Fort Smith High School
Pat Priest

LIFEíS IRONY

The irony of my life is my being a teacher. I was supposed to graduate in í57, but because of a lack of good grades I had to return for an extra half-year in order to graduate. I have wondered so may times what direction my life would have taken if not for that high school diploma.

After graduation I worked at Morrowís Book Store (everyone knows where that was located) and then at lst National Bank. During this time I met my ex-husband to be. He was stationed at Ft Chaffee during the Berlin call-up. He was older and wiser and extremely attractive to a girl who had lived all her 22 years in Ft. Smith. We met in November, became engaged on New Yearís Eve and were married in April.

We moved to Norman, Okla. And Richard (his name) worked as a graduate assistant in P.E. We lived in a small apartment and saved money for him to go back to school to work on his doctorate. Never having been exposed to the academic life it was a scary experience. I started taking classes and discovered that I had a talent for art, if not one for English and Math.

We had our first child, Kimberly Ann while we were in Norman and when she was two we moved to Fayetteville, Ark. for Richard to continue his education. I learned how to knit during this time. I continued taking art classes at U of A and found out how little I knew. After a year and a summer we moved back to Norman and bought our first home. Richard was supposed to take over as the Director of Intramural when the current director retired. I was pregnant again and it seemed that we were on our way to achieving the American Dream.

Six months later Richard had accepted a job in Monroe, La. (where the HELL is that?) and when Melissa Marie was four weeks old we moved into a small rented house out from town with one car and a baby with a bad case of colic. If you have never tried living life this way, I canít recommend it very highly.

A year later we bought a home in suburbia and started working on the American Dream again. The girls were getting older and we lived in a nice neighborhood with couples around our age. When the kids were old enough to go to day care I started taking a class or two around their schedules. I learned to love art. It was my escape from realism. I also took a few dance classes, something I had always wanted to do and even danced in a few plays. This was a lot of fun and also another good escape from realism.

From time to time I would become serious about getting a degree and I would take classes other that art, (why are they even offered)? After many moons I finally graduated and as the girls were older and didnít need me as much I worked at odd jobs and even managed a tobacco shop. I donít smoke.

By now Richard and I had grown so far apart we were barely speaking. I was busy running from reality and he was seriously involved in his career. We were able to get together a few times to travel. We both loved plays and went to New York twice on theatre trips. It was wonderful. We traveled to Scotland, England and the best trip of all to Turkey. They have such wonderful museums. All delicious escapes and then it was back to the reality of suburbia.

By accident I was at NLU and was told by one of the teachers that Grace Episcopal School was looking for an art teacher, I had never considered being a teacher did not have any experience and did not have a teaching certificate. All I had was a BFA in painting and a real lack of desire to be a teacher. When I walked into the school and met the principal, I felt as if I was home. It is a small private school in an old three story brick building connected by covered brick walkways and huge oak trees. It is also connected to the most beautiful little church, which I later joined, changing from Baptist to Episcopalian. My time at Grace school was seven of the best years of my life. I made friends that I still have today. Theye have since all taken different teaching positions. Unfortunately the pay at private schools is great as a second income but as a first income, it sucks.

While at Grace I went back to school and took the classes needed to get my teaching certificate, fortunately for me, because Richard and I divorced during this time and I bought a little house a block and a half from Grace and in an area called the Garden District. I loved it. It was my own home in an area with sidewalks, close to the park and the levee. I acquired a dog, a little black ball of fur I call Chin Li. He is a Chow and has made me feel protected and safe for eight years.

Being a stay at home wife and mother with a husband who paid all the bills, made most of the decisions and when you ran out of money deposited more in your account, does not prepare you for real life, trying to pay bills, pay for a house, pay a car note, etc., etc., when you arenít making enough money ceases to be fun after a while.

I had to quit my job at Grace and apply in the Parish. Art teaching jobs are not that easy to find but I was lucky and started teaching art at Ouachita Parish High School. You want to talk about reality. I love it! This is my sixth year at Ouachita and I canít imagine doing anything else. I can retire in four years and then I guess Iíll take up Karaoke. Susan Foster introduced me to this activity one summer and since it has been a life-long dream of mine to stand in front of a group of people and make a fool of myself trying to sing, I am being granted my wish.

My youngest daughter, Missy was married at nineteen and divorced at twenty, but she gave me the love of my life, my grandson, Colby Martin Hines. He is seventeen, 6 ft. tall, skinny as a rail and has the sweetest dimples. He is all teenager and seems to believe he should have the freedoms of a 20-year old. He is a junior this year and he has taken art from me all his life. He has a hard time understanding that the Me Me at home who adores him and the Ms. Buck at school are two different people. He still likes to lay on my bed with his long legs hanging off the end and have me scratch his back and head. Please God take care of him.

Even after taking a better paying job I was unable to meet all the demands of taking care of a older home and had to sell my little house and move in with my youngest daughter, Missy, and Colby. It has been another wonderful experience. They have been so terrific to me. Missy is also a teacher and we have a lot of experiences to share. She has turned out to be a wonderful person. Iím very proud of her.

My oldest daughter Kim has lived in Calif. for ten years and we donít get to see her very often. She is getting married in New Orleans in November and we are excited about the occasion. This is her first marriage and she is marrying a wonderful man. He would have to be terrific for Kim to be marrying him.

Another terrific experience has been getting re-acquainted with my brother Jim (call him Butch). Some habits are hard to break. He has become an important part of my life. After so many years of not being close and finally being able to put our differences aside. One thing that helped was our Mother reaching a point where she was no longer able to take care of herself and we had to put her in a nursing home in Monroe.

Hopefully there are lots of adventures ahead and I am looking forward to the reunion.

Pat Priest - 2003