A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Ghost of Miss Beake

I wonder if adults, especially teachers and parents, realize the devastating effects that their careless and thoughtless criticisms can have on some kids.

I had a music teacher in junior high school who said to me one day, "You really can't hold a note." That was it for me. To this day, I still won't even sing "Happy Birthday" in a crowd.

I had a gym teacher who chided me roughly for not being able to touch my toes. I could fold myself up into a pretzel, which none of the other kids could do, and I suggested to her that maybe I was just built differently, but she brushed it off, reacting with similar impatience when I balked at jumping over the horse. It was thirty-five years before I set foot voluntarily into a gym.

I had a sewing teacher who began each class with a quick explanation of a technique, and then left us to our own devices. I was pokey, never ready to begin the stage she was describing, so each lesson would go over my head. I would look at my project--a lavender cotton A-line dress with white polka dots--and try to remember what Miss Beake had said ages back about whatever I needed to do next. Invariably, I'd have to get in line to ask a question. I spent most of the year in line. When I'd get a minute with her, she'd snap at me, annoyed with my befuddlement. Although I was a straight A student in my academic classes, I was a D student in gym, and I flunked sewing outright.

At the end of the term, I brought my dress home. I had cut out the pieces and sewed the darts. That was it. No seams, no facings, no zipper, no hem. My mother, an expert seamstress, ripped out my clumsy stitching and resewed the whole dress in an hour. The next day, I wore it to church. "Well, at least you cut it out neatly," she said. So much for my sewing career.

Making simple shirred drapery panels isn't exactly rocket science, but, given my history, it was a triumph for me to sew my own bedroom window treatments. I put them up recently and I'm very pleased with them. They lack a valance or pelmet, but that can wait. I wanted to block the intrusive light from the streetlamp, the morning sun, and the cold. These drapes, which are lined and which puddle in classy fashion on the floor, are performing beautifully.

Three windows down; thirty to go. I'm finally vanquishing the ghost of Miss Beake.

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