Whenever I see Jenny and Noel, I feel happy. They live down the block, and are almost always together, mother and daughter, daughter and mother. Jenny looks like she’s twenty-one—thin, petite, and dark-haired. Noel seems a bit older than her six or seven years, but maybe it’s because she’s so darn smart. A few years ago, she told me she wanted to study Hebrew. She plays the violin with perfect form, and she has her own blog. I interviewed her for my blog some time back. My favorite answer was to the question, “How do you feel about starting St. Anthony School?” Noel responded, “I feel happy. I can’t wait. Let’s roll! I can’t go on the school bus because my mom is worried. Mean kids are everywhere. I am going with her, but I have to take care of myself. It’s a sad, sad thing. But mom is telling me how. Let’s hear it for Effingham!”
It is a sad, sad thing, but I think the bullies will stay away from Noel. She is tall and confident and doing very well in school. Straight A’s. But she is also a normal kid. She likes Pet Society on Facebook and is very fond of the neighbor’s cat. She’s read the first three volumes of the Harry Potter series, but then the action started getting scary so she’s taking a little break.
Her mother Jenny is a brilliant painter who teaches at Eastern. Last summer she was commissioned to paint portraits of two saints for Hedwig House, the Catholic community’s house of hospitality here in Charleston. She asked me whether I’d be willing to pose as St. Hedwig, who was Eastern European. I was thrilled and went around telling people that the reason Jenny asked me was because of my saintly, pious nature. She drew very quickly, asking me to tilt my head to the side, then down. Mozart’s Requiem Mass played on the stereo as rain tapped on the windows.
“Should I try to show any emotion?” I asked. “Should I look mournful?”
“Just relax your face.”
It’s a great portrait, although Hedwig looks mighty well fed for a saint.