What makes dancers dance, singers sing, painters paint?
Mrs. Cole was a big woman: she wore tight bright dresses to accentuate her enormous frame. We could hear her as she approached -- even from a great distance, her heavy footsteps echoed louder and louder in the hallway as she came toward us. Before she departed, she had warned us to be quiet. Not a sole dared utter a sound. When she returned she took her place in front of our class, folded her hands and looked us over. She drew in a heavy breath and spoke with a dark deep voice, one that only comes from years of heavy smoking.
I don’t remember her words. Not exactly. I do recall however, in vivid detail, her eyes swelled heavy with tears as she explained that our President Kennedy had been shot and he was dead.
Most people can remember a lot about their experiences in the fourth grade. I can not. I have only one more indelible memory about Mrs. Cole. I had made a small sculpture from clay and as she moved about the room to inspect our work she paused at my desk. She seemed to grow smaller before my eyes. She pointed a dainty finger and stroked the clay form. Just for that one brief moment her voice changed. She spoke as soft and sweet and light as an angel and her words warmed me and gave me goose bumps all at the same time. She praised me for something I had done. From that instant on I craved approval for my art.
By the time I was in high school, I was painting sets for class plays, scrawling groovy flowers on fellow classmate’s book covers and painting dragons on a friend’s van. When everything else you touch results in complete disaster, one learns to adapt: one learns to focus. One learns to be a better dancer, to sing like no other and to strive to be the best damn painter possible.