A strange day

I’ve been debating to what extent I want to include personal posts on here. On the one hand my site my rules right? I can write about whatever I want in that absolute sense. On the other hand there is certainly some pressure to keep a degree of secrecy about personal happenings away from the web whether it be to keep employers from finding something I wouldn’t want generally known or to prevent companies from treating me differently because of something they were able to get in a search query or mine from public data.

With that said I want to share more opinions and experiences I have when I have time to put them in writing and when something major happens I want to be able to share it. So here goes…

First some good news today is Mole Day! This brings back very fond memories from high school and college chemistry classes where we reigned holy terror on our classmates. I exaggerate most certainly, but I remember an occasion one year where an administrator’s new office carpet got stained because of residue from a contact explosive our chemistry teachers would put in the hall ways to cause random explosion sounds and make you hop a little bit. It made for a far more interesting passing period than on other days. Talk about some bounce in your step! We’d also do things like put pure sodium in water to watch it explode and use potato like guns to shoot little stuffed animals that looked like moles at targets. Did I mention dipping flowers and marshmallows in liquid nitrogen? Chemistry is awesome and Mole Day was always fun. Thanks to Mr. Mayfield for sending out an email blast to his long line of students. He is an incredible influence to so many students I’ll discuss my sense of gratitude towards him another time, but for now Moles forever!

While that’s a very positive reflection thanks to one teacher I also found out something that was profoundly sad to me about another teacher. My 7th and 8th grade art teacher Mr. Gervais has died. Saying that fails to summarize who is was and what he was like. He was animated, passionate, and engaging in ways that still amaze me when I think about them. Anyone who knows me now knows I often talk about having notoriously poor graphical art skills. I’ll often say things along the lines of “I can’t draw a straight line in photoshop.” My hand-eye coordination is spotty at best so writing can be difficult let alone drawing. In a lot of ways it might be natural to think I wouldn’t particularly care for visual art. Yet Mr. Gervais nurtured an appreciation for art that is still with me and fostered an environment of acceptance and working with your strengths to do what we needed to do for art class.

Art teacher with students
Mr. Gervais with students

Moments like this were among my favorite. He had many stories to share and he was interested in us sharing our thoughts with him and each other. It was very Socratic in that sense, and it was brilliant.

He gave me a text book on the Russian language once, because I told him about my Father’s experiences during the war. Mr. Gervais served in the Army around the same time my Father did. While my Father did not see Vietnam, I think Mr. Gervais thought my Dad had seen more than his fair share long before he was in the Army. I remember a field trip to The National Veterans Art Museum and how intense that experience was. I think I learned more about war and its effects in that one field trip than I could ever appreciate from just reading about it. I wish I could have gotten Mr. Gervais and my Dad in a room together I can only imagine the stories they might share with each other. I think it was his book from when he was in college (he had a very interesting story about how he paid for his college education by going to school one semester and taking one off to work). I still have this book. While there were several students from the Eastern Bloc in my school most student did not speak Russian so it always brightened my day to see him in the hallway and speak a little Russian for a few moments. He’d very loudly greet me and I’d reply in kind. I’d love to hear him speak with that gravity and friendliness again. You will be missed.

So in that spirit I’ll end with this

Бог дал, Бог и взял.
God gave, God took back.

На миру́ и смерть красна́.
With company, even death loses its sting.

до свидания господин Жерве
Goodbye Mr. Gervais

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