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Crayons(3 posts)

Nov 5, 2001 5:49 PM
When I came upon this article, it reminded me about how I feel about my bike. It's nice to feel like a kid again...


"I actually would prefer crayons."

My daughter was applying - subconsciously, I think - the most perfect appeal that her accumulated knowledge of grownups could muster. At six years old, she was standing with her eight-year old sister and me in the toy department of a large discount store, while their mother was shopping for groceries in the supermarket next door. She knew that it's not standard practice for daddy to buy toys as behavior-insurance while mommy is occupied, so she needed to make that perfect appeal.

Her voice was curiously analytical, almost as if she were speaking of someone else's desires, not her own. There was none of that whining that often accompanies her demands for french fries, Barbie outfits, or small plastic miscellania that I always end up stepping on. She actually said "actually," which implied that a process of reason and comparative analysis had been employed. And "prefer?" Well, how grown-up could a six-year old get? Of course, the trump card was that crayons were even affordable. It's not like she was asking for one of the radio-controlled monster trucks in front of us (which I personally found almost irresistible).

But I'm not that easily swayed. Well, to be honest, I am, but I'm working on it, at the constant urging of my ever-reasonable wife. So I turned to her sister.

She, at eight, is now much flightier than her younger sister. Eight-year olds are subject to the influences of Fashion, so I was sure that she would not "prefer" crayons. She would want something with batteries.

"Crayons are cool, Dad. Could we, please?"

We leaned in toward the display rack. "These," said the little one.

It was a familiar yellow-and-green box, promising ninety-six crayons (including METALLIC colors and construction paper specialists), and featured "The Built-In Sharpener." Less prominent, but visible to Moms, were the words "Non-Toxic."

"Why these?" I asked, genuinely interested.

I'm not kidding when I tell you that the eight-year old rolled her eyes as if I'd asked the stupidest question in the world. But her sister told me that the free crayons they get to color the placemats in our favorite family restaurant break too easily, while the yellow-and-green-box crayons don't. Then my first-born stunned me with a piece of information that resonated back to my own childhood.

"Dad, most crayons don't color nice and smooth. When you want the colors to be bright, you have to press too hard, and then the picture gets all blotchy."

"And little pieces of crayon come off and stick to the picture, and then when you try to brush them off, they smear onto the other colors,"interjected her sister, astounded at my ignorance.

I remember that! I remember sitting in Mrs. Greenlea's class, coloring a sailing ship in a perfect sea, with a perfect sky above. I remember a perfect yellow sun, blazing with a glory that made me almost deliriously happy, and a half-dozen little black birds joyously circling it.

And right at this moment, decades later, I can remember brushing those little specks of crayon wax off my masterpiece. And I can feel my horror as my perfect sky suddenly filled with driving rain. Those terrible streaks were all I could see, veiling the sun, soiling the puffy clouds, shredding the sails of my boat, and devastating the vision I had been painting in my mind of my mother's radiant face as I presented her with the picture.

Gee, Doctor, where did that all come from?

But the girls weren't done yet. "Daddy, the best part about making pictures is when you give them to someone else," said our oldest. "And if you send them to Grandma or Grammy and Papa, they'll write you a note to say thank you," added her co-conspirator.

I know my kids. I know when they're operating, and when their innocence is shining bright and clear. I listened to them tell me about how they like to work together, coloring a big picture side-by-side, but how sometimes coloring alone makes them feel better if they've been sad. I listened to them sparkle, as they told me how it's "so exciting" to have so many blues to choose from. I heard one say that when she has so many crayons, she just wants to use them all, and sometimes changes her picture just so she has an excuse to add more colors.

So we bought the ninety-six crayons in the yellow-and-green-box. It cost $3.99.

On the way home, my wife asked if they wouldn't rather have markers. No, we learned. Markers always leave "dots" where you start coloring, they're streaky, and the colors go right through the paper to the next sheet. Then the little one summed up the whole issue in three words: "Crayons are soft."

I knew what she meant. Crayons are gentle, non-threatening, and fuzzy. If you go outside the lines a little, hey, it's almost expected. A crayon-colored picture doesn't look like it was made out of bit-mapped digital code on a computer. It looks like it was made out of love. Even the bright, strong colors and lines are friendly and informal.

After we arrived home, my daughters colored away the rest of the day, except for the time we went outside to kick a ball around with our dog, and throw a football back and forth across our lawn. I don't know whether we'd have done exactly the same things if we hadn't bought the crayons, but I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have approached them with the same attitude. Now my memory of that whole day is subtly, softly, saved in my mind, as if my children had drawn it for me, then colored it with a few big, bold strokes and hundreds of gentle little details.

I am privileged to have spent a little while looking at the world through the eyes of a child, once again. And I am sure that I have never received so much education, entertainment, and enlightenment for $3.99 since I left those days behind, so many years ago.
$3.99 for a slice of heaven...good deal nm4bykn
Nov 5, 2001 11:46 PM
simplicity - we long for itDog
Nov 6, 2001 12:45 PM
It is nice to see that kids don't have to be entertained 24 hours a day with electronic wizardry. I remember simple toys, and long for those days. While the e-toys have a great awe factor, the simple ones last, inspire, and satisfy the longest - sort of like bikes, in a way, don't you think? :-)