by Mary Young
My childhood was less than ideal — in fact, I was the only girl in my immediate family who did not run away from home during adolescence. After high school I moved 300 miles away for college, but quickly had second thoughts about whether I belonged there. Coming from a blue-collar family and an easy rural high school to a white-collar university that gave a “C” for work that would be a “B” at another school, I felt like a misfit financially, culturally, and educationally.
Somehow I made it through my freshman year, and headed back for year two. I’m so glad I went back, because that was the year I met Barb.
Barb seemed the exact opposite of myself, and everything I wished I could be. She was popular, out-going, confident, talented, and artistic. One day I watched Barb doodle, making beautiful calligraphic swirls while waiting for class to start. I sighed, thinking how Barb could do anything she wanted to: draw, paint, sing, play guitar, even calligraphy. I was lucky to be able to read the notes I took in class — forget about anyone else being able to read them.
Barb heard me sigh, and asked what was wrong. “I wish I was artistic,” I replied.
“No, I’m not. I can’t draw or do calligraphy. I can color inside the lines, but that’s about it.”
“Well,” she said. “I think you’re artistic.”
I figured she was just being nice, but still, if Barb said it, there must be something to it. I knew I was creative — I’d been writing poems and short stories since I was 12. But artistic? I could barely draw stick figures, and crafts I tried came out looking clunky.
But if Barb thought I was artistic, there must be something to it, even if I thought my only artistic abilities were with words.
It was 1980 when Barb said those words to me. Thanks to her, I learned to recognize my artistic abilities: the way I instinctively frame a field of wildflowers for the best possible photograph, and my ability to see beauty in unexpected places, like sun-dried sea oats hanging from their stem, backlit by the morning sun=8A
The summer of 2009 I wrote Barb and reminded her of that conversation, and let her know her words are still working their magic. I had ripped out a closet in my bedroom for more space, and needed to choose colors, wall hangings and draperies. I felt totally inadequate — interior decorating has never been my forte.
Just as I was about to give up, I heard Barb’s voice in my memory, “Mary, you ARE artistic!” With her words ringing in my head, I found the perfect color for the walls, the perfect pictures for the walls, and the perfect drapes to tie it all together.
Thanks, Barb, for believing in me all those years ago.