Almost everyone has a woman in their history who has made a difference in their life. I have many, but the one who comes to mind is my teacher,
Mrs. Hildegarde Ruben, a kindergarten teacher for forty years.
Mrs. Ruben was larger than life and touched so many. A warm, magical woman with a dark olive complexion, big brown eyes and long, black, shiny hair that she wore in a chignon. She dressed in colorful bohemian attire and hoop earrings and I thought she looked like a Flamenco dancer.
Not only was Mrs. Ruben a superior teacher, but an accomplished pianist and magnificent painter, water colors being her favorite. She had a deep passion for all the arts. She read us books, poems and nursery rhymes and taught us how to draw and paint. We’d sing and dance and accompany her with maracas, bells, triangles and tambourines while she played the piano. She encouraged us to express ourselves with no limitations.
Once a week each of us got to spend private time with Mrs. Ruben. When it was my turn I'd run up and slide onto the wooden chair that was snug against the right side of her desk. I treasured these private moments with her. She was an amazing portrait artist and during the time we'd talk, she'd work on a pastel drawing of each child in the class.
“You did such a nice job accompanying me on the piano the other day. Your dad said you like playing the piano.”
“I do!” I said.
“How are things at home?”
“I talked to your dad the other day when he dropped you off. I showed him your art work and told him what a wonderful singer you are. He’s very proud of you.”
I smiled at her while she blended the pastels on the paper.
She gently put her hand on mine.
“This is coming along nicely,” she said. “And so are you.”
It was a warm June day when we graduated from kindergarten. My dad came to the little ceremony in Mrs. Ruben’s classroom. She greeted all of our proud parents. We sang a few songs, had some snacks, and then Mrs. Ruben spoke.
I stood in line with my dad, and when we reached the front of the line Mrs. Ruben hugged me and handed me my finished pastel portrait, with her unforgettable signature, all black, all caps, on an upward slant: “ Hildegarde.”
I stared at the portrait. I looked into my eyes and felt a burn in my throat. All the background noise in the room became quiet for a moment. Mrs. Ruben had captured something in me that I’d never seen before, the girl I’d come to know and love.
Thank you Mrs. Ruben!
P.S. This years theme is Valiant Women Of The Vote, women who have fought for woman’s right to vote in the United States to ensure voting rights for all. No matter who you support in the 2020 election it is so important to vote. So many women before us have fought for our right to do so.