Where Are They Now?

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As I walked through the coffee framed door entrance of the Attendance Office, four framed flower paintings, each different and resting across a sand-colored background, stared from the left. A short haired, blonde woman sat at a faux wooden desk, neatly organized, and with pictures of those she loved admiring the kind face that greeted me.

She typed delicately and had me sit in front of her in a chair inches shorter than her. It took a while before I began asking her questions as she finished working; she seemed focus on the screen as if it were the only thing in the room.

A BOI, Cynthia Ridens began her life on Galveston in a time when life for a high school student seemed simpler. Ridens would eventually work at the school she attended, and though times changed and school policies with it, she loves the school and children nonetheless.

A 1971 graduate, Ridens left Ball High School with the intention of starting a family. She married Jimmy Ridens in 1973 and had a son, Matthew 14 years later. Ms. Ridens lived through Hurricane Ike, and like many other victims of the category four storm, she lost most of her mementos and photos.

In the debris of the storm lay an art piece Ridens constructed for her new-born son long ago. Somehow that artifact stayed intact through the savage hurricane.

Ms. Ridens pulled the hanging string and a reminder of the past struck our ears.

The project, a needlepoint creation, was made as a gift to her son when he was born. She maneuvered yarn through a stiff and open weaved canvas and inserted a music box into the pixelated image. It would hang on the door handle and she would pull on the string to call out a lullaby that helped her baby sleep. The life her family once knew eventually returned and Ridens continued working at her beloved alma mater.

Ms. Ridens is going on 18 years working at Ball High School. Prior to that she worked for a doctor for 25 years. She was given the job by her late husband’s mother who’d taken a vacation and fallen behind in her work; this began a two-decade occupation that stemmed from helping her mother-in-law catch up. She also worked as a cafeteria manager at Galveston Catholic, now called Holy Family, and described it as a crazy job.

“I knew it was time for me to leave there after one of the mothers told me to cut the grape in halves for her students and I just lost it that day.”

Ridens returned to Ball High where she bonded with students from different generations, each one she loves and tried to help.

“There’s something about these kids that just tug at your heart and you know you can’t save them all, but you try to save at least one of them.”

Ridens plans to retire when she hits the 20-year mark as attendance coordinator. As for what she will do after retiring, Ridens said she’s not quite sure; but her current hobbies include reading, babysitting nieces and nephews and, of course, needlepoint. 

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