…And She’s High On Life The Rest Of The Time!
Felecia Swindle Crouch…I’ve known her all of her life…knew her parents, probably before they even knew each other, and yet it is only today that Felecia and I took the time to sit down and visit as adults, to talk about the past, about the parts we shared as well as those we didn’t, about her growing up years and all of the things that have served to make her who she is today as well as what it is that keeps that 1,000 watt smile firmly in place every single time I see her.
And that’s where I started, with the look. After all, she’s 36 and looks 20, an attention getter in itself. So what’s her secret? She’s head over heels in love with her husband, her “bonus” son, Kade, her job with Southwest Airlines, and pretty much life in general.
From the outside she looks perfect; she’s beautiful with dark fly away hair, a glowing smile, and love shining in her eyes; however, life hasn’t always been perfect, not by a long shot. In fact, by the standards of most young people today, Felecia’s childhood was a long, long way from perfect; however, the beautiful young woman looked me in the eye and told me with total honesty “how very thankful I am for my raising.”
Felecia spent the first three years of her life with her dad, Kelvin Swindle, and he was a dairyman. Now, if you know anything at all about the life of a small dairyman, you know that the day normally begins about 3:00 a.m., and Kelvin had a baby girl to consider.
Obviously, he couldn’t leave Felecia alone in the house so he did what any resourceful dad would have done. He picked her up and took her with him, of course, turning a barrel trashcan upside down and lining it with blankets so that the baby girl could continue sleeping comfortably.
“After I learned to walk, I would walk around the barn and between the cows Daddy was milking. Of course, today we know that I could have been killed, but back then it was just our life. I’ve often thought that we have our children at the wrong time. We have them when we are young and when we’re young, we’re just so busy working all the time.
“By time I was two, I had a horse named Honey, and I could ride bareback anywhere I wanted to go. I’d hold to the mane and away we’d go…” her eyes glassed over for just a moment as she remembered the adventures of that little girl on the back of her faithful Honey.
“One day, Daddy turned his eye for a split second and I got into the chicken coop. Apparently, the rooster wasn’t happy, and he attacked my ear. Thankfully, one of the hired hands saved the day and rescued me! And then I had an incident when I walked up to pet a cow and she turned on me, but the hands again saved me!” she laughed.
There were also the times that Felecia would visit her mom.
“When I would fly out to see my mom, I flew Delta as an unaccompanied minor, and I remember how sweet those flight attendants were and how they kept me from being scared to be alone. I can even remember wanting to be one of those people someday!”
But most of the time, Felecia lived with her dad.
“We lived in a trailer house, just daddy and me until I was three, and he would tuck me in and kneel down and say our prayers every night. We were in church every single time the doors were open. It was definitely the priority in our life. I eventually enjoyed playing the sax by ear and I played it until my teen years. Once I started college, I didn’t really have the time to play anymore.
“I went to a lot of different schools. I was in private school when I was thirteen, and I went to school Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, I cleaned houses to earn my own money so that I could buy what I wanted. I’m so thankful that my parents taught me to work.”
“Everyone knew my dad as the bread man because he delivered bread. When I was in high school in Dublin, I got dropped off at school in the Frito-Lay truck, and I was mortified!”
“I think she is the toughest woman out there, and everyone should start out working for Sue. That’s where I learned my work ethic, and I appreciate it so much. She was tough and still is, and I am so thankful for her.
“When I was seventeen, I had enough money from my Dairy Queen job to pay for my gas, and I could drive my dad’s old ’79 jeep to school. BUT the football guys had to start it for me everyday so that I could get home. Eventually, I earned enough money to buy my own car, the fuel, and the insurance. My first car was a Pontiac Grand Am. People don’t make their kids do these things anymore, but I’m such a huge advocate of earning your own way and appreciating the things you earn yourself!”
Felecia did what a lot of kids do when after she graduated high school. She went to college, not really because she had any burning desire to be there and not because she really had a burning desire to get an education so that she could get a particular dream job. She was just there because she thought that was what she was supposed to do.
“I was in school thinking I would go the accounting route, and I realized that I just couldn’t sit behind a desk the rest of my life. I went to visit my dad in St. Louis, where he was doing insurance adjusting, and I did that for a while. I also had jobs at the local movie store and at what was then Dublin Dr Pepper. I did the tours through the bottling plant and was actually the manager of the soda shop. Then, I decided sitting behind a desk just wasn’t what I wanted. I happened to meet a girl who told me that Southwest Airlines was hiring and that she thought I would be a good fit.
“I always tell people that when I decided an office wasn’t the place for me, I went into the sky!” the dark-haired beauty laughed. “That was in 2004.”
“I love country and that small-town feel, and I knew when I married Kent that Dublin is where we would be. I actually think I have the best of both worlds. For three days of the week I do what I want to do, and I am home the other four.
“I may hop around for three or four flights a day, and then I usually end up where there is something fun to do. For instance, I had never been to Niagra Falls. I flew into Buffalo at noon, got a bus at 1:00, and thirty minutes later I was walking across the bridge into Canada. I had coffee, some pizza, saw the falls, and spent the day there. Then I had to pay Canada fifty-cents to get back into my own country!” she laughed.
“We actually can bid on the flights we want so friends can work together when we want to do that,” Felecia explained. “We’ve hiked in Portland, visited the fish market in Seattle, and I love San Diego. Of course, I love the beach, and Puerto is beautiful. Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic are on my lists for this summer.
Felecia doesn’t have to be working to fly free. If there is an empty seat on any flight, she can fly for free. So can Kent, Kade, and her parents.
“When I come home, it is all about Kent and Kade, and we spend as much time together as we can, but I actually think my working like I do is good for the marriage. Kent and I are very different people, both very independent, and I think it is probably good that we have those two nights apart because on that third day, I can’t get home fast enough!”
I have no doubt that she’s telling the absolute truth, considering that Kent and Felecia have been married for eight years and still hold to the date night tradition.
“I don’t consider my job my life at all although I love it, but my life is in Dublin, Texas with my family. Mondays are our date nights and we do something fun. It is the one night a week when nothing is on our schedule so we usually eat and talk one on one…just touch base and reconnect. We always go somewhere. It might be to Stephenville to eat Mexican food or to Brownwood. We love Underwood’s, but Mexican food is our vice. We are very much in love and pretty much act like two little kids!”
Part of Kent’s agreement with Kade’s mom is that Wednesday nights are his so the couple spends every Wednesday night in Hillsboro. They also rarely miss any of the numerous activities in which Kade is involved.
“I’m very attracted to him,” she smiled, and then smiled bigger as she admitted, “obviously, I’m attracted by his looks, but also by his loyalty, his genuine dedication to anything he takes on, the way he is a perfectionist about so many things. He is a better father than anyone I know. If love could be counted by the miles on a vehicle, in the past seven years, we have put over 600,000 miles on vehicles going to see Kade.”
And if that old proverbial fly is in any ointment in the Crouch home, I suppose it is at this point that he enters the story because Felecia is unable to have children of her own.
“For as long as I can remember, I have wanted kids and a family. Kent knew early on in our dating that I was probably not going to be able to have children. We’ve tried IVF, several times and nothing has worked. God knows all about it, and I am so thankful for a son that I may not have birthed but that I adore. Plus, I have friends who have children that I can love and, of course, I have a very large family,” she told me very seriously, her fact serene enough to prove that she truly has made peace with this one thing that life has denied her.
“Today, I try to pay it forward. Those flight attendants really, really affected my life, and I want to pay it back to the kids who fly with me. I feel as though I’ve come full circle, coming from my background. I’m a sucker for kids anyway, and having them come on board, whether they are excited to be going to see one parent or sad to be leaving one, I do my best to make them smile.
“My whole focus in life has been to have a family, and I’m such an advocate of supporting my husband. I’ve always been such a fan of my dad, and I am so blessed to have found someone just that wonderful in Kent. And then I have a fabulous bonus son, Kade, so life is good.
“And three days a week I find myself way above the clouds at 30,000 feet. That’s about as close to heaven you can get in this life and I love it!”