I just heard, from a friend, that Mrs. Mackey died last month. She is so vivid in my mind. Her face with her warm and watching eyes, her presence, what she wore day after day. Her lipstick - a muted color, yet quite strong.
I was lucky. She was my Art and English teacher from Grades 9-11. (No more Art class in Grade 11 - I took the final test at the end of Grade 10, and I remember how sorry I was that it meant the end of Art class.)
I especially remember loving Art class. There were 5 of us who cared most, were most intent - each of us doing very different work - all of our styles equally accepted.
I remember hearing the names of artists in her classes that I could not find later - like Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun, a favorite of Marie Antoinette (if I'm remembering right) - and Suzanne Valadon, mother of Utrillo. And Mary Cassatt. I did actually find them again later, when feminism had an impact on the art world. And then there were books and exhibitions on these women.
They already had space in Mrs. Mackey's classes. (Only she didn't tell us how hard it would be to find them elsewhere. Had I only imagined these women, I sometimes wondered, when I went to museums in Europe - and then there it was, one time in the Louvre, a painting by Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun.)
I remember that memorizing Shakespeare didn't count, in Mrs Mackey's English classes. A relief for me. I remember the agony, in an earlier English class, of having to get the commas and dahses right.
Instead I remember loving the classes. I don't remember what we talked about, what she said. I just remember the pleasure.
I'm one of those who didn't keep in touch with her. I did go back once, maybe a year or so after leaving high school. But I really had nothing to say.
I've done a lot of teaching since - university and CEGEP. If I've been able to reach any of my students as she reached so many of her students, that would be great.
She is so vivid in my mind just now.
And it's so amazing that I have just learned of her living until last month, and of her passing. I was talking with a friend - and she mentioned this special high school teacher she had had - and so we found that, though in different years, we had shared the wonderful Mrs. Mackey - now Helen to her.
I am grateful she was in my life. Her presence. Her knowledge. Her quiet reserved giving.
I am sure there is more, but for now, this is it.
I had never seen a photo of Mrs. Mackey as a young woman. In my mind's eye, she is some indefinable middle age. Good to see her as a young woman.