holding the screen to the kitchen window I smile as they drive past. I then looked and John and said, “lift me up, I can fit through that window and on the other side is the kitchen table I will slide right on top of it.” As John lifts me up I am halfway into the window with John’s hand on my back end pushing me through I can hear a car pulling into the driveway, not able to see who it was as I was looking at the kitchen table at this time. I hear my dad shout “Oh no, you married her, you are keeping her!” At that time I slipped through the window landing half on the table and half on the dinning seat. When I am able to look up there stands Mom, Dad and John in the kitchen looking at me. Laughing hysterically we realize that we are not going to make our quick “get away” but we just made a wonderful memory.
Comment below is from John:
Our Wedding Day Break-In
As we pulled up to the house, the objective was a quick getaway. A quick change of clothes, grab a bag, head to the car wash, and off to start our life together.
I’m guessing I was being the gentleman and opening the door first. A locked front door is not an unknown event, but by Jayme’s reaction, I could tell this was not normal on Mechanic Street in Towanda, and quickly learned that not only did she not have one, she couldn’t remember ever seeing a house key.
In 104 degree heat and wearing a tux, I head back to the back door. No luck. Jayme’s idea to try the window above the dining table seemed logical. (I would have said it was the window over the sink, but she had the better view, so I’ll trust her memory.)
Now I just have to prove how big a man I am and gracefully lift my petite wife, in her wedding dress, over my head. She quickly opens the window and slides in. I have none of the memories of cars driving by or even her folks pulling up. I was covered in taffeta and focused on the task at hand.
Her dad’s “Oh no you don’t, you married her, you have to keep her” comment is priceless and lives on. It illustrated one of the things I love about Jayme’s family – a really quick wit. It ranks up there with some of his classics.
The day was terrific – my family, JJ’s family, college friends, high school friends, Mark Gillihan my best man – my best friend from our pre-K years when he moved, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. A beautiful bride, a great day, a great start to a great marriage.
My earliest memory of bike riding as a child begins with me on the back of my dad’s bike sitting just above the back tire on a block of foam taped to the book carrier with my legs dangling in home made metal baskets. Our family would go on evening bike rides with other families in our neighborhood, specifically the McNowns and Farners. We would ride all over the tiny town of Towanda Kansas. I remember holding on to the back of my dad, whom I thought was the strongest and most kind man ever. Hearing his fun banter with the group and knowing he had a smile on his face just like me. Dad would peak back at me from time to time and say “How you doing squirt?” My pony tails flying behind me at the rate of the speed of his pedaling I would shoot back to him an enthusiastic “Good!”. I was experiencing a perfect place and time of my childhood and the young me seemed to know it. I was in for an adventure, I wasn’t alone on this trip but with some of my favorite people in the small world in which I knew.
The bikes rides always ended at our house, with all the adults chattering and the kids running in the side yard, catching lightening bugs, making bracelets and rings with them (I know bug cruelty but I felt like a princess in the night all lit up and beautiful.) An exciting game of kick the can would always happen. I being one of the smallest would participate and the older kids would be gentle with me. They would let me hid with them even though my lightening bug jewelry might give us away. I remember running as fast as I could to jump over that can before my name was called.
As I sit here and write this I can see, hear and smell those days. Always in my mind and heart