Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The kindness of strangers

When I was in high school back in the Nixon era (you may call me Ms. Re-belzo), we didn't have such things as the Gifted and Talented program, or Horizons or K-level classes. I suppose that as students they considered us all pretty much indistinguishable. And, given the solid Germanic roots of Appleton, there actually may have been some genetic truth to that. As the only Jewish girl in my high school, I was clearly an anomaly. At least I think that's why I was an anomaly.

This was, however, a time of curricular experimentation. The college bound were not pegged into a track, say, of Biology followed by Chem 1 and 2 followed by Physics; instead, we were encouraged to explore the courses that would excite and fulfill us. One of our teachers -- Mrs. Mills -- would write intriguing course descriptions that she invariably said were for the "intellectually curious." Well, who wouldn't want to be described that way? What's the opposite -- mentally dull? I enrolled in every one of her offerings.

My favorite of her classes was The Lost Generation, which studied the American artists, musicians and writers who flourished in Paris during the First World War and the Roaring Twenties. Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris?" I was there for an entire semester. This is where I learned about Hemingway and Gertrude Stein ... F. Scott Fitzgerald and T. S. Eliot ... and my favorites just because I liked saying their names: John Dos Passos and Erich Maria Remarque.

In a later Mrs. Mills course, we studied Faulkner, Steinbeck and Tennessee Williams, among other American literary lights.  As soon as we were introduced to the concept associated with Faulkner known as "Stream of Consciousness"  -- that being a random flow of thoughts as they arise -- my equally intellectually curious classmate leaned over and said, Boy, that has your name written all over it.

It's true. I can be pretty random. But eventually I reach a point, something I honestly don't know if Faulkner ever did, as I was unable to ever trod completely through one of his books. (Hint: If you're going to try Faulkner, don't start with "As I Lay Dying." You'll wish you were.)

Reading the well-known plays of Williams was a particular joy. That man knew his way around character, dialog and plot. When we studied Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire," and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," the words instantly formed vibrant pictures in my mind.  I didn't need to see Marlon Brando as the tortured Stanley Kowalski screaming "Stella!" to imagine it. I could envision Big Daddy hissing "Mendacity," without setting eyes on Burl Ives in the role. I embraced the Blanche Du Bois line, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," because I felt it eloquently described an aspect of Southern life foreign to Midwestern sensibilities.

I described last week how a group of quilters I'd never met before had agreed to quilt my Freedom Place quilts. Today, I delivered two of the quilt tops to my longarm quilter, who will take them to the group next week. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, these quilts will be in the arms of their new owners faster than I could imagine. I'm very grateful.

Here are the two tops I've completed. I had to add some fabric from my stash, of course. I've been a little concerned about how bright they are, but maybe they will truly counteract the darkness in these girls' pasts.

How do you like them?

1 comment:

  1. I think in this situation there is no such thing as too bright Barb! I love them and I'm sure the future recipients will too. Great work!