Wednesday, October 13, 2004



Many years ago, my father accompanied me to school to help me choose my courses for my high school years. It was an evening when I was in eighth grade, and I was excited about the school years in my future. I was a very good student, and loved school.

My Art teacher tried to convince my father that I should major in Art, as I had always been one of his “favorite” students. I still remember today a sculpture of a fawn at rest that I had worked on from memory – not even a photo. When my teacher fired the fawn, he did not return it to me. He wanted to keep it. I was always a bit sad about that.

I was even less happy when my father basically refused to allow me to major in Art. He said that I would never be able to make a living in that field. It was decided that I should major in Math, Science, and French, with a minor in Business. I suppose that was OK, in a way, as I did very well in those subjects. They were challenging and kept my interest.

It was arranged by the Principal and Guidance Counselor at my school, near the completion of the high school years, that I go to college in Albany, New York, at what was then a State Teachers’ College, now part of the SUNY system. They wanted me to be a math teacher, and the college had accepted me, thanks to these two men, who were neighbors and close friends. Somehow, I lost interest in doing this after I started working for a living. I was just realizing, also, that my parents were definitely unable to afford to send me to school. I was the oldest of many children, and it just wasn’t going to happen. I was notified by the college that they had a dorm room saved for me, but I was beginning to think about going away to New York City to get a job.

I did go to New York, and got a fantastic job. It was interesting, exciting, and started me on my way to becoming completely interested in people from other countries, cultures. I was introduced to the wonderful world of retail, in the import offices of a very upscale company.

I worked for a while, then married the man I met when I first went to New York, an accountant from back home, in the area near where I grew up. After we had already had our first child, I received notification that I could use the last year of a scholarship for college. Apparently the person who was using the scholarship dropped out, and I was an alternate. It was too late – not possible at the time.

I just realized one day, very recently, that I did not go to school for a reason other than finances. I had no interest in being a math teacher. It has taken me forty-seven years to come up with this mind-boggling revelation. I must be slow.

I have spent much time thinking about Art and Art History in the past year or two because I have a wonderful granddaughter, Allison, who is majoring in Art History (and languages) at Duke University in North Carolina. She is in her third year, and at this time is in Madrid for the semester, continuing with her Art History studies. I am so envious, but I am so happy for her. She is doing what she wants to do, and she is a fantastic student – achieving so much through her years in elementary and high school.

In the sixties, I started painting, using mostly acrylics, but also working in oils a bit. I did this while I was being a mom, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have also traveled to museums in many cities in this country and France. Collecting art books has been a favorite thing to do for many years, and now I can visit world famous museums on the internet.

At the time that I realized I never wanted to be a math teacher, I started thinking about the subjects I had taken in high school. Yes, math was OK, and I was the only female student in a class of males – girls didn’t take that stuff then, at least not in my school. Achieving a score of 100 on the Trigonometry Regents was indeed exciting, but my homeroom teacher was unable to get me into the General Motors Institute, as they "didn’t have facilities for girls".

I can’t think of any way that I have used those math courses since leaving high school, except perhaps in the most minor way. The same applies to the science courses. French is good, because I still remember it, can read it, and can understand people when they speak it. I have used art throughout my life, not only for personal enjoyment, but in a profession that I chose when I became self-employed as an antique dealer. You need art when you study antiques, and I spent many years learning to do what I do. I have also sold art in the past, along with collecting it. Architecture fits right in with the art. I have always studied great architecture, in books and in my travels. The same applies to photography. I have had a camera since I was a kid, and in the 70’s, I belonged to the Buffalo Science Museum Camera Club. I learned a lot then, and won some ribbons.

I loved my father dearly, and still think about him all of the time, fifteen years after his death. He was one of a kind, and hundreds of people loved and respected him – he had his own business and was well known. His choice for my high school years was based on popular thinking of the time. I do not have any ill feelings toward him for not allowing me to do what I wanted to do.

I should tell my granddaughter that she is a girl right after my own heart, doing what I always wanted to do. I don’t believe that I have told her that.


  • At 9:36 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger Chris Clarke said…

    You never told me I kept you out of school, Mom. Sorry about that.

  • At 3:52 PM, October 21, 2004, Blogger Rita Xavier said…

    I wouldn't give up having you as a son for a minute, Chris. It just wasn't a good time. I might make up for it. I just spoke with a woman from Contra Costa College today about taking art classes (free). She is in charge of all the free classes, and is taking my writing class.

  • At 3:58 PM, October 21, 2004, Blogger Rita Xavier said…

    I mean it wasn't the right time for me to go to college, not that it wasn't a good time to have you. You are a very special person, and if you hadn't been born when you were, the whole world would have missed having you around.


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