Thistle, teal, tangerine – the names of the treasures in my many boxes of crayons over the years – periwinkle, purple, pine. How many crayons do you think we enjoyed over the years? Can you still get boxes of only eight colors? Every year we started the school year with those litte boxes of eight. Later I discovered there were collections of 16, 24 … and then Mom surprised me with a collection of 64 with its own crayon sharpener! That was the best.

Pondering the differences between blue-green and green-blue, or yellow-orange and orange-yellow or the relativity between the observed color of the wax stick with the color laid down on the paper were mysteries I explored with 64 colors at my beckoning. The I realized that by layering, even more colors were possible, and I was enchanted. Still am, really– the lovely scent of a new box still grabs me. Blue, cadet blue, Prussian – wonderful words.

I can see the places we crayoned away – the dining table where sometimes where the little girl next door pondered as to why my brother and I colored every head of hair dark brown, and then answered her own question — “Oh. You have probably never seen anyone with yellow hair.” I was still a preschooler and as far as I can remember I never had. I suppose it is hard to imagine how different life in rural area of the state with no television could be. Peaches, oranges, lemon yellow …

Another coloring scene is at the sugarhouse, where I came for a day’s work prepared with crayons and a coloring book for any times I wasn’t playing outside or feeding mice who lived there. The scent of maple and crayons and the paper of a coloring book will probably never come to me again, but it was exotic. There were no crayons named for maple sugar, or tiny mice, or the blue of shadow on snow, but there were tan, grey, cerulean.

Coloring books were fun, for the most part. I never got every page colored, but I got new ones anyway. Sometimes I could coax Mom into coloring a scene. Once she made something green, purple, and orange, a combination I admired very much. I recall a very thick book with a series of stories imprinted at the bottoms of the pages. The stories were all about a collie dog, and the book was very thick. An inch or so of collies is kind of a big project and I got bored along the way. I did hate the books with little arrows, telling you which color to put where. A sheet handed out at school had another furry, bounding dog which the instructions told me should be red. This was before Clifford; it was before I had ever seen an Irish setter; and it was way, way before I had a red-headed granddaughter. I couldn’t figure out what to do and Mom wasn’t there to ask. Follow instructions, or do it my way? I don’t know which I did, but it may have been my first encounter with the idea of questioning authority!

Now there are coloring books for adults, which I find kind of amusing. Because in the years I was raising kids, the books were out of favor for stifling creativity, so many of us provided a ton of paper, but few coloring books. I imagine that for many of the adults who have them these may be their very first coloring books. It’s kind of like bacon. My generation tried to put a rein on bacon for health reasons. Now bacon is an absolute rage among the younger people I know. Bacon-flavored toothpaste, anyone?