Oma Sue's Blog
Hi – I’m Sue Reyzlik. I recently realized my life-long dream of building a writing hut in the backyard. The writing hut serves as a creative space and home office for Oma Publishing. This blog will be intermingled with family history, varied experiences and insights on being a Grandma (Oma), creating my special backyard space, as well as, my “retirement” career as a self-publisher of children’s stories. And perhaps a little bit on the 32 years I served as Executive Director for Keep Fremont Beautiful and the wonderful people who are sharing this adventure.
I have always had a garden. Nothing too elaborate – just a few tomato plants, cucumbers and an eggplant or two. I have found some success with green beans, snap peas, okra, carrots and sage. I have experimented with other plants and found that I can’t seem to grow asparagus, Brussel Sprouts or strawberries.
A problem I have had for three years now is with the pepper plants. Each year I buy two Bell Pepper plants and each year they turn out to be some sort of jalapeno pepper plants. I will not buy pepper plants next year – only seeds from here on out.
Anyway… as my grandkids were born and matured enough to poke a hole into the dirt, they have joined me in the garden and helped me plant the crops. The grandkids from out of town would visit throughout the growing season and would help Oma harvest the produce later in the season.
RaiLee on the other hand lives in town and stays with me for several days at a time. She was just a toddler when she first accompanied me out into the garden, helping with the planting, watering and the harvesting. She became fascinated with plants and of course bugs, bunnies and butterflies.
I saved a Facebook post from July 6, 2015 that describes our garden experience at that time. Looking back, it’s cute – at least to me…
Rai and I have been working on the garden for the past several weeks. Together we planted the seeds and oooooo’ed and aaaaaaaa’ed over the little baby plants that emerged from the soil. We’ve watched the plants grow bigger and I’ve explained that the flowers will become tomatoes, snap peas, cucumbers and beans.
Rai monitors her tomato plant and marvels at the small green fruit getting larger everyday and asks repeatedly when it will be red. I’m having so much fun watching her coming to grips with the whole planting – nurturing – harvesting process… you can just see the wheels turning in that little head.
The other night she was letting Lucy out the door when she asked me “What is that going to be?” I have no idea what she is talking about so she asks me again… “What is that going to be?” This went on for awhile until I figured out, she was talking about the flowers in the hanging basket on the patio. I had to explain that some flowers are just for show and don’t produce anything – they are just pretty and make us happy. It made sense. Now we are just waiting for that green tomato to ripen so we can eat him. Grow Big Red!
The following growing season Rai and I conducted a potato growing experiment. We punched holes in a plastic bucket, filled it with garden soil and then planted some seed potatoes. I explained how the seed potatoes would grow plants on the top and the potatoes would grow in the soil. Rai enjoyed watching the plants grow in the bucket but not seeing the potatoes was disappointing and certainly not as interesting as the other plants producing something tangible right before your eyes…
At long last, we decided the potato bucket growing experiment was done. Sam and Mac joined in on the great reveal. It wasn’t all that great but there were some potatoes harvested and we did get to enjoy mashed potatoes for supper. Another gardening lesson learned…
The next year we constructed an outdoor kitchen area for creating delicious mud pies and we added a raised garden bed so she could grow her own produce. She has had some success! One year, tomatoes did fantastic as did the accidental jalapeno peppers. Cucumbers excelled – leaving the garden bed and wrapping themselves around the surrounding bushes. Some cucumbers grew hidden from view reaching lengths of 18 inches and as big around as my thigh… maybe that is an exaggeration… but not by much. Basil did wonderful last year and of course the accidental jalapeño!
At 7 years of age Rai is a big help in cleaning sweet corn and continues to help me plant and tend the gardens. She helps with the watering and she alerts me to Japanese Beetles munching on the leaves. She keeps an eye on the green tomatoes and tells me when they are nearing red – picking them in their prime. She shares my frustration as we stare at those two jalapeno plants and wonder how the pepper plants could have been mis-labeled, three years in a row.
She doesn’t like picking the pokey cucumbers but enjoys peeling them. She is anxious for the carrots to grow bigger and can’t control the urge to see if they are large enough to harvest. She leaves the tiny carrots near the bushes in hopes the rabbits will eat the offering and leave her snap peas alone.
My garden is a hobby. I enjoy planting things and watching them grow. It’s wonderful when I am able to harvest something and include it in a meal. I also enjoy sharing my hobby with my grandkids. I learned so much hanging out with my Grandpa at the greenhouse and watching my parents garden at their acreage. I hope that my grandkids gain something from spending time with me in the garden, I’ve already gained so much from time spent with them…
Going to a private pool was a special treat and we were more than happy to use up the food minimum requirement by charging meals at the grill. He would always chuckle when he got the monthly statement – he marveled at the itemized listing of Coke after Coke and bag after bag of Doritos.
After they got older and I could just drop them off for the afternoon, he always said the food costs were still cheaper than childcare costs. I’m not sure if that was true?
Sara remembers those olden days when she would spread out her beach towel on the grassy hill and watch after Evan. She also remembers the inconvenience of having to put on some clothes and walking to the north side of the Club to order food from the grill. Back then it was a self-serve system and you had to wait on yourself.
Pretty soon the itemized statements included large orders of French Fries. It’s a bit sad to think that we could use up the bulk of the food minimum in charged French Fries, Cokes, Doritos and frozen candy bars. Mother of the year!
Sara and Evan continued to enjoy time at the pool well into their teenage years. Eventually they wanted to spend time with their friends at the lakes and afternoons at the pool became less frequent. That was OK with me because I still had an extra child (Ramie) who was more than willing to go to the pool with her old Mom.
Ramie was just three years old when she started swimming lessons in 1994. She quickly learned the basics and bravely jumped off the diving board into the arms of a waiting lifeguard. She was a fish in water and my new excuse for hanging out at the pool.
Even faster than learning to swim, Ramie learned to “charge”. The kid was truly advanced at three years of age – she had taken to that whole “charge” thing and would happily buy a treat for new found friends. What a generous little kid! Randy gasped a few times when he opened those summer statements from the Club – wondering aloud – “what is a Charleston Chew”?
For a few summers, after Randy got sick, I didn’t spend much time at the pool. After he passed, I spent even less time. I wondered if I should keep my membership but decided to keep it for Ramie – she was my fish. We had been through so much and dropping the membership would be another change and losing the use of the pool was like losing another part of Randy.
Ramie went on to be a lifeguard and didn’t spend that much time at the pool while in High School. But no problem - the grandsons were here by then and we began to take advantage of the pool once again. They got signed up for swim lessons, I got to see them more often and they even learned how to “charge”. Sara would bring the kids for a sleep over and we would spend a couple of days at the pool – I figured I would keep the membership for a while longer.
My Sara is in her 40’s now and Ramie is nearing 30 – so on occasion we will enjoy an adult beverage before our meal. Which is a huge plus when relaxing by the pool. We no longer have to serve ourselves and the wait staff is there to meet your every need. For many years now we have eaten proper “grill” meals – popcorn chicken and hamburgers are the most popular. The grandkids will still charge a bag of Doritos and a Coke but it doesn’t show up as such on the itemized statement – I kinda miss that…
I hosted a makeup birthday party for RaiLee at the pool this year. Her “Cowgirl” birthday themed party had been flooded out in March. It was a small group but so easy for me as the staff waited on us and the pizza was delicious.
These days I mostly just sit in a chair and take pictures of the kids having fun. It’s too hard to climb out of the pool and seeing my swimsuit clinging to my flabby body may give the kids nightmares. No one needs to see that.
Rai’s latest pool thing is learning how to dive. She is just getting started but is determined to figure it out. Rai is improving with guidance from her mother and encouragement from the lifeguards on duty.
I’m glad Randy gave me and our kids this opportunity to enjoy summers at the Club. Our kids and grandkids all learned to swim at that pool and I know that he would be delighted to see Rai diving fearless into the deep end. He would be scared but oh so proud of that brave little girl. I imagine if he were alive today, he would be sitting with Sara and I on the edge of the baby pool, keeping all the bigger kids away from our Gracyn.
I think I heard him gasp when I opened the June statement and saw the balance – but hey, it could have been me who gasped. But then I thought of all the fun we had that month, the time spent with family, the kids clowning around in the water, the birthday party for Rai, that excellent Bloody Mary, not having to cook… membership and memories at the Club – priceless!
In the fall of 1986, I was asked to go to lunch. There were four of us sitting at a table in the K.C.’s Restaurant on Park Avenue just south of Military Avenue. The restaurant was a popular spot for business and social lunch meetings. I’m sure people must have stopped and said hello, but with the intervening 30 plus years, I only recall the rather intense sales pitch.
Patti and Cherrie were telling me of their memories of the grand pageantry of the old-time 4th of July programs that Samuel Berek had produced for so many years. They talked of the Centennial Celebration for our town of Fremont in 1956. They explained what an interesting and historically important character John C. Fremont had been in finding a path to the west in our expanding country.
They talked of the negative feeling in our town and how a three-day celebration, similar to Nebraskaland Days in North Platte, could bring our community together. I remember thinking, it couldn’t hurt.
My expertise was in promotion and by the end of the lunch I had volunteered my services. I would be happy to assist in helping to organize and promote what would become John C. Fremont Days.
Shortly after the lunch, the fourth woman determined that work obligations would keep her from assisting with the formation of the JCF Days organization. It was us three – Patti, Cherri and Sue who would develop the organization and get the festival started.
Cherrie traveled to North Platte and visited with the organizers of the Nebraskaland Days. Their organizational portfolio system made sense and had already proven successful in their community – it remained to be seen if the plan could be replicated in a similar fashion here in Fremont.
Patti had researched the historical elements of the founding of Fremont and the lifetime accomplishments of our name sake John C. Fremont. Local, as well as, regional historians added their own expertise in creating living history programs and activities.
There were a few elements that were prioritized in that first year: The Chautauqua Tent, The Historical Encampments, The Children’s Festival at Barnard Park, Civil War Encampments and War Re-enactments, Native American Lectures and Demonstrations, A Beer Garden and Public Dance, Arts and Crafts Vendors in the Park, Historical Parade, Historical Tours, Train Rides and even some Sporting Events. A John C. Fremont re-enactor was essential as was historically correct costumes.
Once the idea was put forth, we scheduled a community meeting. Patti and Cherrie did a good job of selling the idea of a community festival to our fellow citizens. Volunteers came forward to assist with the planning and implementation. People who had been involved with individual civic organizations or church groups, ventured beyond their comfort zone and took on major tasks on a very public stage.
Those nine months (not even a full year) of planning and development were a whirl wind of activity and emotions. Those months tested the collective will, strength, determination and cooperation of Cherrie, Patti and myself. It wasn’t always a pretty or smooth process, but in the end, the festival was a success. Hundreds of individuals came together and did their part to make that first John C. Fremont Days an amazing community festival.
You know what’s even more amazing? Hundreds of people still come together and create a wonderful weekend of festival activities. We still celebrate our name sake and we invite thousands of people to come to our town and see what we have to offer.
4:45PM Friday June 28, 2019- The long-anticipated Fremont High School 50th Reunion for the Class of 1969 is set to begin in an hour or so. A couple of friends from back in the day are coming by the house and we will go downtown together.
The committee has worked for the better part of the past year to organize and make this a fun weekend for all wishing to come back home and reconnect with friends from the past. There are classmates who have remained close and continue to share their grownup lives with their childhood friends. Others simply have gone their separate ways and haven’t had the opportunity or perhaps the desire to keep in touch.
I have one friend who I see rarely but whenever we get together, it’s like we haven’t been apart. We pick right back up where we left off - talking for hours about anything and about nothing. We have had similar life experiences but our lives have also led us on such divergent paths. We are a comfortable old familiar. That old familiar, that I know I can count on. I’m glad she will be there.
10:00 PM Friday June 28, 2019– The first night of the reunion was fun. Seriously I had a good time. I’m a little hoarse from yelling over the other voices yelling over the other voices… it was loud. It was good to see my classmates. I was pleasantly surprised to recognize quite a few while some of these older folks took me several minutes of squinting and thinking to finally make the connection.
(Monday – July 1, 2019) Addendum: Organizers attempted to herd the class members for a picture. As we smooshed together, we had the chance to visit with those most near. Not all classmates could be convinced to join our little mass of humanity, so eventually pictures were taken with those willing to pose. The group photos were shared by Mike Heuring – thank you!
Around 9:00 PM on Friday my two friends and I were ready to call it a night. We said our good-byes to the lingering crowd and went for a quick ride around the lakes. I wanted to show them how extensive the flooding had been in the area and how the southern section of the City had been so devastatingly damaged. It was getting dark and it was hard to see but it was fun. Oddly reminiscent of those hot summer nights when we would get in the car and drive the square or venture out to the lakes to see what was happening.
We joked and laughed – they wondered where they were – they saw a deer – they were amazed at the force of the water that tore down the trees and deposited mounds of silt and sand. We made our way back to my house – we agreed to meet in the morning – coffee and muffins in the shed. It was a good night – I enjoyed visiting with these two old friends and getting reacquainted with some others.
I’m glad so many of us are here to enjoy this milestone together – we survived the 1960’s and now we have survived a good part of our 60’s. One more night to remember our youth and celebrate our longevity.
4:00 PM Saturday Afternoon - June 29, 2019 – My two friends from last night came over this morning for coffee and muffins. We sat and chatted about our families and the classmates we had seen the night before. It was relaxed and easy. Nancy had to return home but I gave her and Jeri a tour of the writing hut/shed and my garden before she left. It was cool in the hut/shed but already miserably hot in the garden. I do need to get out there and weed but am hoping for a cool down to make the task more bearable.
Jeri and I went downtown to pick up sandwiches for lunch and came back to the house to eat and visit a bit more. Jeri returned to her motel to rest and get ready for the next event. I was able to take advantage of having the house to myself, turning down the air and taking a nap before showering and figuring out what to wear.
11:00 PM Saturday June 29, 2019 - The next event was dinner and dancing at the Club. Visiting with people was a bit easier and sitting down with a group allowed us to find out about each other in more detail. I am grateful that I had some relatively quiet time to visit with a few old friends and get a feel for their life experiences and the journey they have taken thus far…
I had made arrangements to deliver books to a couple of girls from the class. It was extremely gracious of them to support my writing efforts, as well as, the effort to fund the special needs trust for my granddaughter Gracyn. It was good to have something to talk to friends about and it prompted them to tell stories about their own family. No one is immune to life’s challenges.
From a different perspective, visiting with fellow classmates who had lost their spouse to death, created a certain heartfelt bond. It felt like a twisted accomplishment we shared. A devastating experience we managed to survive and a continuing journey we were navigating still.
As I scanned the room and watched people chatting, dancing or gathering for pictures, I sensed their individual joy and sadness, sickness and health, success and failure, acceptance and in a few cases lingering resentments, insecurities or boredom. It was intense at times to be bombarded with such a spectrum of emotional vibrations. I found the environment easier to handle when focusing on a conversation between myself and one or two individuals.
There is quite a difference between age 18 and 68 - after only a few hours, my energy levels were depleted. Jeri was ready to retire for the evening and so was I. We visited and laughed on the way home. Jeri said she would return in the morning to finish off the muffins and drink mugs of coffee. We hugged goodnight and off she went to her motel.
It was a relief to take off my bra, put on my jammies, reflect on the time spent with old friends and then begin the process of writing it all down.
Luckily, the reunion committee had sent out a questionnaire to the class and many had returned information and interesting tidbits about their lives. They compiled the information and made a booklet for easy reference.
I just now sat quietly for a bit, looking through the book, enjoying the old photos and learning more about my classmate’s accomplishments, their hopes and dreams concerning the future and reading the words of wisdom shared by this special group of people. I imagine I will refer to this book from time to time as I attempt to recall an individual from the past or I hear of a classmate who has passed.
For most of my adult life Fremont has remained my home. Quite a few of our classmates have passed on and even though we hadn’t kept in touch, I feel their absence. They were a part of a shared youth and now they are no longer with us.
Of those remaining classmates, many had not visited Fremont in years. For a brief weekend, Fremont felt homier and more complete with the Class of 1969 back in town. I have to be honest… It occurred to me that perhaps this would be the last time that I would see many of these dear people… A sad but realistic thought as my older brother passed on a month after celebrating his 50th reunion.
None of us knows what the future holds. I sincerely hope for safe travels to all who ventured near or far to participate in the festivities. Here’s hoping to continued good health and the ability to gather again in 2024 to celebrate the 55th Class Reunion.