REMEMBERING ELIZABETH WRIGHT INGRAHAM
This morning while driving to get coffee, I was listening to the usual pre-election ridiculousness on National Public Radio. I have only to wonder for a flash of a second what Liz would have thought of things (or of a certain candidate) in order to hear her voice and ROARING laugh — clear as a bell.
Sidebar: I would share what I can hear her say about that candidate, but this is not a political post. (And, now I can hear her say, “But, Carol… why NOT a political post?! We all must SPEAK UP and DO something!”)
MY INTRODUCTION (a.k.a. ’THE INITIATION')
I had just moved to Colorado Springs and was working as an architectural intern in a small office. Our office was right in the center of downtown, in the same building as a movie theater, a French bistro, a chocolate shop, and Liz’s two-story office, accessed through a narrow pedestrian alley. Her office was next to a Thai restaurant, which always smelled like fried rice.
Liz loved hanging out will all types of creatives, of all ages. About once a month, several young professionals including several architectural interns, an architectural illustrator, and a landscape architect would pack their lunches and head over to Liz’s office to gather around her conference room table.
I had no idea that attending the first time was a kind of initiation. When I got there, I noticed that the guys who invited me were unusually quiet. They had taken their seats, ready to observe the show. You see, Liz examined everyone who came through her office doors closely. If you weren’t up to snuff, you quickly became the target of an interrogation. If you did measure up, the energy shifted to banter. The interrogations were especially fun to watch (as long as they didn't shift over to you!)
For Liz and myself, it was banter. Always banter.
Years later, I brought two summer interns from our office to lunch with Liz. It was my turn to sit back and enjoy the show. These girls were quite young, the kind of young that thinks nothing of wearing spaghetti-strapped sundresses and flip-flops to the office. Liz leaned in: “What are the branches of the government?…You mean you don’t know?!...Who did you vote for?…What do you think of this legislation being proposed?…Do you read the paper...AT ALL? Watch the news?”
One of them passed the test (barely, she was let off the hook after she correctly listed the branches of the government). The other did not.
She was old enough to be my grandmother, yet we were peers. She introduced me to clients and her own children as “a colleague of mine.” This meant the world to me. Back then, the only thing you could call yourself when you didn’t yet have your architect’s license was 'intern'… and this was when White House intern Monica Lewinsky was in the press, so it was a job title that opened itself up to some embarrassing comments. Not to mention the fact that everyone assumed that ‘intern' was synonymous with 'unpaid student'. (It’s not. You have to work for a minimum of 3 years under the direct supervision of a licensed architect as an intern before you can complete the examination process and actually call yourself an architect. Unlike doctors, who get to use the term doctor when they are still completing their residency.)
Over the years, I returned many, many times to Liz’s office. With the group, without the group. It didn’t matter. I would drop into the office and shout up the stairs, “Hi, it’s me!” She’d answer with a enthusiastic, “Oh, CAROL! How ARE you? Come on UP!” And, when I’d leave, she’d send me off with, “Force on, Carol. FORCE. ON."