I don’t really know what other color to call it, though on a good day, I may count myself as an artist with words, I am not as skilled with paint, and colors and the like.
Perhaps, I think, perhaps it’s Robin’s Egg – that bright color that makes me think of Spring. But no, this isn’t quite that color of blue. Periwinkle is too soft, too purple. Baby Blue is too dusty, too gray. Then I think of crayons, and not just any crayons, but that big box of 64 Crayolas with a built-in sharpener, the kind that I got each Christmas and whose smell can still, in an instant, whisk me back to childhood.
Aqua Marine is too, I don’t know… too green. Cerulean didn’t exist when I was a kid – though now it seems too dark, and perhaps not quite right. Cornflower is too dusky, too powdery. I think it’s Sky Blue – the color of the bright Summer sky, or that old Crayola that seemed impossibly blue and I would happily sit and scribble in the sky on all of my pictures.
It’s funny how certain memories can seem so vivid, so bright, and how the littlest thing can trigger them. For me, it was a lady at work commenting on my dress, and the resulting wondering about what color blue, exactly, is this thing.
My best thoughts on color come from thinking of costumes and lighting and stage design, but those have no real correlation in the world outside the stage. That light color, the paint or fabric that looks so good on stage looks garish and false in daylight. So I fall back onto my next best reference, that ever-present box of Crayolas.
Never the cheap crayons. Never the off-brand substitutes. But always, always and forever Crayola. I remember each year, opening that chunky package, already knowing what was inside, and then wrapping my chubby hands around the box. It was a tradition. And how I treated them once the festivities were over was almost a ritual.
The old box would be ceremoniously dumped into the “tub” – that resting place for crayons that were not still new; the disorganized mess from which younger cousins were allowed to choose. My new crayons, that treasured box, were treated differently. They received respect.
First, each crayon was carefully removed, then the piles of new, paper-wrapped waxy sticks were rearranged according to my mental color wheel. I delighted in reading the names of the colors; I think my favorite to say was “magenta” just because it sounded exotic. I remember thinking that colors like “raw umber” and “burnt sienna” were strikingly perfect for affecting certain hair colors. I remember as colors changed – some were renamed in the interest of political correctness (though it wasn’t called that at the time) and still others were simply replaced.
But still, nothing can beat that classic combination of colors that was the Box of 64 back when I was a kid. They had a look, a balance of colors and a feel to them, and most of all they had that smell. Those new boxes were treated carefully, respectfully. I always knew that next year would come another brand new box, and I wanted these to last, to not get broken or nasty, but I also used them. I loved to color.
My mother delights in telling a story about me correcting my kindergarten teacher who tried to pass off a “tan” crayon as a “beige” crayon, and I would not accept it, saying repeatedly, “That’s not ‘tan’, it’s ‘beige’” and I was right.
Many years later, when I became a parent and I went to buy my children their first crayons, at first I stayed with the chunky crayons for little ones, but I knew that eventually my kids would be receiving their own special boxes of Crayolas.
The few times I did get tempted into saving a few dimes and purchasing a different brand of crayon, I was always disappointed. The smell wasn’t right. The colors weren’t right. The crayons didn’t feel the same. My little kids didn’t know the difference, but I did. These were not crayons, these were imposters.
Sure enough, over the years, I bought many a box of Crayolas. Sometimes I bought the big Box of 64 – now with some very different colors in it, though I did once purchase the “Classic” box. Sometimes, I would just buy them boxes of 16 or 24. Sometimes I splurged and bought the “big” containers. And it was odd, maybe it was the way I treated the Crayolas, maybe, I don’t know. But it always seemed the kids treated the Crayolas better. And they too loved the way they smelled.
There’s something about a brand-new box of crayons, there is something about that smell that just takes me back.
Today, I am wearing blue. I am wearing a blue that is the color of the sky on clear, hot Summer day. I am wearing that color of blue that exists in the imagination of every child who has ever colored in the sky.
This was written some time ago – and in truth, simply suits the mood I am in today. I had worked on something different, looking back at the past, looking at skeletons in closets and the monsters of the heart – but perhaps fate did not mean for me to complete that piece just yet. Before it could be saved and published – my computer shut down and the entire piece was lost.