“Are you doing that Art Stuff Again?”
Said my four year old daughter as she hung in the door frame of my art studio.
I was nine years old when I decided that I was going to become an artist. It was an epiphany and I believe my true calling…
The true and not embellished (what so ever!) story, goes like this …
Grade four was turning out to be the most horrific year of my life. True pain and educational torture was my every day experience. My teacher looked perfect and beautiful in her matching sweater sets and precision hair cut but inside that woman was pure evil. Mrs . “W”.
Our classroom was divided into three groups. “A” group was for the very best students. The big brains. These brilliant students sat at the front of the class in a straight line of desks so not to miss one single spit of valuable information. “B” group was off to the left hand side, angled slightly so that our necks understood discomfort but not enough awkwardness to cut off the circulation to our pea size brains. “C” group filled the bulk of the classroom space.
The trick in “C” group was not to let your desk travel too close to the classroom door. The closer your desk was to that big wooden door the closer the looming disgrace of “REMEDIAL CLASS” was the reality. The shame of ”REMEDIAL CLASS” was too much for any skinny little kid to bear and the experience did in fact ruin one of my good friend’s educational career for life… That poor girl was in and out of remedial class so many times that year we all lost count. It became a joke that was not very funny.
Every once in a while my desk would find it’s self in “A” group only to be placed back into “B” group within a few days. I liked “A” group. The children were nice. I didn’t like “B” group as the children were future criminals with the exception of S.K., the tall paper thin boy from China.
I was the only girl in “B” group and because of this, “B” group was a living hell. Boys are cruel at the age of nine and they truly don’t care if they make you cry. My only defence was to doodle. This took me to a place where I could ignore W.B. (Who’s mother gave out paper bags of spaghetti on Halloween. Cooked spaghetti and tomato sauce in little soggy brown paper bags. We only went to that house once.), J.S. (The instigator), W.S (Who later went on to beat me up for a ”Sanitation for the Nation” remark in grade six), M.K. (Who grew up to be famous for fifteen minutes), C.M. (Who grew up to be a criminal… seriously) and “THE PIMPLE”, who was the brother of my best friend.
M.K. sat behind me… poke poke poke poke poke poke poke poke poke poke poke all day long with a pencil right above the chair in the center of my back. On the occasions when I reacted Mrs. W would blow and I would find myself outside in the hallway for 15 minutes. I soon became a target for Mrs. W as I was nine and I was provoked… every day… What!?. There was no explaining my plight as Mrs W was right and I was wrong. This was a nightmare.
I truly needed help. S.K. wasn’t going to help me. I was alone in a sea of nasty. I began talking to God. A lot. God occupied my thoughts during this point in my life. School, I was convinced, was the devil’s playground. It just had to be. I spoke to God as I ate my breakfast. I spoke to God as I walked to school. I spoke to God during lunch time so much so that the Flintstones became a thing of very little interest to me. The only time I didn’t speak to God was when we played Hockey Night In Canada street hockey because street hockey at the age of nine in Canada is almost as important as God. At least it was back then. Bobby Orr was my hero.
On a lovely Autumn day during an English class Mrs. W was doing her teacherly thing… poke poke poke times infinity… I doodled happily away when all of a sudden the sky darkened and there stood Mrs.W, the looming back cloud, above me. She ripped the paper out of my binder and screamed, “What did I just say?” (She really didn’t like me at all. Actually, she really didn’t seem to like anyone at all.) I looked up at her and repeated verbatim what she had just said. Now, anyone would have thought this to be a good thing. No, it was not. The teacher blew! I sat outside the classroom door for my allotted fifteen minutes after my complete humiliation and when I came back in, sat down inside the pit of snickering boys, I asked God what I was supposed to do with my life. I was nine and I believed at this point, I was doomed. There was no hope.
Poke poke poke poke poke … times infinity…
A sunbeam crossed my desk and as my fingers touched the desk where the sunbeam lay, I heard in my heart, “An Artist”. This changed everything for me. I knew I had my work cut out for me as art class was an option in my school and because of this we only had art class twice a year. It didn’t matter. I had my calling. I was on a mission.
That very evening over the dinner table I announced to my parents that I was going to become an artist. My father then said, “No you are not. An artist is as useless as an Olympian. You will become a lab technician.”.
A quick walk through the science lab: