Friday, May 1, 2009

Remembering Mrs. Baggett

The other day, I went out to lunch with my friend Jeanine to catch up on the things that girls discuss when they haven't seen each other in a while. We talked about our husbands, her son, our families, our health, and then we touched upon the topic of math.

Yuck... Math. Jeanine and I both feel the same way about math. We know what we need to know to get by, but it isn't a subject or a skill we've bothered to maintain beyond basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. For Jeanine, she's facing the deeper realms of math to prepare for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). You see, she's on her way to pursuing her doctorate, and, unfortunately, one of the areas that the GRE assesses is math.

"I can't even do multiplication [in my head] past eleven," Jeanine said.

"Neither can I," I admitted.

But Jeanine revealed that there was hope. She had a tutor who was brilliant at math but did not have the typical linear mind of a math person. Instead, he was able to explain complex concepts in a way that she could understand. His lessons were really helping her to prepare for the exam.

Justifying our mutual dislike of math, I tried to relate. "I think my inability to do math goes back to the third grade," I confessed to Jeanine. "It was in third grade that I had Mrs. Baggett. While the other kids were doing math, I was decorating the classroom door with my drawings. She even paid for me to have art lessons. And that is the reason I can't do math," I joked.

"Did you ever think that she is the one to thank for your love of art?" Jeanine asked.

Purple Paint

I was dumbstruck. I think I've told that story a dozen times. I've described how the other children in my class were using paper clips to measure objects while I prepared a scene of Brier Rabbit on the door for a door decorating contest. And my story would often end with "...and that's why I can't do math."

But I rarely revealed why Mrs. Baggett paid for me to take after school art lessons. I was being raised by a single father, and after school lessons were a luxury that we couldn't afford. Mrs. Baggett, who had always been fond of my drawings, decided that paying for art lessons was something she wanted to provide for me. She bought me a set of new lead pencils, a sketch pad, and an art eraser. She informed me that I would be taking real art lessons after school with a real art teacher. "You are a talented young lady, little miss," she told me.

I treasured the new art supplies and would eagerly show her what I had learned to draw after each lesson. She often asked me to draw people in the school to display on the concrete wall behind her desk, and I gladly complied. She would often tell me that she wanted to take me home and adopt me. Mrs. Baggett was a nurturing soul who made me feel special. I lived for pleasing this woman with my art. However, at the end of my third grade year, we moved to Arizona, and my days of after school art lessons were over.

When I think of her now, a smile often comes across my face. She saw something in me, even at such a young age, that I still have difficulty seeing -- the potential do something great with art. And though I may not have thanked her in the past, I thank her now for the wonderful memories she has given me. In a small way, I still want to please her. Thank you, Mrs. Baggett, where ever you are.

A Monkey for Jennie

"The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings."
- Eric Hoffer


  1. You were very lucky, some might say blessed as well.

  2. What a great story! It sounds like art lessons were a better choice than math tutoring. :)



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