Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lessons in Living: Catherine Russell

This is the stocking Catherine Russell made for me a long, long, time ago.

These are ornaments that she made. Aren't they cute? They go on my tree every year and I think of her when I pull them out of the box.

Catherine was one of my mother's fellow 4th grade teachers in Kenedy. And Catherine is one of the reasons I have learned to make things with my hands.

Catherine loved crafting things. She was particularly partial to anything involving sequins and beads. I can remember a time when she was into Faberge type eggs. Mom has one that she did w/ a tiny Nativity scene set inside. The outside is covered with little fake pearls. She also did appliques, and needlework. I was absolutely fascinated by how she could make such pretty things out of things like felt, styrofoam balls, yarn, and various sparkly stuff.

Catherine was, in many ways, very no nonsense. I remember her as being barely over 5 feet tall, stout, with  flyaway blondish hair that was a law unto itself. To be honest, the kids at school did not mess with Mrs. Russell. We were more than a little afraid of her. Her husband went by his initials which were G.D. and I can remember her telling my mom about an encounter she had w/ some repairman or clerk who didn't seem to think that dealing with Catherine's complaint was a priority. "I'm Mrs. G.D. Russell," she told him, "and G.D. stands for just what you think it does."

But thanks to her friendship with my mom, I got to see another side of her. The side that liked to make pretty things and the incredibly generous woman who shared her creations with her friends. Her church in Kenedy would have a bazaar and Catherine always contributed her creations to it. And even though I never had her as a teacher in a class, she taught me that you can learn how to anything with your hands. And while I don't blow out eggs and turn them into beaded wonders, I do weave cloth, sew, and make my living as a graphic designer. Over the years, I've taught myself how to knit, embroider, needlepoint, etc. And part of my interest in things of this sort is a direct result of knowing Catherine and seeing all the different things she would make with her hands. So wherever you are Catherine, thank you for teaching me that making time for creative endeavors is important and to not be afraid to try my hand at something new. You may not have been my classroom teacher and you never taught me math or English, but you taught me something much more important:  How to live a creative life.

No comments: