By Christina Capecchi
Barbara Benson Keith’s wake-up call came while chatting with a fellow kindergarten teacher at the end of a school day.
Her colleague said, “‘I hope in 10 years I’m right here in this classroom doing the same thing,’” Barbara recalled. “And inside I was like, ‘Ack! No!’ That didn’t appeal to me at all.”
In the spring of 2000, after 12 years of teaching, Barbara took a leave. She was ready to end the persistent stream of sickness teaching had triggered and embark on her next adventure. “I thought, ‘You can be safe or you can take risks and live your life.’”
Barbara traveled to Pompeii, Italy, taking in colossal mosaics that left her slack-jawed. Back home, she immediately set to creating a mosaic, digging out leftover chunks from a community education stained-glass class she’d taken nearly a decade earlier. She worked on a card table wedged beside the basement furnace, playing the “Wicked” soundtrack on repeat as she pieced together a 51” by 51” rendering of Queen Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother.
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