List the greatest compliments and encouragement you have ever been given:
(There may have been bigger compliments, or better encouragement, but these are what have stuck in my memory. That counts for something!)
- “Oh, I know all of that; Cindy keeps us up to date on all the family news, with her letters!” spoken by my Grandma Florence on a visit to our home in Lapeer. My chest swelled almost to bursting with pride and, at that young age – of possibly eleven or twelve – I realized that the best way to give a compliment is to speak it to someone else, within hearing of the intended recipient.
- On the day before I got married, my Dad drove me down the drive near our home to visit a dear, old family friend, Magabelle. She would be unable to attend the ceremony, but wanted to see my dress. I went into the bathroom, changed, and came out to model it for her. While I was changing back into my jeans, Magabelle stumbled and fell to the carpet. By the time I came out of the bathroom, Dad and our friend Jerry had spotted blood, and were near panicked. “Let’s get her to the hospital,” Dad was saying. Magabelle was shaking her head, no. “Let’s take a look,” I said and, resting her hand in my lap, carefully rolled up the sleeve of her nightgown to expose the source of the blood. It was a minor scrape, made by the carpet or upholstery to her fragile skin. I cleaned it up, and covered it with a gauze bandage. All was fine. That night, upstairs in my bedroom, excited and nervous about the next day, and waiting for my maid of honor to arrive, I listened to my Dad. He was downstairs at the kitchen table, more than a little tipsy, telling Mom about the day’s events. “I’m telling you, Janice, I was just so goddamned proud of her today,” he told her, over and over. “I know, Bob, I know,” Mom responded with a touch of impatience at the repeated retelling. Her tone didn’t slow him down a bit. “I was ready to head for the hospital,” he said again, “she took care of everything! She just made me so goddamned proud!”
- Throughout my life, I have been extremely aware of every flaw in my face or figure, and pretty vocal about it. My husband was neither sympathetic, nor quick to reassure. There were times when he laughed out loud at an expression or a particular look. Once, though, when I was whining about my “fat thighs,” he thoughtfully looked up from the newspaper and said, “No, you have strong thighs.”
- Once, while a beginning student, I was showing some experimental paintings to Tom Nuzum, an instructor at Mott Community College, he called another instructor, Doug Hoppa, in from the hall. “I want you to see this,” he said, “Can you believe it? What are we doing, that compares?”
- Many years later when I was preparing for my M.F.A. show, I met with a group of professors to show my work and give a short talk about it. Included were two ceramics teachers and a printmaking instructor, all of whom were very familiar with my work. I had also invited the sculpture professor, as my ceramics were large, sculptural forms. He had not seen them prior to this gathering. After I gave my talk and answered a few questions, the meeting was breaking up. The sculpture professor enclosed my hand between both of his, and said, “Thank you, whole-heartedly, for sharing this wonderful work with me!”
- My printmaking instructor – when I stopped in for a visit a few years after graduation – introduced me to his class as “one of the best students I ever had.” Similarly, when friends from Beaver Island met my ceramics professor in Florida, he spoke in glowing terms about me and my work.
- When I took a fit and quit my job at the hardware store a few years ago – while I was still thinking “what have I done?” and “what am I going to do?” – a former employer called me up at home, to offer me a job. It was not only extremely flattering, but one of the kindest gestures I’ve ever encountered.
- When my granddaughter, Madeline, was twelve, and visiting me here on Beaver Island, she started a conversation with, “Grandma Cindy, we’ve got to get you a man!” I laughed, and explained that not everyone considered me to be such a prize. “What?!?” she asked, incredulous, “Grandma Cindy, you are the nicest woman in North America!” That stands, to this day, as my very favorite compliment ever!