When the arson investigator confirmed the art room fire at school was indeed arson, I wanted to take my proverbial Christian hat off and toss it in the ashes. My portfolio contained my past, my present, and my dreams. No art program was going to take a second look at me without a filled portfolio in hand.
“Miss Parker, the police have arrested a suspect who confessed. Appears your teacher didn’t give him a recommendation to an art institute. Kid was angry.”
The investigator gave his apologies and left my grandmother’s house. I looked out the bay window and related to the dreary skies. Life was bleak.
My parents dumped me with grandma when I was two. Grandma worked two jobs to keep clothes on my back and purchase discount art supplies. Everyone at church pitched in over the years to pay for lessons, surprise me with more paints or pencils. They believed in me and my dreams to be an art teacher.
“Now Catherine, no use poisoning yourself in anger. The colleges all know. They extended your deadlines. You can get a new portfolio together by February.”
Grandma put her hand on my shoulder while I continued to stare. When I looked away I noticed her calendar hanging on the dusty cork board. Thanksgiving was a day away.
Thanksgiving morning I slept in, giving up the TV parade watching tradition I shared with Grandma.
“Get up sleepy head. There’s someone here to see you.”
“I’m sick. I don’t want to see anyone.”
Grandma threw the covers to the floor, snapping her fingers as a command. I sighed and swung my feet to the floor. I muttered as I dressed and shuffled to the living room.
“Catherine, there you are. We’re on our way to our son’s house but we wanted you to have this. Now just open the envelope and don’t say a word. It’s a little something to get you back on your feet. First thing tomorrow you can buy a new case, top of the line to show your work.”
My hands shook as I opened the envelope from my favorite Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Davis. The enclosed check would more than pay for a new attaché.
“But I’m not sure I…”
“Don’t you remember what we said every week in the seventh grade? We’re going to trust God. He has a plan for your life, Catherine Parker, don’t let smoke and fire kill your dreams.”
I held the check long after Mrs. Davis left. The doorbell rang again. Pastor McInerny and his wife, Lisa, smiled as I opened the door.
“Can we come in? We can’t stay long but wanted to stop in. We have something for you.”
“It’s from the church, Catherine. The elders suggested we give this to you today. After the fire our office received call after call. So many people concerned about your future. They handed this money in with their own offerings. It was all earmarked to you for supplies. Your church family believes your art is a gift from God. You must continue.”
My lip quivered as I saw four crisp four hundred dollar bills.
As I helped Grandma make the stuffing, I kept asking why. She smiled and squeezed my elbow.
“Because we love you and it’s what Christians do.”
I placed the envelopes next to my plate as we ate. As moist as the turkey was, it still stuck in my throat. I was overwhelmed by the church’s generosity, the college deadlines and the lingering anger over the fire. My mind raced with a range of emotions as I took a serving of cranberry sauce. The doorbell rang once again.
“My goodness, it’s like Grand Central Station here!”
Grandma chuckled, opening the front door. Mr. Baker, my art teacher, greeted us.
“Mr. Baker, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be enjoying your Thanksgiving with your family?”
Mr. Baker pulled a CD out of his coat pocket.
“My wife insisted I drop by. Catherine, I’m so sorry about the fire but I have news. I took pictures of all the senior projects. I scanned them in and put them on CD. The CD was at home the day of the fire. My daughter’s Strawberry Shortcake DVD was in my laptop. I have proof of your work. You don’t have to start over for college applications. You’ve got something special the Good Lord has for you. Use it.”
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