To my students, my friends…
I was going to write a post today about the awfulness that was my morning (tried to do something I knew nothing about and destroyed my website, which has since been restored to its former glory).
But I decided against it. Instead, I want to write about the awesomeness which was the rest of my day, and why it led me to the subject of this post.
I had lunch today with a former student who has also become a dear friend. It was so lovely to catch up, share where our lives have meandered since we last saw each other, and reconnect after a few months apart.
When I was teaching we saw each other a lot. At least once a week when she was in town, sometimes twice, as I taught two classes she attended. She was one of my most loyal students, if not the most loyal. She signed up for every class I taught, and every week-long workshop, no matter where it was – France, Spain, or the remote desert of New Mexico in June.
Over the course of ten years we became friends. We also share a history of breast cancer, which drew us closer in a way that only people with the disease can understand.
And then I quit teaching, and we went about our lives, until both of realized that there was a hole. Something missing that couldn’t be replaced by projects, busy-ness, or even moving to Hawaii.
I have been blessed through the years to become friends with many of my students. And some of my students started out as friends who later decided to take a class (and as far as I know are still my friends). I am grateful for every single one of them.
I have lost a few. Five, to be exact. No, not to a different teacher, but to their passings.
Virginia Newberg, who I knew for only a short period of time, but by whom I was gently touched.
Ann Bowden, who painted the most lifelike animals, and who I sure wish I’d had as a kindergarten teacher.
Jan O’Connor, who once said to me, with complete sincerity, “Oh get over yourself and just paint those pretty beach paintings.”
Trudy Brown, a feminist from the south, who left Texas as a young girl (after terrorizing the nuns at her utra-conservative Catholic school) for the wilds of Alaska. “Hello darlin'” she’d say as she walked into class.
And Patrice Benson. My first girlfriend in Seattle. The woman who pretty much saved my life when I moved here at age 22, all alone, with a boyfriend I found out had been cheating on me. She reached out her hand and made me feel welcome and loved, and she was gone way too soon.
Their loss was painful for all of my students but what is wonderful is that we have shared memories of each. And they had a common passion, which was learning to express themselves through art, through painting. That passion bound us all, provided a common platform on which to stand, and gave us a built-in cheerleading squad as we celebrated the completion of each painting by ringing the bell to rousing applause.
I am honored that they chose me as their teacher. I am honored that you chose me as your teacher.
And I am also honored, and extremely grateful, for the friendships that remain with many of my students. You have given me so much to be grateful for. I received as much from working with you as you did by painting with me. I wish I could take each and every one of you with me on this next journey.
And I already miss you so.