This title says it all! I know we've all heard about what it's like to be in the midst of an astronaut, a president, or someone so unbelievably unique that just being in their presence is extraordinary. Sunday was my day to be around such people. Before I tell you about this remarkable event, let me give you a little back story... In September of 1968, I walked into a 3rd grade classroom at Farnham Elementary, that will forever be one of my favorite school environments. (Yes, that's me in the middle of the bottom row, with the orange dress. I think someone should have talked my mother out of that purchase, haha)
Marian Gault was, and is, a beautiful, warm, kind hearted woman, with long golden hair, of which I was so envious. She made her classroom fun, and created memories that will be embedded in my mind as long as I live. During that school year, she introduced her students to her handsome husband of six years, and together they taught her little eight and nine year old students the passion that they both had...folk dancing. Marian and Ned met each other in a folk dancing atmosphere, and quickly became partners. In 1962 they were married, and have been dancing ever since. As students, we were not only taught folk dancing, but we made costumes, to go with our upcoming performance (there's a photo of that infamous "skirt". I think it was made out of interfacing, with flowers ironed on it-again, someone needed to talk my mother out of that hair bow! LOL). Over the years, I would reminisce about the things I remembered, and as I became a mom and my daughters entered school, I would tell them about my favorite teacher. In 1995, my daughter had a fantastic third grade teacher and it made me wonder what ever happened to Mrs. Gault. This was just as internet was getting started, so I pulled out the good old trusty white pages, and to my amazement she was still at the same address! I located an old photo of me in the 3rd grade, wrote a letter, and sent it off to someone who I was fairly certain wouldn't remember me. I didn't write the letter for any other reason than to let her know that this former student remembered her fondly, but knew how much I would love to receive a response. Not only did I receive a beautiful letter in return, but she remembered me and it was the beginning of our "reunion". She told me how her third grade classes were just a brief part of her teaching, and that she ended up in junior high, before an early retirement from public school education. She subsequently taught art, calligraphy, continued to dance, and travel around the world (For some reason I think this photo was taking in the mid to late 1960s, because I remember this photo from back then). I can't tell you how quickly my heart was beating the first time I saw her, after we exchanged letters. I was so excited to see her, but nervous as well. Within seconds, she put me at ease, just as she did in September of 1968. Since that time, I look forward to her beautiful, handmade cards, every Christmas; I even save the envelopes. You may think that strange, but if you saw the gorgeous handwriting, you'd know why! I treasure every time we get to see one another, and am so happy my husband and girls have had the honor of meeting her and Ned.
Okay, so about Sunday...When I received their last card at Christmas it had said that she and Ned were going to have a celebration on June 3, with invitation to follow. They wanted to combine their birthdays, 50th anniversary, and a living memorial to Marian, all in one fantastic gala. Although I knew I wouldn't know anyone at the celebration, except for Marian and Ned, I was still excited to attend. When the invitation arrived a while back, I blocked out that weekend, so I could travel to the Bay Area and witness the extravaganza. The event was to take place at the Sunnyvale Community Center, where so many of their dance performances, and classes, had been held over the years. This couple is so popular, that the line for the registration table quickly wrapped around the room. Old friends met up after many years, and new friends were made in quick conversations. The one chain that linked us all together, was that we were all there to celebrate the life of two stupendous people. Not knowing any of the people I met, I would lead off with "So, how do you know Marian and/or Ned?". Within minutes, I realized that they are so multifaceted, that they have friends from every activity in their life! Subsequently, people would ask how I knew them; proudly, I would say "I was one of Marian's 3rd grade students". Boy, did that get the conversation going! I remember within about an hour, when people would ask me the same question, their response was something like "Oh, YOU'RE the one! I've been hearing about you". ;)
In the back end of the room were tables that contained scrapbooks, prints of Marian's artwork and Ned's photos, articles they'd published, sheet music he had written, certificates, plaques, newspaper articles, recognition from cities and Chamber of Commerces, and the list goes on. Let's just say that I thought I might walk out of there saying that I want a "do over" with my life ;) I never knew that it was possible for two people to live life to that extreme! Although I was Marian's only former 3rd grade student in attendance, there were people there who had been in their adult ed classes, who danced with them over the years (whether in the troup or as students), friends, family, and people who had been at their wedding on May 19, 1962. Within no time, I learned that Marian was more than a former public school teacher, and Ned was more than her lifelong dance partner. I obviously knew they were dancers, who had traveled the world with their dance troupes, however I felt like I was in the presence of greatness. As I was writing this, I started to tell you all the things they've done, and I feel like I'm going to do them a grave disservice because I know that I'd be omitting so many things. However, here are a couple things that stood out to me...Marian's art was first published when she was 11 years old. A few years ago, she entered a national handwriting contest and won first place (now do you understand why I keep her envelopes)! All these years I was thinking that she was born in the mid to late 1930's (about my parents' age)--I found out on Sunday, that she is 92 years young!!! Look at the images I took of them dancing--I'll be lucky if I can do that when I'm 80! They actually treated us all to a tango, as well as a waltz. Dancing With The Stars could learn a thing or two from them. Ned was part of a group who was the first to create the semi conductor; he is a glass blower, musician, composer, author, and taught high school chemistry, as well as adult ed photoshop and photography. I was teasing him that I am going to send them a disc of images, but that he's not allowed to email me and say that I need to take one of his photography classes :)
Naturally, I go to very few events without my camera, and was so honored to help them to remember the day. I know that every single person who was in attendance felt just as special as I did--Marian and Ned have a way of making people feel that way. As I told Marian, I thank her for what she did for me when I was a child, but I'm even more grateful for the friendship she's given me as an adult. To all my new friends I met at the gala, please enjoy the slideshow below, and if you want any of the images, just let me know. As I told someone the other day, I walked into a room of two friends, and 200 strangers, and left with 200 new friends! When I was thinking about what song to use for the slideshow, I originally thought about using one of Ned's original compositions. However, Monday morning, I heard this song on my ipod. The words spoke to me and I instantly thought of Marian and Ned, and how the song talks about having a moment that lasts forever, and being lucky enough to do something that most people only dream of. If you want to see additional photos that aren't on this blog go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/Debbie-Brown-Photography/132190279226
For Marian and Ned...words seem insignificant when I describe the two of you, and how you make people feel. Your gentleness, grace, laughter, knowledge and zest for life are things we all love about you. On Tuesday, I heard someone speaking about the Queen's jubilee, and they said that most wonderful tributes like that, sadly, occur after someone has passed. Marian, I immediately thought of you, and am so grateful that we all had the opportunity to tell you, and show you, how extraordinarily special you are. The fond memories I have from that singular year in the 3rd grade will forever be in my heart, but I have new memories of the two of you that are going to be held just as dear. Although I know I'm just a very small, and brief, portion of your life, I thank you for welcoming me on Sunday and allowing me to meet all the incredible people you love. You both will always be very special to me...AND THE WORLD! With much love and gratitude, Debbie