Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I had looked for her on Facebook more than once, even though I rarely seek out a means to reconnect with people from my high school. It should have been telling that Griselda didn’t show up. With anyone else it would have been. However, Griselda wasn’t like most people from high school, all of us so eager to jump online and broadcast whatever version of our lives we feel like sharing with the world. No, Griselda wasn’t like most people in general. She was better, or at least I saw her that way.

Late last month, I learned that Griselda’s absence from online social networks didn’t result from her politely too-cool art girl persona. In fact, she had died back in 2005. Somehow, finding out about her death so long after the fact has made it especially hard for me to accept it. If I had heard of it shortly after it happened, I would have tried to attend the funeral. As it happened instead, I get to grieve on my own. She has been dead nearly as long as we’d all been out of high school.

I remember Griselda in art class, working on projects independently from the rest of us because she had more experience painting and more raw talent. She was good, and when I told her this she disagreed — again, politely. That might have been the first time I talked to her, and I can remember few other conversations we had during the short time we knew each other. The one that sticks out most was about her name. She explained that it sounded prettier when pronounced the Spanish way rather than with the hard “z” an English-speaker would use. I later had similar conversations with other girls — an Edith, an Agnes — but it was Griselda who first pointed out that an accent can make a world of difference in how people perceive a person or a thing. Maybe because she was a painter she was better able to explain how such a slight variation could influence someone’s reaction, make people see a thing as more beautiful. I associate Griselda strongly with art and aesthetics, so I have found it hard to read the news article about her death: It’s to-the-point, like a news article should be, but it struck me wrong that this text — along with a newsletter from my old parish announcing her memorial mass — should be the lasting memories of Griselda. So I’m taking this opportunity to remember her in a more appropriate way.

I don’t remember how anyone from high school signed by senior yearbook — except for Griselda. She took my yearbook away for a few minutes and when it came back, it had a genuinely unique signature.


I had told her that I was moving to Santa Barbara, and in lieu of a simple “Have a great summer!” Griselda drew what she thought Santa Barbara might look like, since she had never been there at the time she made this picture. To me, this beach doodle is Griselda Ruiz. She did things differently. She made art. And she found a way to make me remember her. I’m sorry she died. I had hoped that what Griselda had drawn in my yearbook would have been an indicator of greater things to come and not the last original piece of her art that I’d get to see.

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