There. I said it. Grief is a sneaky bastard and I feel like I have the right to call it like I see it. The last two years have been full of loss for me. Not looking for sympathy here, just stating the facts. The most significant was the passing of both of my grandfathers and my teaching mentor Karin Baker.
Grief is tricky. I cried and cried, and I guess I thought that while I’d be sad the active part of grieving would be done and I ‘d get on with it. Somehow like I’d get to cross it off my to do list. Turns out, grief is a bit more persistent and sneaky than that. Some of you may know this already, but I guess I just hadn’t experienced so many losses so close together to feel like before I had healed from one another happened.
So yesterday I was finishing up my lesson plans for summer camp at the New Children’s Museum. I haven’t taught camp in a couple of summers, mostly because San Diego Museum of Art closed down their program in 2009 and that was the primary place I taught, plus I had stopped teaching most programs so I could paint more.
As I was writing my lessons and coming up with the game plan, grief knocked hard on the door. “Who would you most like to call right now?” it asked. Karin Baker. She would know the best plaster recipe, the best place to buy the electrical wire and probably know how much it would cost, plus tax of course, and she would loan me her hard to find Calder Circus video. But unless I can get AT&T to place a call to heaven, it isn’t going to happen. And that’s when it hit me, teaching kids brings back the grief of losing Karin. She was like a mother and a mentor to all of us who taught at one time or another at SDMA and her loss hit all of us really hard. Most of my colleagues have continued to teach kids, and in fact most are classroom teachers and do it every day. I had left that behind to pursue painting full time and don’t think I realized how closely teaching kids was woven together with my love for Karin.
Thinking about what to teach, materials to use, making sure I have a good mix of media, that women artists are represented, looking through the art supply catalog, all reminds me of Karin. I remember the first time I placed an order for materials to teach 4-6 year olds. I wanted googly eyes for a puppet project. I got a brief email back from Karin, who I hadn’t met yet, which just said, “no googly eyes, and by the way don’t order glitter either. Ever.” Classic Karin, and I can hear her giggle as she hit the send button. Turns out, we had glitter, but it was called “dreaded glitter” and was brought out in only the most dire of teaching situations. And that’s the part that makes me laugh, remembering Karin and her wicked sense of humor, her calm ability to deal with any classroom catastrophe, and her forever generous mentoring. And then comes the grief, the missing. So I sit with it, just as I am doing now as I write this.
I’ll be processing through this more in the days and months to come. I’ve got a new adventure ahead, not quite ready to reveal it yet, but let’s just say it’s a dream job and I’d love to call Karin and tell her all about it.