An Ofrenda for Georg

fullsizerender-7Here we are, three years since Georg passed away, September 26, 2013. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him in one context or another and say to myself, “what would Georg do?” Or, if I am cooking something, I will forget for a moment that he is gone and I will think, “I should call him and tell him what I am making.” Immediately, however, I remember he is not here. I can’t tell him anything. Somehow, though, it always feels like he knows.

I think he is happy that I recently packed up a whole box of his stuff, collage papers, tiny bird effigies, plastic toys, Mexican milagros, pastels, and more. I sent them to my friend, Jarie Ruddy, who teaches art at The Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. This is the place where my sister and I went to school all the years we were growing up. It is where our mother, Rosanne, taught art for 40 years, and where Georg taught art for seven.

The school is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and one part of the celebration is to create a large ofrenda (altar) to “celebrate the lives of the people who contributed significantly to the story of the school.” I’m so glad I could send off a box of Georg’s things to the children in Jarie’s Stage IV class. They have been learning about Georg and his passion for line, color, and things that fly. They have created a most fitting ofrenda box in his honor, one that will become part of the larger community of offerings.  The photo above shows the box in progress. Jarie says it is not quite done, but it will be done very soon.

img_1845This is a picture of children’s hands making lines on cardboard in honor of Georg. Jarie said, “The students loved making Georg-like marks.”

Inside the box, you will see a brick. Jarie related the story to me that when the box became a bit unbalanced, one boy suggested weighting it with a brick. Jarie flashed on the fact that Georg had once given her family a brick on New Year’s Day. This was one of his annual rituals, the delivery of bricks to family and friends for good luck in the new year. I’m not sure if this was some rite from his ancestral home, Greece, or some Aquarian tradition, or just a “Georg-thing.” Whatever. The brick has been temporarily removed from Jarie’s backyard and added to the ofrenda. It looks at home there.

I was also very touched to hear that a girl in the class who is Greek is going to ask her mom to provide some Greek cookies, so that when the ofrenda is installed, it will include something sweet and Greek and buttery, melomacarona (honey cookies).  These will be an edible offering to those who have passed on.  Georg would love that.  I am so tempted to go home to Michigan to see the ofrenda when it is installed. I am not sure I can get there, given everything else going on in life at this moment.  But, knowing that the children are working together to make something beautiful in his honor gives me great hope.

Today may be the day that is the anniversary of Georg’s death, but one of his favorite Greek words was “Zoe” which means “life,” or as he always translated it, “new life.” Thank you, students of Stage IV at The Roeper School, for honoring Georg Vihos and giving him “Zoe.” Wherever he is today, he is smiling on us all.

 

An ofrenda (Spanish: “offering“) is a collection of objects placed on a ritual altar during the annual and traditionally Mexican Dia de los Muertos celebration. An ofrenda, which may be quite large and elaborate, is usually created for an individual person who has died. In honor of the 75th Anniversary of The Roeper School, classes, groups, and individuals are coming together to create an ofrenda to celebrate the lives of the people who contributed significantly to the story of the school. Boxes are being created to commemorate each person and will be placed together to create a traditional Ofrenda in the Bretzlaff Commons on the Bloomfiled Hills campus. This will be on view the last week of October with a community reception on the evening of November 1st.

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