When I was at high school, I loved my textiles teacher. She was young and beautiful and stylish and I ached to be noticed by her. I’m sure I was, in a way, because I was her top student 3 years in a row but I was too shy to talk with her in that matey jokey way other students could. So I worshipped from afar. She was my favourite teacher then but I don’t want to be a teacher like that, with only time for the popular, confident girls.
So there’s Linda. A shy, plain girl who waits by my classroom door at lunchtime, working up the courage to say hello. I learn her name and we talk about the weekend. She comes in one day to show me something she made. I give her a bag of fleece scraps to play with. She comes back the following week with amazing stuffies she has created. I encourage her to set up a small business and she sells them to her friends. Linda is clever and patient and oh so talented with a needle and thread. She finds the confidence to talk in front of assembly about what it’s like to move to a new country and start at a school where nobody speaks your language.
Today Linda asks me questions about being a sewing teacher. Where did I learn? How long did it take? Do I think she’d be a good sewing teacher? And it’s there I come unstuck. I want to say to her “But you can do so much better than that”. Linda is a very bright girl whose older siblings are at university studying medicine and law. I’m sure the same is expected of Linda. And then I remember back to an overheard conversation, the hurt that burned when two of my mothers friends berated my choice of a career in the textiles industry. All those brains wasted, they said, even though I loved my job with a passion. Just think what she could have done, they said. In secret I cried.
So I think carefully before telling Linda that she is so lucky, she can be whatever she wants to be. The important thing is that her job makes her happy. And that no matter where she goes to university and what she studies, she can sew until her eyes give out. We giggle at that, the thought of Linda ever being old.
I hope it was the right thing to say. It’s what I wish someone had said to me.
* all these lovely vintage fabrics were a gift from a friend cleaning out her mother’s sewing room