Oh, what a night it was…

I was asked to speak at Founders’ Day for the AOII Chapter at Jacksonville State University Chapter. I wasn’t their first choice. The past international president who had installed the chapter twenty-five years ago and the chapter’s first president were slated to speak. As these are two of my favorite ladies, I made reservations to attend. Then I got a call telling me the chapter’s first president wasn’t going to be able to come (from Michigan) due to the death of a close friend. They asked if I could fill in her spot on the program to talk about the chapter’s early history. Of course, I said, “yes.” I jokingly asked how long they wanted me to talk because I could talk off the top of my head about this subject for two minutes or two hours. I was told to aim for somewhere in between — like twenty minutes.

I started looking for my “colonization” box, but after six moves in twenty years, I couldn’t find it. I know I have it, but it’s hiding from me. I was going to have to go entirely off my memory. As I reviewed the events leading up to the colonization and the colonization period itself in my head, there were some gaps. So I picked up the phone, and called some of the members I’ve stayed in touch with. I asked some specific questions and guess what…they couldn’t remember either! Well, that made me feel better. As I continued to ponder this period, some of the events came to me (some didn’t), but I felt I’d recalled enough information to be an entertaining speaker.

Then…the past international president had to cancel due to a family emergency. The chapter member organizing Founders’ Day called to tell me. I asked if she was replacing her with another keynote speaker and she said they thought I could just do that too. Well, although I could, it’d kind-of sort-of reshape what I’d planned to say. No problem, if anything, I’m flexible.

The week prior to the banquet, I was ice/snow bound beginning on Monday. On Wednesday and Thursday nights we had subzero temperatures. I’d planned to go to Jacksonville (AL) on Friday, but by the time my husband slid home from work it was snowing and sleeting again. It was supposed to warm up overnight and change to rain, but there was a LOT of ice on the roads, and I was doubting our chances on getting out. When we went to bed Friday night, the windows were frozen. Saturday morning, the sleet had changed to rain and the temps were above freezing…slightly. There was still a lot of snow and ice on the ground, but if we could just get to the interstate, we’d be heading south…

I breathed a sigh of relief. I really didn’t want to make the call to the Chair of the event. She’d already had two speakers cancel. Plus she’d gotten food poisoning earlier in the week. Knowing we might not make it, I’d made a couple of contingency plans, but I really wanted to go.

Before we moved, we were only a few miles from the miles from the interstate. Now, we’re in the country with lots of country roads and no snow removal equipment. But Hubby is a great driver, has a level head, and if he felt we’d be safe (which he did) I was comfortable venturing out. We waited until about 10 a.m. to start the four hour trip to let the ground thaw a little more yet give us plenty of time to arrive and settle in before the 6 p.m. banquet.

When we got to the hotel, Hubby headed to the gym and I went to our room. I sent a text to the student in charge of the banquet to let her know we’d arrived. She asked if she could stop by the hotel and soon arrived with a massive gift basket with snacks, bottled water, hot chocolate, a gift card, journal, pens, and other goodies. It was like Christmas going through it. While she and I visited, the phone rang and seven of “my girls” (now in their mid-forties) said they’d popped open a bottle of champagne. I gave them my room number and invited them to move the party to my room. When Hubby returned from the gym, he found it filled with giggling “girls” reliving their college days. He hit the shower. When they were still there when he got out of the shower, he sweetly suggested WE might want to get ready for the banquet too.

We drove to the University and toured the new hall where the girls have suites. Four girls share a four bedroom, two bath suite with a sitting area and small kitchen. It was much different from twenty-five years ago. The banquet was actually going to be in the same building on a different floor, which made it easy to get there.

The room was beautifully decorated with wheat centerpieces. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of one. As a souvenir, they had a rose tree seed in a burlap pouch–very creative. The food was good, and the program was well-planned and executed perfectly. About two dozen of the founding and early chapter members were there…plus about two hundred other members of the sorority, parents, and guests. I got to visit with folks I haven’t seen in years and had a delightful time.

It’d been a while since I’d spoken at a banquet. This time, I decided to speak from the heart, without notes…which means I have no idea what I said. It went over well, but me, ever the critic, failed to tell them one thing I’d planned to include. Because I was talking about the early chapter members and the foundation of the chapter, I’d meant to say what those members are doing now…but I left that out so I’ll include it now.

These early pioneers of this chapter are now doctors, lawyers and in other areas of the medical profession; teachers at all levels, including a full university professor; they are women who have risen up the corporate ladder and successful entrepreneurs; artists–an author who has published a series of books and an entertainer; one member is an organ donor (to a stranger) and a couple of weeks after the procedure she ran in a half marathon (I think)–it might have just been a 10k. There are top sales people, and there are some amazing mothers, including a couple who have special needs or seriously ill children. These are the women I had the honor of working with when they were collegians.

I was bemoaning the fact that I’d forgotten to include this in my remarks, and one of the women said their success shouldn’t come as a surprise. They were leaders in the sorority, on campus, and in the community…it’s what attracted them to AOII. It was only logical they’d continue as they entered different phases of their lives.

The following morning, I had breakfast with those staying at the same hotel as us. It was just like old times.

I wasn’t married to Hubby when I advised these women. He’d met several of them, but had never been around this many at once. He said I glowed when I was with them. No doubt. I felt like they were “mine” when they were in school…still do.

Here are a few pictures from the fun weekend…

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Champagne in our room prior to the banquet

THE BANQUET

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Banquet Chair

SOME OF “MY” GIRLS

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THE MORNING AFTER

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‘Til next time…

~ Kay