02 Jan MISS SEIDMAN
I had a fabulous experience on New Year’s Eve Day. Before I get to the meat of it, here’s a little bit of the back story:
Back in June I was published for the first time. I had the honor of being asked to write for Kristen Noel’s Best Self Magazine. I got to know Kristen a little when I was doing some web design work for Best Self. One day I was meeting with her partner Bill Miles and we all got into a conversation about how I started doing design work. How I started late in life, acting on a dream deferred. All about when I was in first grade and had a wonderful teacher who understood creativity and encouraged self-expression. I loved her. She was kind, gentle and beautiful and spoke with a soft voice. Kristen and Bill asked me to write about the joy I felt because I was finally doing what I always wanted to do.
Writing the piece was scary. I worried that I wouldn’t measure up. If you want to read it, you can find it here. If you like it, you may want to subscribe to Best Self. It’s a very cool mag. If you don’t feel like reading it, the synopsis of the story is that Miss Seidman had an easel and paints set up in the back of our classroom. We were allowed to paint whenever we wanted. I painted a lot. And I knew that I wanted to be an artist. There was a city-wide contest and Miss Seidman entered one of my paintings – one of a man flying a kite with two little kids on a sunny day. I was chosen as one of the winners and my painting was exhibited in a show that moved from Bloomingdale’s and Gimbels and finished up at the Brooklyn Museum. The crowning moment was when I was notified that my painting would be aired on television behind the CBS-TV eye logo. As I grew, I lost my dream. I decided I wasn’t good enough, talented enough, brave enough to pursue creativity as my life’s goal. Until recently.
So this is what happened:
A few months ago, I got it into my head that I wanted to share the essay with Miss Seidman. So I had to find her. Where better to start than Google and Facebook? I did a search and saw a couple of old address listings and not much else. Then I looked on Facebook. And I found her. When I looked at her page I saw that the last time she posted was about 3 years ago. The first thing that went through my head was that she might have died, and that her page was forgotten about. I sent her a message and sadly gave up.
Then on New Years Eve day, I started thinking about her again. I went back to Google, looked her up again and found a phone number. I dialed it. A man answered. I told him I was looking for Miss Seidman.
“Hold on a minute.”
My heart leapt.
He came back and said “Please call back in an hour.” My heart sank, but I was still hopeful.
“Can I just ask you a question?” I wanted to find out if she was okay.
“I really can’t talk right now. Call back in an hour.”
I hung up and went out to run errands.
Came back, and picked up the phone and hesitated. I felt very uncomfortable. I was worried that this might not be a good idea. But I’ve always tried to live with the belief that if you never ask the question you’ll never know the answer. I dialed. I got voice mail. It was Miss Seidman’s voice. I was sure of it. I left a longish message.
A minute later my phone rang. The call was from her number.
“You just called me.”
“Did you hear the message I left for you?”
“No, I didn’t get a message.”
“Oh, okay… Are you the Miss Seidman who taught 1st Grade on the upper east side in the 1960’s?”
“Yes, I believe that would be me.” YAY!
I told her my name. SHE REMEMBERED ME.
Her first question:
“Are you married?” Wha?
“No. Not even interested.” I was worried that my memory of her was about to be shattered.
She said, “I didn’t get married until I was in my 60’s.” Really worried. Hang in there, Nan.
The conversation became much more fun as we chatted. I shared my memories of her, her classroom and how special it was to me. I told her about the essay, and asked her for her email address so I could send her a link to the piece. I also sent her links to my websites so she could see what I’ve been up to. We said good bye. Our visit was warm and satisfying. I was smiling my biggest smile. I was happy, and I told her that in the email I sent.
Twenty minutes later I received an email from her, and this is what it said:
I hardly know what to say to you — if our conversation left you with a smile on your face, your article left me with tears streaming down my cheeks — not of happiness or sadness but tears of having something touch my heart. To have the easel in the room was just for the purpose you describe and to have that validated 50 years later validates who I am & so I thank you. As a young teacher, I went on instinct & really bucked the system — maybe in life too. While I am much more sure of myself now, it’s always a struggle to protect & nurture the value of Art and creativity and really the precious self — most especially that of children.
It’s written that when you leave this world (I don’t hope to go for awhile) it’s important to leave a good name — you have given me a gift of knowing I achieved that in some measure.
And — I do remember the painting!
Keep the kite flying — your journey has a happy ending — many people don’t get there.
Will look for you on Facebook.
Connection. It’s everything.