Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tonganoxie...This is My Town! A Confession.

This is an old photo of "the main drag" in Tonganoxie, KS. Even with the improvements of a concrete road, sidewalks, and flowering trees...it still looks very similar today.

I have a confession to make. I never wanted to be a part of this community. I never intended to get married. And if I did, it would be to some white-collar type, living in the same super-sized city that I was definitely going to be living my career-girl adult life in. I grew up in a town of roughly 100,000 people and what I knew was that that was way too "small town" for me. I was getting out of there and moving somewhere "real" as soon as possible. I never expected to fall in love with a farm boy, let alone move to a tiny place with an almost unpronounceable name. But that's exactly what happened. As many of us have learned, life is seldom what we expect.

After my husband and I had our children came the decision of where they would attend school. At the time, we were living in the Lawrence school district and I was more than happy that my children wouldn't grow up in "tiny town." I was sure they would miss out on so much if they would be forced to attend school in Tongie. My husband didn't share my views, and he was unyielding on the matter. He graduated from Tonganoxie High and he was adamant that his children would do the same. He didn't want his children to be "just another number" in a larger school district. After many long "discussions," he eventually succumbed to my wishes and said he would support whatever decision I made. In an attempt to appear as if I was flexible, I said that our kids could at least start school in Tongie. I knew at some point in the near future, he would see reason and we would move our kids to their rightful school district, and I would get to say: "I told you so."

Our kids started school in Tongie and when we decided that we were outgrowing our old house, we moved down the road and (inadvertently) into the Tonganoxie school district. At that point, I decided that if I really was stuck in this small town, I might as well make the most of it. I signed up as a "room mom" and went on every class trip and helped plan every class party for my children and their classmates. I would immerse myself in as many things as possible, so that if I noticed any detrimental affects that my children were suffering from being exposed to small town America, I would have the ammunition I needed to yank them from the Tongie school district and send them to Lawrence. I would dutifully make this sacrifice for my children.

It wasn't long before I realized that this little community wasn't really all that bad. I took a good look around, and I realized that my children had some really amazing teachers.  In the classroom, I got to know lots of really great kids. I was more than a little humbled by the things I saw around me. Over the years, I've come more and more to love the people here, and I love the community itself. Last year, "Team Tongie" was formed; an organization of students and patrons that raise money to help classmates and their families that are suffering from "hard times," and it hit me as hard as an unforeseen slap across the face...how I almost took this community away from my children; how they almost didn't get the chance to see what it was like... living in a tight-knit community that took care of it's own; how I almost made them miss out on so much; how I almost missed out on so much.

With the knowledge that comes from a few years of experience, I can say today that I feel I am truly blessed to be a part of this community. Just the other day, at the early graduation ceremony of a classmate suffering from the late stages of bone cancer, I looked out over a crowd of young faces assembled at the high school; the auditorium so full that kids were actually sitting in the aisles, and I saw a community of kids that truly and deeply care about one another. I saw so many adults that support and love these children. I saw kids that have learned (maybe the hard way and way too young) what is important. I saw kids that bolster one another through the tough times. I saw kids that aren't afraid or embarrassed to show their classmates that they're hurting, because they know that they will be understood and supported. And one thing I know for sure is that I am as proud of these kids as if they were my own. So very, very proud. And in my stubborn ignorance, I almost missed it.

As a new school board member, I had the great honor of Connor Olson being the first student of Tonganoxie High School that I got to watch come across the stage and graduate. That is something truly special that I'll keep with me forever.
Many prayers going up for this family.

4 comments:

  1. You are such a gifted writer. Yes, we truly are blessed to be part of such a giving, caring community.

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  2. I'm really curious how a big city girl met a cute farm boy, even though you went to rival Kansas colleges. Do you tell that story somewhere on your blog?

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  3. soonerfangirl, That is a long story, indeed. One that is not written down anywhere. To make the long story much shorter, I'll just summarize that at the time, I worked as a florist for the brother of a groom who married my hubby's sister and I got stuck making the flowers for the wedding. lol! Maybe I'll write down the long version some day!

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