As a child, I grew up in rural Kansas. We were only able to get reception for two television stations in the small community that we lived in, so television wasn’t a large focus of our lives. But I do have a memory of watching the Miss America Pageant one evening and telling my Dad that I was going to grow up to be Miss America. I loved all the beautiful dresses and sashes that the contestants wore and I wanted a tiara! My biggest concern was what I would do for the talent competition. I was seven years old and didn’t know how to twirl, dance or do gymnastics like many of the contestants. But then, Miss Kansas stepped up to sing “Born Free” and I was hooked. I would be a singer and someday stand on a stage and sing and bring a tear to everyone’s eyes. Miss Kansas won the title and I took it as a sign of my destiny.

I spent the next few years perfecting my talent by sitting under the local water tower and singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” over and over again. I would watch the clouds go by in the big blue sky and sing loudly hoping someone would discover my talent. The neighbors, though few, would close their windows and sigh.

A few years later, we moved to Texas and I entered the 5th grade. I loved choir and would sing with enthusiasm during each class. One day, my choir teacher took me aside and asked if I had ever considered band or orchestra. I was certain that this confirmed my musical ability and promptly signed up to play the flute. It wasn’t until several years later that I realized that the teacher knew full well that students could only be in band OR choir, not both. Was she being kind or just hoping for some relief? It turns out that my musical ability is questionable on all fronts, but I continued to play the flute with enthusiasm through high school.

Teachers often have the opportunity to either support and nurture, or to dash a student’s dreams. I was fortunate that my teachers redirected my musical talents or lack thereof in a constructive and kind way. While I was disappointed that I would never or should never stand on a stage and sing, I was guided by yet another teacher in a way that would change my life forever.

In 8th grade, my English teacher recommended me for an editor position on the school newspaper. She told me that I had writing ability. I was so surprised. She saw in me a talent that I had ignored. “You can write,” she said. Such powerful words. From that moment on, I found the joy of communicating through writing. I dreamed of writing like Erma Bombeck and sharing the laughter in everyday events. I have been fortunate enough to be published in magazines, newspapers, and to write a book about my journey though cancer. And now Dean and Val have given me the opportunity to contribute light articles to Vinton Today.  My love of writing is from the kindness of a teacher who encouraged me.

So gone are the dreams of pageants and tiaras, gone are my visions of singing on a stage, and the flute was sold many years ago. But I know I can write and I have the coffee cup to prove it!

Kathy Lariviere, Author

kathy lariviere at desk