Editor’s Note: In honor of Mother’s Day this coming Sunday, we are featuring posts about moms by our City Dads Group contributors.
My mom was a junior high school art teacher for more than 25 years. Her specialty was not the art her students created, but the creativity she taught them.
Many of her students would get down on themselves and their artwork. It wasn’t going the way they wanted, they couldn’t draw perspective, they couldn’t draw their self-portrait, whatever. My mom had a rare gift as a teacher — she was able to look at their work and show them how what they thought was a weakness was really a strength. If they turned it sideways, or used it as a base for something else, or allowed themselves the opportunity to see the drawing they made instead trying to see the drawing they wanted to make. Almost invariably, the artwork would turn out better, tears from the student would be averted, and a valuable lesson in self-esteem and creativity would be learned.
After she retired, we would sometimes go out to dinner, and many times former students would recognize her and invariably say the same thing: “Mrs. G! You were my favorite teacher! I loved your class! I still think about some of those artworks we made!” As a son, it was very satisfying to see my mom so universally loved.
When my dad passed away in 1987, my mom received some money from the insurance. After some thought about how to use it, she took a large chunk and established an Arts and Academics Grant Program, whereby teachers and schools could apply to get funding for programs in which the arts and the academic curriculum could be combined creatively. Since she began it, the program has given more than $15,000 to schools and teachers, enhancing the lives and educations of thousands of Rhode Island school children.
My mom loved to think outside the box. And she loved to be enigmatic and creative.
One day I received a phone call from her.
“1. 4. 3,” she said.
“1. 4. 3.”
“What do you mean?” I asked her.
“Figure it out,” she said.
I spent the next couple of weeks pondering this. I have four brothers, and I am the oldest, so I was thinking this was the order in which she loved us. But that wasn’t it.
Or maybe it was an artwork that she particularly loved. But that wasn’t it.
After a week or so of thinking about it, and coming up with multiple wrong answers, I came up with the right answer.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
I LOVE YOU.
1. 4. 3.
Since then, I’ve been looking at words in a whole different way.
My mom passed away in 2007. And not a day goes by that I don’t think about her in some way, or miss her.
Sadly, she never met my son. We found out we were pregnant right before she died, and we never got a chance to tell her.
As I raise my son, I am teaching him the lessons of creativity and playfulness and self-esteem that I learned from her.
I don’t really believe in heaven, but if I did, I’m sure she’d be looking down at him and smiling.
1. 4. 3. Mom. 1. 4. 3.