Tag Archives: Karen Ritz

At the start of the school year, coincidence by design

September 5, 2017

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A grandmother’s one-time project will help guide grandson’s path as he starts preschool

W-A-I-T

It keeps repeating in my head – that digital voice at a city crosswalk, designed for blind people to cross. Wait. Wait. Jack turned three and started preschool Tuesday.

My art life has always spookily prepared me for my real life. Like when I lost William at 20 weeks pregnant, and the nurses at Abbott Northwestern sent me my own card, from years before when I did artwork for a card company that specialized in sympathy products for when babies die. Those nurses could not have known from the name on the back.

Karen Ritz

And Jack starting preschool? He’ll be hopping on the same floor that I helped to design. His mom and her brothers went to Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul starting in the late 1980s, and by 2000, I found myself as Chair of an Art and Environment Committee that oversaw design details on an extensive renovation of the church and school. The church came first, with repair and studied renovation, returning design elements to their original intent in 1937. The school followed in 2005 – a $15 million dollar renovation and an addition that somehow needed to look seamless, tying together new structures with those from 1923 and 1960. If any of you have built or renovated, you know the volume of decision-making – paint and carpet colors, lighting, bathroom tiles for boys and girls, flooring, grout choices, but on a larger scale and with church ladies saying, “If you paint it that color, I’m never coming back!”

Toward the end of the school reno, our pastor, Father Peter Christensen, was named bishop of Superior, Wisconsin, and I found myself at a Tuesday meeting choosing those dreaded grout colors with Kate and Margo. The architect announced that the delayed floor tiles were in, and they would start installation on Friday. They had a draft of the plan (we had worked hard on the floor transitions to try to tie in existing tiles from the original structures) and it lacked spark. I asked if I could draw out a pattern using the same tiles, since they would be following one anyway. They architect agreed, if I had it back to them on Thursday, all three stories (of course, they didn’t think I would do it).

I sat with my colored pencils and those plans, and thought about how big this new school would seem to such a small child, and that a pattern, and change of pattern, would help them find their way. I thought about the excitement of going somewhere, and the need to hop. I made a predictable pattern around doorways, so you would know when you’ve arrived (and to stop hopping). I thought of another generation of kids, and delivered the plans that Thursday.

The world spins and it is 2017, with Jack starting preschool on Tuesday. W-A-I-T. His parents don’t know that there is no going back – the getting up on time, breakfast, and rush, and adjusting all over again with daylight savings. (His mom went to afternoon preschool in my attempt to avoid this, but we would find hot dogs and parts of sandwiches under the rug when we cleaned. “Hurry up and EAT!”) The playdates, volunteer hours, reading lists, math problems, and spelling words, learning to follow directions, play sports and make friends. All the way to college.

Look down, Jack, and follow the path. You will find your way, and it’s ok to hop now and then. The light has turned green just for you, “WALK.”

Karen Ritz is an award winning Illustrator of over 46 children’s books, including Ellis Island, a 1995 Minnesota Book Award winner, and for 2017, “Sadie Braves the Wilderness,” a picture book about kids’ first trip to the Boundary Waters. http://www.GrandyCamp.info is her latest creation, knowing that busy, active grandparents needed quick, great ideas and answers when the grandkids come along!
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