Mary Jane came into the world on June 18, 1986. Three days before this day, I went to the Shrine of the Blessed Mother in Baltimore, Maryland. I am not sure what the name of the shrine is, but I do know that the Catholic Nuns were there greeting us. Mary Jane’s Dad and Mamma were with me. The plan was to walk as much as I could so that this little baby would come early. I am recalling that all of her siblings were there with us. The plan worked. Mary Jane came into the world two weeks earlier than expected. Joyfully! The hospital’s name was GBMC for Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Now for the memories of the early days…Mary Jane was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She spent the first three months of her brand new life in Baltimore. She shared a room with her oldest sister, Jackie. The crib was in Jackie’s room. The bassinet was in her parents’ bedroom. There were some busy things going on at this time. It was Susan’s 13th birthday, Mary Jane’s sister. Susan was so accommodating about this. We were all so happy that Mary Jane arrived. Erich held her quite a lot in those early months. Michael amused little Mary with toys. Jackie and Susan took turns holding her so that I could get things done around the house. The house went up for sale; Mary Jane’s Dad accepted a job in Bowdon, Georgia.

Mary Jane spent her first year in a small rural town of Bowdon, Georgia. She took daily stroller rides and spent a lot of time outdoors. Every day she had a pretty dress and bonnet on. As her Mom, I had so much fun changing her clothes and going for walks for exercise and a little change of pace. Her siblings were in school during the daytime hours. Mary Jane’s bedroom was a little room at the front of an old kind of vintage house that the owner of the Bowdon Manufacturing Co. owned. I spent many hours at night in there with her, rocking and singing lullabies to her. Singing all of the songs that I had sung to her siblings for so many years. Mary Jane was such a sweet baby girl. She had riding toys and push toys and learned to walk there.

When Mary Jane was 1 1/2 years old, we moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. We lived in a big house in the suburbs and she had her own bedroom there. We spent lots of time outdoors. Mary loved playing in the sand box that was attached to the tree house that her Dad had built.

Mary Jane’s Mamma and Pappa would drive from Cincinnati to visit almost every month. We would all go to the Smoky Mountains and have picnics at the Chimney Tops camp grounds. Mamma would sit with Mary Jane in her little bedroom and sing nursery rhyme songs to her. One of her favorite other songs was “Take me out to the Ball Game, take me out to the crowd….”I have a tape recording of Mamma and Mary’s voices doing just that.

Kindergarten was a real experience for Mary Jane. One day when I went into the cafeteria to have lunch with her, the lunch lady said, are you Mary Jane’s Mom? I smiled and said Yes. She said she was glad to meet me because Mary Jane was such a sweet girl. At times, I sneaked into the hallway to look into the window of Mary Jane’s classroom. To my surprise, she was always sitting on the teacher’s lap at the front of the room. This was Mary’s first time away from me. Mary Jane’s Mamma had just moved back to Cincinnati and there was some sadness that her kindergarten teacher tried to help her with. I am so grateful for that act of kindness beyond the call of duty for that sweet kindergarten teacher. Her name escapes me, but with a little research, I am confident I can locate her name.

Mary Jane rode the school bus every morning with her brother, Michael whom was in Middle School. Erich, Susan and Jackie rode a later bus. The school system was Knox County Schools, Farragut, Tennessee. Mary Jane’s primary school experience was a normal one of learning to read and write and enjoy recess with her friends. There was a Fall Festival that we enjoyed going to with games and treats. Valentine’s Day was always a super fun day with cards and candies.

Mary’s home after school time was usually spent playing with kitties that we kept in our garage with newborn baby kitties coming every season. Her pet cat’s name was Cotton. She was white and so fluffy.

Some of Mary Jane’s favorite toys were her kitchen set and pots and pans and a table of Play Dough and cookie cutters. She would make pretend cookies and dinners. She had an Easy Bake Oven. Mary had many dolls and stuffed animals. Her favorite doll was the American Girl doll. She also had a Raggedy Ann doll that her great Aunt Evelyn had made for her. It was beautifully made by hand.

Easter time was always a fun time for Mary. She would carry her Easter Basket all around her Aunt Janie’s yard and pick up all of the plastic eggs that she could collect. Her brothers and sisters helped her get the most prizes.

At Christmas time, Santa would always arrive at Mamma and Pappa’s house in Cincinnati. Mary was the youngest of all of the kids, so she got to sit on Santa’s lap. It was quite a show! For many years we traveled to Cincinnati for Christmas so that we could celebrate with our families. Even so long ago, Mary Jane was the one child that knitted our family so close to each other. She has always been about family and to this day, tries to make sure we stay close.

Mary Jane made her First Holy Communion when she was in the second grade. She wore a white lace dress and veil. Truly angelic to my eyes. She studied and learned the prayers for this momentous event while attending Religious Education classes at St. John Neumann church in Farragut, Tennessee. It was a beautiful day! The Tiny Dancer song comes to mind.

Mary Jane was the Flower Girl in Susan and Will’s wedding that took place in Cades Cove. She dropped rose petals along the aisle walking ahead of her sister, Susan. She wore a pink lace dress that her Aunt Janie made for her. I still have the pretty dress. Susan and Mary Jane played school together in her youngest years. That was so fun to watch.

Mary Jane was a traveling child, riding with me to Cincinnati to visit her grandparents and helping me to take care of her Mamma and Pappa when they became ill. Mary Jane sat at the kitchen table with Pappa and ate Cherrios with him and hummed little tunes when she ate. We thought that was so cute. She rode around in Mamma’s wheelchair and had fun doing that. For a year after Pappa passed away, Mamma came to live with us and Mary Jane helped to get things for Mamma because Mamma could not walk. When Mamma moved back to her home in Cincinnati, Mary Jane started Kindergarten.

Mary Jane’s Middle School years were very active times. She traveled to Nashville with a group of Talented and Gifted students, of which she belonged to that group. I traveled there with her and was amazed at the projects and themes that her group participated in. The one proposal that is most remarkable to me was the theory presented that paper money would be an outdated mode of buying and paying for things. And as we see now, they were exactly correct with this theory.

Mary Jane’s High School years were exciting ones. She ran on the track team and I watched her run on sunny and rainy days. As I recall, her strength was in the relay races. Mary Jane had flat feet, but ran skillfully anyway. Her height is 5’2″ and she ran like a deer! Pretty awesome! Mary Jane had some very amazing friends in High School and they all held the academic part of their education as a priority. There were proms and dances and Mary Jane was escorted to all of those happy events. Mary Jane learned to drive. I taught that lesson to her. I was able to purchase an older car. Honda Accord. But it was a stick shift and her toes could not reach the pedals. So I gave my Kia to her to use and I drove the Honda. That worked just fine. Mary Jane’s graduation was so fabulous. She earned the Hope Scholarship for merit and academic grade point average. So proud of her accomplishment!. I must include that during her Junior and Senior years, she also worked almost 30 hours a week at Manjia’s pizza, a family owed restaurant in Farragut. Her grades remained high and she was able to achieve both the goals of earning money and studying. During the summer after her graduation, Mary Jane worked as an Intern for the GE company. This seems to be her first stepping stone towards the wonderful career path that she has built for herself and is now enjoying rich experiences in Environmental preservation in an effort to save the earth.

Mary Jane continued her educational process by obtaining her Masters Degree. Learning is her way of life. Sharing the learning is a gift that anyone who knows Mary Jane receives without reservation. Thank you for being the person that you continue to create each and every day.