Painting portraits

When  I was a college student back in the sixties, I met some folks I will never forget because they enhanced my life. Let me paint a portrait of just one  of these folks, so their memories will live on in “cyberspace” for eternity. Marilyn was a sweetest smartest, cutest young lady you ever wanted to meet. She was alway smiling and to top it off she was a majorette with the marching band. She was from a very small town Glasgow, Missouri, we had something in common, because I was from a small town in Kansas. We were not like the majority of our classmates from St.Louis, Kansa City, Chicago, Memphis, Oklahoma City or Tulsa.

Marilyn had all the right stuff and it didn’t matter that she wasn’t rich or from a big city. She always did an excellent job at whatever she chose. She became a teacher in Chicago in one of worst urban housing areas in the city. She taught at Beethoven Elementary school and she was the best teacher  a child could have because her very presence in that school was a testimony to her strength and her perseverance. She came from a large family in a little country town, but she had a spirit that was tough as any big city lady. She taught gang territory with gunfights all around her classroom. She had to teach her student how to dodge bullets being fired around the school and into the school. She married after graduating from college and they moved to Chicago in 1965. She had a son and later divorced after several years but she kept right on teaching for more than 30 years in .Chicago, Illinois.

She was a talented artist too, and we always talked about composing a book together, she was going draw the pictures and I would write the stories. It would be a children’s book because I taught and was a librarian for 45 years. I never could have persevered in the teaching environment Marilyn taught in for so many years. I lasted only five years in Gary, Indiana before I moved back to Kansas where I had grownup. I divorced and had a son too. We both kept teaching but I changed my environment totally. I stayed in touch with Marilyn for years and spent time with her whenever I was in Chicago, except for the last time.

It was freezing cold and the “hawk” was blowing everything and everybody around like “pinwheels” and I wanted to see the Egyptian exhibit at the Field Museum. I called her before I rode Amtrack to Chicago and went to stay at the Hampton Inn. I begged her to go with me and she refused. I never found out why, but I went by myself to the exhibit riding the elevated train and walking across the cold, windy Chicago landscape. I never talked with her again because I was angry she refused to go with me and I regret this very much. She called before I left Chicago but I refused to talk with her. I was disappointed in her. I had tried to be a good friend to her but I failed to live up to my part of the bargain. I heard she was sick after she retired. I tried to called but never tried really hard. I tried to find her apartment and did but never was able to reach her. I think I was never able to comprehend what she was going through. I heard from her family members she always referred to me as ” her best friend” but I failed in that category.  Marilyn was a super lady and I was not and maybe that is why I couldn’t reach her in the last times. She was always able to overcome and supersede every obstacle she ran into but something happened to her in the end. She had taught all those years in the “war zone” of inner city Chicago and she deserved a medal. I have faith God knows her by her portrait, so she is in a better place forever, probably being a majorette for the band. She always rocked. I miss her still and she taught me that even a country girl can achieve much in the biggest, baddest, coldest, wildest city of Chicago. She had to a “be a badass” long before we knew what to call her. I called her one of my best friends. She showed me what “courage” looked like in a teacher.

 

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