May 12, 2020

Mothering during a pandemic: Personal stories from women across Southwest Florida

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

Fort Myers News-Press

Published 7:00 a.m. ET May 8, 2020 |

No prom? No problem, with a mom like Jorie Maddi

It looks like a standard prom portrait: King and queen in tie and tiara, sashed and grinning under an arch of balloons with disco lights sprinkling the ceiling. But peer a little closer, and you see a little boy’s bare foot in the corner of the photo, on a floor that’s decidedly suburban living room rather than high school gym.

QuaranProm 2020: When coronavirus cancelled Rylee Thurmer’s senior-year prom, her mom, Jorie Maddi threw one for her in the family living room. (Photo: Special to The News-Press)

Which make sense, because 17-year-old Rylee Thurmer didn’t make it to her long-dreamed-of North Fort Myers High senior prom. “She was devastated,” her mom, Jorie Maddi, said. “Lots of tears and her boyfriend was upset too, because he was so looking forward to taking her.”

So Maddi just shifted gears, throwing a DIY dance in the living room of her Babcock Ranch home – and pulled it off as a complete surprise. Making something positive and happy in the midst of such a scary, sad time was important to Maddi, a determined bright-sider whose children are her priority.

That creation was more than just the long-awaited dance with the boyfriend Rylee hadn’t seen in 42 days; Maddi also enlisted the help of her work friends (she’s a Lee Health labor and delivery nurse/supervisor), who lent a selection of formals.

Her 15-year-old daughter Reese pitched in to make a boutique for the borrowed gowns in the room shared by her 4- and 5-year-old little brothers – Rona’s Dress Shop – “and we turned Reese’s room into her hair salon – Quarantina’s – and I ordered a bunch of stuff off of Amazon and we had a portable speaker with the laser lights and disco ball – the whole nine yards,” Maddi said. (All on the same day she’d arranged a drive-by birthday salute for her husband’s 40th, since they weren’t on their intended cruise.)

Mother of the queen: Jorie Maddi (in black), with her daughters Rylee, 17, and Reese, 15, and the QuaranProm she created after coronavirus canceled the one at North Fort Myers High School. (Photo: Special to The News-Press)

This is just the high-touch, high-energy way Maddi mothers. “I’ve always been the Positive Polly of the bunch,” she said. “I’ve always tried to see the best of everything even in the worst of situations.”

Not that she’s unrealistic about things. “Yes, everybody around us is scared, and it’s not that I wasn’t either – obviously working in a hospital and doing what I do, I was definitely nervous, but I just chose the route of trying to find the silver lining,” she said, “And I think it brought our family closer.”

— By Amy Bennett Williams