Trail of a Heart 20 – On with the Dream
My part of the deal with Bob was that I would become a teacher. It was my lifelong dream, which Bob shared for his own reasons. Bob felt it was a small sacrifice now for us to work hard to get me through school, so that I could get in a job in which I didn’t work summers. Once Monicqua was in school, I would be able to be with her anytime she wasn’t in school. Bob considered my working as a teacher like an insurance policy for the family.
My only “little rebellion” was that I was determined to become an English teacher, not a PE teacher as Bob wanted me to be. He knew that teaching English would require me to spend a good deal of my home time grading papers and making lesson plans. He was right, of course, but I had my path mapped out from an early age.
I was grateful that he was willing to support my educational journey, which was a big deal in those days. It was not a foregone conclusion that married women would be given the opportunity for higher education. We had just come from a time when many women did not even finish high school, opting instead for early marriage.
Wait a minute. I am also one of that group! I have been told it is very unusual for a high school “dropout” to become a high school teacher. Perhaps. I know I never let my circumstances blur my vision for what my future would unfold.
Those years in college, Bob and I saw less and less of each other; the nights I wasn’t in class, he was. This lasted for some time until he graduated and found a hairdressing position, quitting his clerk job and working days. I was still a day secretary and night student and whenever parent and wife. When I got discouraged, I would sit down and make charts of the classes I had taken and those still remaining. Even though I longed for the time I could quit work and attend the main campus in Boulder, I knew that I had to work until I had one year, three semesters, of classes remaining.
After about two years of college, still in night classes, I declared a major. That was when CU realized I was seeking a degree. I had to submit records of high school and take placement tests. When they discovered I didn’t have a high school diploma, they said I needed to get a General Equivalency Diploma to be able to seek a degree. Fortunately, Bob’s Uncle Harold was a former professor from the University of Kansas and agreed to tutor me. At that time I was required to take the exam in the state in which I attended high school. New Mexico graciously accepted Uncle Harold’s credentials and allowed him to administer the exam to me in Denver.
After four years of attending college year round in the evenings, I was within a three-semester year of getting my degree and finally began to attend the university full time to finish up. Those three semesters were carefully planned, each one carrying an overload of classes. If all went well, by June of 1967 I would have my BA in English and Speech, plus having a teaching credential.
I quit my job and began driving to Boulder at the beginning of the summer of 1966. It was not a desirable commute when there were winter snow conditions, but it felt good to be able to just focus on school and family. At least we were no longer renting in the southern part of Denver, but had bought a house in the northernmost suburb, Northglenn. Boulder is north and west of Denver so the distance was shorter than it would have been if we had still lived in Littleton.
The car we got for me to drive was a DKW, which stood for Des Kleine Wunder, which translated was “The Little Wonder.” It was a little wonder, if it ever started! Most days I would have to look for parking on a hill in Boulder, which meant it was kind of far from the campus. My daily routine after classes was to push the car, getting a roll going, then jumping in and popping the clutch to get it started. It was always stressful to get it moving enough for it to start. If it didn’t start, I would be at the bottom of a hill, stuck.
The unusual way this car was built, however, was critical to this push-start process. The doors were hung backwards, so I could push the car hanging onto the steering wheel to make sure I could get back in the car in time to start it up. Needless to say, the leather strap installed to make sure the door didn’t go all the way back had long since been snapped. Going through all of this on a daily basis by myself was tougher with the abundant snows of winter. It was so hard to get traction in the snow and ice.
I am not remembering at what point we decided we had to get rid of that car, but I was one happy person when we purchased the turquoise Chevy Mazda. At that time it wasn’t really a sports car. It was roomy and, most importantly, reliable. No more push starts for this student.
That June of 1967 there couldn’t have been a graduate of CU any more relieved than I. My mother and her new husband, George, and my sister Carol and a friend of hers all came from Hobbs to celebrate this achievement. Monicqua was enchanted by Carol and her friend, Barbara, who collaborated to make her pancakes in the shapes of animals. She had fun trying to guess what each was. It was a great time of jubilation. Mine was the only degree in our family at that time.
By then I had already been offered a teaching position at a high school in Santa Maria, California, so there was no time to rest on my laurels as we were busy about the business of selling our house and packing up our belongings. There would be two of us starting school that fall. I would be teaching, and Monicqua, then five, would begin kindergarten. We all saw this as the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in our lives.
Watch for the next installment of my story…