Pinning, Peace Corps and My Ticket Out

I recently reunited by phone with Mrs. H., one of my Practical Nursing instructors. Now in her 90s and sharp as a tack, her speech was a bit slurred from a head injury she had sustained in an earlier fall. Nonetheless, she remembered me and all the details including that I had been elected president and graduated at the top of my class. The charter course of Practical Nurses training was only nine-months long, but packed with knowledge and skills taught by the three best RNs that our small community of Kanton had to offer. She told me they developed a particularly challenging course because they wanted us to be prepared. When Mrs. H. secured my practical nursing pin to my collar, at age nineteen it was a graduation day I will never forget.

I had decided in my teens that I did not want to become a farmer’s wife. Not only did nursing provide me with other opportunities, but another door opened to the world outside our remote Nebraska farming community when a commercial flashed across our TV screen. “The toughest job you’ll ever love. Join the Peace Corps.” I now had a plan. I was going to Africa. I had my ticket out.

Excerpt from Part I, Chapter, My Ticket Out.

A bigger question remained. Why, exactly, did I want to go to Africa? The best short answer I gave was, ‘Because I’ve never seen it before.’ These were Dad’s exact words when he took our family to explore eight western states five years earlier. Perhaps, with that response, he could understand my reason.

Many people thought I was crazy. Maybe I was. That pink flamingo print planted the seed of wonder, the image of the black boy in Omaha gave me a purpose, and the TV in the corner of our living room gave me Popeye, the Road Runner, and Tarzan as my mentors. That Peace Corps commercial gave me my ticket out. My eyes were now open to the world outside our small farm.”

From Chapter, My Ticket Out, just as I’m boarding the plane to Africa.

I wore my handmade navy-blue polyester bell-bottom jumper with daisy rickrack on the hem. To straighten my wavy hair, I slept with my orange juice can rollers all night and teased it the following morning to create the perfect flip. Eyeliner and perfectly arched eyebrows accentuated my eyes. Clip-on earrings accompanied my fashionable pumps to complete my ensemble. I’d be one of the coolest girls in the Peace Corps training. I turned to wave to Mom from the flight stairs as the lyrics to the Peter, Paul, and Mary song, ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane,’ rang loudly in my head. Yes, I was leaving on a jet plane and I didn’t know when Iʼd be back again. A brand-new life outside our remote farm beckoned…and I was going to find it.

More blogs to follow regarding inside stories and photos about my memoir. You can purchase an autographed copy of In Search of Pink Flamingos via my website under BOOK. Sign up on my mailing list on the bottom of that tab to not miss any of my blogs.

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