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Friday, October 13, 2006

Miss Gilchrist - or, my obsession with glassware


I remember it as if it were yesterday. All the kids in the fourth grade lined up at the door of the classroom, held our partner's hand and began the grand tour of the 'big' sixth graders' glass display. In every hallway of Arthur McGill Elementary School were tables and tables of sparkling glass in every shape and size imaginable. There was pink depression glass and white milk glass and ruby red glass. There were twisted orange and green glass vases and hobnail glass shoes. There was stained glass and antique glass paperweights and hand blown glass figurines and "art" glass. All types. All sparkling. All fragile.

It was such an exciting time for me. I looked forward each year to viewing these massive displays presented by Miss Gilchrist's sixth grade. They got to study a whole unit on glass --spent weeks studying and preparing -- until the culmination of it all --the Glass Display!

I could not wait until I got to sixth grade so that I could study glass too! In the autumn of my sixth grade year - imagine my absolute joy when I learned that I had been assigned to Miss Gilchrist's homeroom! Now, not only would I study glass, but I would be able to be right there in the center of all the activity because I was at the "base camp"! I had already begun planning which pieces of glass I would bring in for the great Glass Display --choosing a purple vase - because EVERYONE knew that purple was Miss Gilchrist's favorite color! (I was hoping for extra bonus points!) It was with great anticipation that I awaited the announcement of when we would actually begin the glass unit. Miss Gilchrist said that we would have to wait until after the poetry memorization unit --just four more weeks!

Then one morning, I skipped into homeroom only to find that Miss Gilchrist had been replaced by some younger, long red-haired teacher named Mrs. Ayers. What was up with that? Where was our Miss Gilchrist, with her purple lilac earrings, her purple dress, her dark black hair, her beautiful smile which made her eyes twinkle and her sweet-smelling lilac perfume?! Mrs. Ayers did not have twinkling eyes, that was for sure. And she couldn't have possibly worn a purple dress because it would have clashed tremendously with her red hair.

Mrs. Ayers made the startling announcement that she was going to be our substitute teacher for at least the rest of the semester because Miss Gilchrist had taken a sabbatical for health reasons. OH NO! What does this mean? What about our glass unit? ...I'm sorry, but there will be no glass unit this year. I was devastated. I prayed every day for Miss Gilchrist to get better so she could come back and be our teacher and we could begin setting up our huge display of glass for all the school to see. I wanted so desperately to be a "hall monitor" - standing next to a table full of glassware, reminding the third graders to keep their grubby mitts off my purple vase. It would never happen. This dream would never be realized.

We never were actually informed of what exactly was wrong with Miss Gilchrist. She had been in the hospital for a very long time and we spent hours creating get well cards and sent her a big package filled with our cards, some lilac bath beads, a big, fluffy soft purple bathrobe and a pair of purple slippers. Sometime after Christmas, Miss Gilchrist eventually came back to school after her long illness. She still smiled a lot and still smelled like lilacs. But she said we couldn't possibly study the glass unit because there just wasn't enough time.

Not enough time. It wasn't fair. I had a purple vase to display! Over the years, I have managed to collect all kinds of glass. I have some milk glass, some hobnail Fenton glass, some depression glass, some carnival glass, a whole bunch of ruby red compotes, so many antique glass paperweights that I don't even know how many I own and dozens of other miscellaneous pieces that I know are valuable but have little knowledge of because, after all, I NEVER got to study the glass unit. My husband once had the audacity to suggest that I get rid of some of my glassware because it's "taking up too much space to store in the garage". WHAT was he thinking?!

I told him the story of Miss Gilchrist and how, because she fell ill, I never got to realize my dream. It was all her fault, after all, that I have this obsession with glass. It's her fault that I have a wooden crate of various colors and textures of glass for use in my stained glass projects. The crate is so heavy - it cannot be moved unless it is emptied. It's her fault that we're redoing a bay of our garage and converting it into a studio so that I can create, among other things, lots and lots of stained glass projects.

I still have my purple vase. It's packed away in a box, somewhere in the garage, right next to the box of antique glass paperweights which should be on display in my now empty, glass top, display-box coffee table. My friend Jim asked me the other night at LifeGroup why I didn't have anything on display in my coffee table. It made me think about Miss Gilchrist, with all her purple and her bright smile.

Tomorrow, I think I'll go unpack a box.

6 comments:

dawnaj1958 said...

What a neat story. I knew when I bought that pink depression ware tray at your garage sale you were letting go of something you loved. I have it in plain view in my kitchen. Reminds me of someone whose friendship I cherish. Hugs.

Becky said...

if it makes you happy-find it because there are few things that will bring joy to your heart. (god first of course)

Marla Bean said...

Dropping through to say hello... Checking out what you have to say.

It wasn't until I dated a glass blower (is that what you call them?) that I realized the beauty of this art.

Birmingham Girl said...

Me too, I love glass! I don't have much to speak of, but I always go right to the glass objects in antique stores. I love the weight of it, the smoothness of it, the colors in it, the whole thing. I watched a special on Murano glass fromI Italy, it was really fascinating. I have some depression, carnival (my grandmothers) cobalt blue and a few others. Love it!

KayMac said...

I love glassware too! I have some pink depression glass...but I love it all!!!! Mine is packed up until we have our own permanent place.

Sara said...

reading back over the week and i'm so glad i did!i love this and i'm so grateful that you shared it. i love glass too, especially if you put it in the windows of your kitchen for morning rainbows when the sun comes up. this post was like a hug!