I remember distinctly as a child my mother telling someone that my sister was a painter and I was a writer. I was a sensitive child and I took this to mean I was only good at writing. I can't paint. That is my sister's role in the family. When my sister would write something well, as was her habit, deep in the recesses of my unacknowledged thought, I would feel a piece of my identity snatched away from me.
She was the painter. I was the writer.
As a young teenager, I avoided art classes because I feared pencils and paintbrushes. I dropped art class to sing in the choir and learn to blow the French Horn less like a squawking duck. When I was ultimately forced to take an art class, I went to the teacher privately to explain to her that I was not painter, an artist, a sculptor, or anything that required tactile skill.
I was the writer. My sister was the painter.
As an older teenager, living in a country where I didn't know how to ask for a glass of water, I took an art class because my only other alternative was Latin. The thought of translating from one language to another and then to my native was overwhelming enough to propel me into arte with Maria Pilar. Maria Pilar was a small woman that looked at her students directly and told them that they'd gained weight, they were overly flirtatious, or they were smart but they needed work on the social skills. Her demeanor scared me almost as much as my history teacher who asked me how my American fascist friends were doing on a regular basis.
In fear, I worked. Praying Maria Pilar wouldn't discover my lack of skill, I learned to draw, I learned to paint. Water. Brush. Color.
Maria Pilar looked me in the eye and told me my sister and I can both be painters. We can both be writers. And we are.
Thanks to Maria Pilar.