Updated: Jan 26
Something pretty incredible happened to me the other day. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin:
It's flying ant day, the distant buzz of the lawn mower is making me sleepy, and the rhythmic click-click of the teacher's high heels irritate me. I've got to concentrate, this is it, the last 5 years have been building up to this day - my fashion and textiles final exam.
Fast forward 18 years and I'm ringing the door bell of Medway Open Studio Artist map no. 5.
"Come in, come in" the artist beckons "Excuse the shorts" she says looking down at her tanned legs. It's been a sweltering hot day and the suggestion of a storm lays heavy over the River Medway.
"Well, if you've got great pins then show them off" I say and she looks at me in the comparative dark of the hallway, taking in my features
"You're Rachel Anderson" she exclaims.
"And you're Mrs Trinder" I smile.
After 18 years of teaching countless other children in different schools Mrs Trinder (or Jackie as she now insists I call her) still remembers me. I'm impressed.
"I've still got some of your work" she says and I instinctively know - hope I know - what piece she is referring to.
"They were going to throw it away, and I couldn't bear that so I brought it home. Would you like it?"
My eyes widened, and may have gone a bit watery.
"Yes. Please." I say pronouncing each letter. I can hardly believe what is happening.
"Have a look through that while I go and get it out of the loft"
She hands me a felted covered, spiral bound book. I stand in her cool tiled studio in front of a huge watercolour of a Tiger Lilly. As I turn the stiff black pages familiar faces stare back at me. Pieces of artwork jump out at me and I can name the Year 11 pupil who created each one of them.
Back down from the stifling loft, Jackie scrambles to take a large felted piece out of a translucent blue recycling bag, she is as excited as I am. My fingers are twitching to touch the itchy wool and connect with my past. Jackie hastily unfolds it. Curly threads of purple, aquamarine and a flash of orange bring back a memory. A flat dark brown and muted ochre tones contrast the Van Gogh inspired background. I breathe heavily.
It perches awkwardly on the chair and we stop it from slipping onto the floor, both smiling. I'm close to tears.
It is the 16 year old me's hopes and dreams. It is the freedom of leaving school, the anticipation of starting college, of adventures unknown and a future ready to be written.
It's no masterpiece but to me it is priceless.