October 12, 2016

    I'll tell you that walking into a church I hadn't been in, in almost 15 years, and being hit by a wall of smelly carnations, wasn't how I thought I'd be spending the evening of September 13th. Though hesitantly, I grabbed the pen and wrote in the guestbook. I stared at my name, as though I'd misspelled it, an obvious delay tactic by my over processing mind.

    In front of the guest book was a basket of teal ribbons with an attached pin. No one had to speak a word and as I looked around, everyone knew to pin them to the left of their shirt.

    I began to notice the obvious color scheme all around me. The black, the white, the teal. Bits of my childhood danced before me. I was greeted by familiar faces, ones I put off seeing over the last ten years. Not on purpose, simply because we were all living our own lives. Funny how death brings people together.

     As a child, my sister and I twirled for a very known baton and drum corp. out of Canton, Ohio. Mom drove us all over the state in any kind of weather to march parades, perform in competitions, and even twirl in malls. Busy weekends and bus trips were the norm. It was our life, our "sport." Baton twirling was our thing. We were known in school as the baton twirling sisters and went on to be majorettes of our high school. Baton twirling was our life, and it all started because of one woman.

Penny meeting Carol for the first time in 2014
    Carol Koontz was ambitious. A small town girl, who went on to compete in the Miss America pageant representing the good state of Ohio. Her talent, was of course, baton twirling. Fire baton, two of them. It was the Miss America pageant where she met Marilyn Monroe, and made her then Baton Troop known nationally. Thousands had been taught by her; have had their lives changed. We all just thought she'd be around forever.

    As I stood before her casket, I felt all of us. I felt the thousands of women before me who'd been taught, influenced, and whose lives had changed because of this soul. This soul, that was no longer with us. In the slew of positive emotion, I also felt one I never expected to feel. It felt as if my childhood had in fact, reached it's last page. I'm 26. Clearly my days of parades and flexibility ended a long time ago, but standing in front of her casket, and seeing her wrapped in that white, teal, and black afghan that kept me warm too many times to count, made adult life feel the realest it ever has. Perhaps it was because in the exact moment, the last tie to my childhood was severed. In that moment, there was no going back to it.

during my September blogging break, I twirled baton as an alumni member at my old high school along side my sister!

    A week after her passing, my sister and I participated in an alumni night our Alma mater was having. It was nice to meet majorettes both that I knew and that I did not. It just so happened that every single one of us, either in our 20's, 30's, or 40's had all been taught my Carol. That feeling brought us all closer together, and the show that night was dedicated to her. Not only that, but we too wore the little teal ribbons on our shirts and she was with us.

    Adult life is scary. You're on your own. You have to call the shots. There's no one to hold your hand. It's the things you learn in your teens and earlier that shape those decisions and actions once that chapter of your life is over. I can say without a doubt, Carol wrote a lot of my childhood. She wasn't afraid to push me, to scold me, and to love me. I will never cease to tell her story.

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