The lady you see in the background was a sculpture I created way, way back, my junior year of high school. I was ever the wilful child turned into obstinate teen and did not take direction well. My art teacher warned me of clay thicknesses. I didn’t listen. The sculpt, 3 feet in length, did not live long. All that remains of her – a few photos that I treasure as a reminder- there is always more to learn from others – listen well and learn – always learn
Below is a five minute sketch. She was created to live demo basic ‘facing’ for an art student. I had a little fun with eye decoration (that ate 3 of the minutes). The ‘quickie’ was later tacked to my studio cork board. Yesterday while drawing a ‘real’ portrait for someone, the young lady hanging from my cork board spoke.
She directed in a slightly demanding tone, “Hey you, look up here!” A little shocked, my eyes hesitantly rolled up, followed by my head. Once the young lady had my full attention, her voice softened, “Please,” then she paused for a dramatic moment, “Please, tell me who I am?”
I looked away and stared at the floor. I thought a minute then replied,”I don’t know.” I looked back at her face and those black-lined eyes. She appeared sadder than I remembered drawing her. So I added, “But I promise, when I’m done discovering who I am, I’ll figure out who you are. For now, I’ll just call you Stranger Girl.”
She smiled. She had a name and that was a start.
The year is 1968 and I’m the strongest kid in kindergarten. Today my title will be put to the test. My class will be making buttermilk then enjoying the results. Crisp, blue and white boxes of saltine crackers are stacked atop a nearby classroom table. My teacher, Ms. T informs the class, “Saltines are absolutely perfect with sweet buttermilk.”
Thirty-one little mouths are salivating for this delectable, creamy treat, but first comes the challenge of making the stuff. Ms. T pours milk and what she calls ‘buttermilk magic’ into the big jar until its almost bursting. She places, then twists the gold lid with the long crank handle on the buttermilk jar. She gives the giant jar a thorough shake to ensure nothing leaks.
Ms. T regards us thirty-one, drooling tikes sitting pretzel-legged on the classroom carpet, “Okay children, time to line up for churning. Now remember, as I explained this morning, the buttermilk will get thicker and thicker as it is mixed, so I’d like the girls to lineup first then the boys. I’ll pass the jar to each of you. You will turn the crank a few times then I’ll pass the jar on to the next student in line.”
From the carpet, my hot little hand shoots up like a cheese knife slicing soft gouda. “Ehem, excuse me Ms. T, I’d like to line up with the boys.”
“Ms. T, I’d like to line up with the boys.”
“Ms. T–” I was just going to tell my teacher how strong I really am, when she grabs my little arm. She proceeds to line up the girls first, then the boys, then places me at the absolute end of the line. I’d be the last to turn the crank. It was my proudest moment.
My knees are whacking into each other and my feet are tap dancing on the tile. The jar of golden buttermilk is making its way down the line. The biggest boys near the end of the line are straining.Their faces are shades darker, several are breaking a sweat. Me, I’m not worried at all. I just want to have at that jar. The husky boy in front of me managed four turns of the crank then quit. Ms. T takes the jar from his exhausted paws.
I grab the jar from Ms. T, tucking it into my side, like a running back securing the pigskin as if his life depended on it. This is the moment of truth for the strongest kindergartener. I start imagining myself a superhero with a plaid cape and red PF Flyers. I firmly grasp the wooden handle, take a deep breath and force the handle clockwise. It goes slowly and it’s difficult to move. I go for a second turn which is equally as trying but I push into a third rotation. I’m biting my lower lip except I don’t notice. I’m going for a fourth. My grip hand is sweating and the other hand holding the jar is too. There is a small slip, then a drop, then CRASH…
I learned three very important lessons on that ominous kindergarten day: The first is never give small children large glass jars. The second is without sweet, creamy buttermilk, saltine crackers are very dry. And finally, superheroes should never own cows.