“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

9.07.2008

Digital therapy

When I was a little girl, my mother took me here, took me there,
playschool back over there, art lessons up in that pink house that's now a lawyer's office.
In the pink house, back in the rooms over the garage apartment,
I became enchanted with the value of natural light,
and with being up high - looking out over the yard, into the trees.
It seemed to be all windows, all springtime light, summertime light,
a room filled with nothing but tables full of art supplies
& all that wonderful light pouring through uncurtained windows.
Thus began my longing for such a house,
a house with light, with space, lots & lots of space, space to make art.
It was there I learned the magic of making a potato stamp & using that stamp to make art. Anything I wanted - any color I wanted.

In first grade, we had art 2 or 3 times a week - I don't remember.
Piles of wonderful big manila drawing paper would be placed on a desk at the front of the room. We'd take a sheet, and after finishing another assignment,
would take out our crayons & give ourselves over to the fun of art.
My very first assignment, I messed up & went to the front of the room,
got another sheet of paper & began again,
not knowing that the teacher had put out an exact number of sheets of paper -
1 for each student.
When the last person came to get his sheet, there weren't any left.
I was paying no attention - intent on my drawing,
until the teacher accused Ricky of stealing an extra sheet.
At that moment I realized what was going on & was mortified -
paralyzed, unable to speak.
I was so painfully shy that I'd actually had to be removed from a previous school
& start first grade over again - I suffered from selective mutism,
although back then there was no name for such a thing.
I was just shy.
And that day, I just froze.
I knew I was the guilty party & I wanted to speak up, but I couldn't - I was terrified.
Never fear, though, because another student had seen me take that extra sheet & told our teacher, who was
1. Stunned, because I never did anything wrong - why should art be any different?, and
2. She'd assumed Ricky, the class troublemaker, was at fault,
and she felt quite guilty & ashamed of herself.
I whisperingly fessed up & to this day still feel guilty about my inability to speak up.
In 4th grade I had a gorgeous redheaded teacher
who got married over the Christmas holidays & became Mrs. Wheeler
& who taught us batik.
Oh lordy, the magic of that. I've never forgotten.

But back before I was old enough for real school, I went to playschool,
which was in the backyard of one of our city's founders.
There was a wooden walkway leading to outdoor rooms under the trees -
the windows had no screens; it was very pavilion-like.
Walls that were waist high, the rest of the rooms opened to the outside.
And there I learned my very favorite thing of all, something I've kept with me till this day.
We'd be given drawing paper (God, how I loved drawing paper) & a black crayon
& we'd draw scribbles on that page. Like this:



And then we'd color it in. Like this:



And then real magic!
We'd write our names with a black crayon,
then trace them on the other side of the paper,
exactly backwards & upside down, like this:



And THEN ,
we'd turn the paper 90 degrees and make creatures out of our names.
Like this:



And I still do this.
Now however I use a computer & photographs & the magic of Photoshop.
That's how the fence image at the very top of this post came to be.
When stressed or depressed or needing a break,
I come in & start coloring on a photo I've taken for that very purpose.
Lots of sections, pretty plain, but an image I like nonetheless.
Digital therapy.
It takes a long time, but eventually, after many days of a little here & a little there, it's done.
I recommend it highly.

And remember poor Ricky? Who was accused of stealing that extra paper I'd taken?
In 3rd grade, he kissed me & then told everyone during Friday's Show & Tell period.
Once again, I was mortified.
Speechless.

13 comments:

  1. As I read through your childhood memory of art class, it brought me back to a similar experience...different, but similar.
    Grade 3 choir class. Strictest teacher in the school...not only the choir teacher, but my regular teacher as well. I was terrified of her. One day I decided I didn't want to sing in the choir anymore. So I went to hang out with my friends in another classroom while the choir was doing a rehearsal. She must have noticed I was missing and sent a student to come get me. I remember standing in the middle of the choir, and she told the piano player, in front of everyone that someone had been naughty and decided to quit today. I was so mortified (I was also very shy) that I felt myself go dizzy. Almost passed out from fear, or embarrassment, or something. I never missed a class again! The thought of doing something bad was the worst thing in the world for me at that age.
    You brought back wonderful memories of art class though, with the swirly coloured-in squiggles. I used to love to do that when I was young!
    Great post.
    xoxo

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  2. Jaime - Oh, the mortifications we went through as children. No wonder we need things as adults to help us calm down.

    :) Debi

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  3. I loved being in your class with you and I had great fun this afternoon playing with my name creature who decided to turn herself into a plant.

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  4. Hele - Isn't it GREAT to do silly things? NOW you have to draw a turkey!

    :) Debi

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  5. Teeehheeee! Oh, this is so much fun! I would love to try some digital therapy too...

    And I'm wondering whatever became of Ricky...what a little toad. :)

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  6. I KNOW!! I wish I could remember his last name - I'm so SURE that I will see him on "Cops" some day!

    :) Debi

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  7. That cute little tiny shy Debi...what tribulations! I know we all had them but right now I am picturing you so small and shy. Poor thing.

    I did not know about the name creatures or even the mirror name, but I definitely remember doodling and coloring in the spots.

    And that Ricky, what a little pistol! I bet he grew up to be some kind of trouble.

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  8. I think we should all have a picture of us when were inkindergarden prominatly displayed and constantly remind ourselves, when we feel horrible about an aspect of oursleves, that we are feeling that was about ..her...(points to photos)

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  9. Such great memories you have, except for Ricky. Was he at least a good kisser???

    I love your photoshopped scribbles and name creatures. As kids, we would have been dazzled had we had a glimpse into this future. I am dazzled by this glimpse into your past.

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  10. you had a great beginning for becoming a talented artist. you had so much fun! and you still do obviously :)
    everyone has a story eh? i have about twenty but i will stick with just one. this is the story of why i can't draw a stick figure or do 'joined up writing' (as professor lockheart would say ;)) at least i hope this is why...

    if you are catholic or know catholics you will have heard that learning cursive writing is on the top three things of importance you must do by the age of 8. topped only by preparing for your first confession and first communion.... there is a very specific way in which Catholics are taught to form their letters. slanted just so, evenly spaced and perfectly equal in size. each and every swirl and whirl must be practiced endlessly. it was an actual class. penmanship. well i was a child who daydreamed a lot and looked out the window and talked to my neighbors. all those things resulted in red check marks on my report card. and i suppose that as a result of being busy with these other activities i didn't practice my penmanship as i should. by the middle of second grade Sister Charlotte expected us to be able to write our own names perfectly. and if you couldn't...apparently i was in that group... you had to get up in front of the class and stand at the blackboard and write your name over and over until you could get it right. Sister Charlotte's god given job was to stand behind your eight year old back haranguing, humiliating and hitting you as a form of encouragement and motivation to improve. i remember crying so hard that i couldn't hold my little hand steady or see the board.

    And to this day i have the worst, i mean the worst handwriting imaginable. it isn't even messy in a cool kind of way. i think i got stuck at an eight year old level of handwriting development because it is all uneven, mis-matched and sloppy. drawing seems to fall in the same category. i get hives just thinking about drawing anything. so digital art is a godsend and has given me a way to atone for my penmanship sins.

    p.s. you have referred to your shyness before and i must say my heart aches for that little person you were. i know that anxiety is the biggest challenge for you now. but i'm glad you aren't so shy anymore because then you would never have begun a blog and we wouldn't have been able to enjoy your art!

    p.s.s. i think my comments are getting longer each time :) wonder what that's about....?
    XO

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  11. Way cool (the mirroed name turned sideways and then becoming something else). Wow, I haven't been able to read blogs regularly for some time now and yours is so prolific! On so many levels!! You must never sleep, m'dear! But, what a treat to be able to enjoy your prose and images.

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  12. Tango - poor little thing that I was. I really wish I could go back & let her know it was gonna be okay.

    San - I am blushing!! I would NEVER kiss & tell, as HE did! :)

    Robin - Sister Charlotte sounds AWFUL!!!!!! OH, but you would get along with Emma so well. She gets in trouble for the exact same things. And I love your long replies - I want this blog to be a conversation. You know, like it says - "Sit under the Emma Tree & let's talk."

    Paula - The name thing IS cool, isn't it? I had such fun teachers. And lately, I HAVEN'T been sleeping well, so I've been writing. It's been wonderful therapy!

    Love you all!
    :) Debi

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  13. oh what a fun memory...my Mom taught me how to make our Name Bugs, and to this day, I still make them! and my birth name is also Deborah!

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