Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Presbyterian School Days

Once upon a time, all four of the Hazel daughters went to Presbyterian School. Those days are long gone now, but the memories of that place are sweet and strong. Erin was our first to attend, back when Betty Baxter was the head of school. With a simple handshake and personal greeting for each student every morning, Betty instilled a deep sense of belonging while teaching manners, respect, and common courtesy.

As a young family, we couldn't afford such an education for our daughters, but felt that we couldn't afford not to go, either. With scholarships and squeezing an already tight budget, we made it work. Lucky for us, Presbyterian School reinforced our ideas of what early education should look like. Which reminds me, several of our teachers were some of the most beautiful, kind, gentle women I've ever met in my whole life.

One of the teachers, Mrs. Henricks, still there, was a feisty, adorable woman who taught our third graders Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Who does that? Third grade! Years later, when Joy and I ran into Virginia (Mrs.Henricks) at Target, she remembered that Joy had tried every trick in the book to get out of doing her homework. Mrs.Henricks loved a rascal, she's one herself, but schoolwork was schoolwork and she expected (with some mercy thrown in) for the kids to perform. And they did.

Back then, the music teacher was a brilliant woman who composed musical plays for the kids just to supplement a lesson on Abraham Lincoln. I can still sing the opening song, and I wasn't even in the play. "Happy birthday Mr.Lincoln, happy birthday Abe, happy birthday Mr. Lincoln, it's your birthday!" (<--singing it to myself)  Mrs. Fish could play the same guitar left handed or right. I've never seen anything like it. The kids would crowd around her while she was playing. If a kid got too close to her left hand, she never fussed....she would turn the guitar around (and upside down) and play it upside down and backwards. Who does that?

Mrs. Livingston nurtured our daughters and their fondness for science with hands on gardening. The kids worked to build a garden on campus and they worked in a garden at the Children's Museum after which they made power point presentations of their work.  Power point presentations in elementary school! Who does that? (The day lilies and fig tree still growing in our back yard are from Mrs. Livingston's own garden.)

Besides the loveliness of the campus, art classes were at MFAH's Glassell, the chapel teacher had the voice of an angel, the students learned Spanish, ate nutritious lunches, learned that gifts could be thoughtful handmade creations....which brings us to this sweet painting.

This Presbyterian School commissioned piece was a gift for someone who, according to the grapevine, really loved it. Several things were included in the painting to make it unique for the recipient and for Presbyterian School, though the image is universal. The girls' backs are toward us, so that we can all identify with the schoolchildren. They are in the blackwatch plaid dress uniform and running toward the office part of the school, which includes those windows, the top portion of which is the emblem for the school.

Maybe power point presentations are the norm in elementary school these days. Maybe third graders all over the globe study Shakespeare. Maybe all schools have a world class museum and art school part of their daily life....I don't know. For us, these things were extraordinary. For Presbyterian School and what it was for our whole family, I will ever be grateful. This painting reminds me of that, plus more, so much more.


Margaret Simon said...

I love this painting. It could easily be my girls dancing off to Epiphany Day School where they wore the same blackwatch plaid. Oh, the fond memories of elementary school. Thanks for this wonderful tribute to a special place for children to grow. Why do they put in high stakes testing and take the joy and creativity out of learning?

Sarah Hazel said...

Aw, Margaret! Yes! I loved those years with our daughters.

Joan Breckwoldt said...

Hi Sarah, your painting turned out beautifully! And what lovely memories you have, I believe that joy and tenderness comes out in your painting!

Sarah Hazel said...

Thank you, Joan -- high praise coming from you. :)