Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Fortunate June Day

When people ask me how we ended up settling down in St. Johns, my response is… "Just lucky I guess!"  Our path here, in a nutshell, goes like this: in a small town not far from here, where I grew up, a young, dashing, loud, farcical, Polish New Yorker ended up following his construction working brothers to a job in that town.  We met, fell in love, one year later married, and headed off to college in Mesa.  The Persian Gulf War called him off for a while and when he returned, we chose a college that was family friendly in Missouri, where we could start our family.  

Our first little tyke was born, and we realized we were in over our heads and we were going to need help raising him!  We moved back to Arizona to be closer to family, and had our second little whippersnapper, while attending college at Northern Arizona University.  We finished college, celebrated with a third little bambino, and applied for teaching jobs all over Arizona.  On a warm and windy June day, Nestor Montoya, from St. Johns Unified School District, called the dashing, farcical daddy in for an interview, and hired Tony as a special education teacher that day.  The next day, several other school districts called, but our luck was in motion and St. Johns was becoming our home!

We noticed right away that there was something special about St. Johns, despite the rumors that "it is difficult to fit in without belonging to the correct groups", or the "correct families."  We found that the people in this town were very friendly and welcoming to our young family.  We quickly developed friendships with several families in our neighborhood, and in the school system, and we realized we had a strong support group to help us uphold our belief in the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Our comfort in finding a place to call home was sealed  by me being hired as a part-time teacher, and then the birth of our fourth little cub!  

As our youngsters grew, we became more and more aware of our good fortune in ending up here.  Our boys were able to join sports teams where they were exposed to some of the best men that could possibly exist, and in turn learned how to be good men.  They participated in Boy Scouts and religious activities in several different churches where they learned a love of God, family, life and their fellow man.  They joined summer camps through 4H where they learned how to fire a weapon, shoot archery, raise an animal, and how to respectfully use the earth's resources.  Our guys also acquired jobs where great bosses taught them how to arrive on time, follow orders from authority, work hard, please the customer, etc. etc.

The school system in this town has also proved to be above and beyond what we could have asked for.  Much to our dismay, we quickly discovered that our high-spirited energetic boys were… ponderous learners.  Many a teacher in St. Johns Schools called upon my husband or myself to take corrective measures when one son or another began to fall off the tracks behaviorally, (which in one incident resulted in "junior" being pulled from Junior High wrestling practice for talk with mom while silent team members and coaches, to this day, describe hearing the hard clip clopping of mom's high heels until the two were "well past the library!")  

Additionally, teachers also made us aware when one of our little sprouts tried to slide in an assignment with minimal effort; for example, an assignment to build a diorama depicting a fifties era setting ended up as a box of dirt, with a popsicle stick sign stuck in the middle of it reading, "Drive In: Closed for Re-modeling".  The call from the teacher resulted in a family all-nighter where the said child led the erecting of an all but functioning, mini drive in movie theatre.  Thanks to St. Johns teachers, our little lads found that their educators cared too much for them to allow them to waste the gift of free education, as well as the gift of free behavioral management. What a relief it was to eventually see each of our guys meet or exceed all academic expectations, and become slightly more subservient students.

The friendships made between our little pumpkins and other kids while in school, and in the aforementioned activities, have been priceless!  I will admit that there may have been the occasional incident when one of our kids, and a friend may have gotten into some trouble for such things as, climbing on the roof of a building in town with a skateboard in tow, or for "misfiring" a paintball gun within city limits, or on Halloween… oh… maybe it is best that I do not mention Halloween, my boys, and pumpkins in the same paragraph.  My point is, that in the end, the friendships were as priceless and lasting as the lessons learned.  At the end of the day, we always placed an extra plate or two at the table for whichever friends might be around at suppertime.

It must be hard for someone, not from St. Johns, to imagine raising kids in a town where so many experiences, activities, and great people are available.  I would never have believed it myself if Tony and I hadn't gotten so lucky when Nestor called on that warm and windy June day!

-By Mary Jo Raykovitz


  1. I won't relate the story of how we became friends:) But I'm sure glad that loud, obnoxious man in my college classes brought you here! You, Tony and the boys have been a wonderful blessing to my family and this town.

  2. Your luck has become "our luck"! Thanks for all your clever, witticism and for raising such a great bunch of boys:)

  3. Mr & Mrs R you are awesome & have an awesome family. Thx for calling SJ home, we're so fortunate to have you!