When my daughter told me, that her favorite color had switched from red to light blue, I was astonished to find that she couldn’t specifically pinpoint what she meant by light blue. I asked her, if she meant sky blue, baby blue, powder blue or perhaps even something in the direction of periwinkle? She just tilted her head to one side and looked at me in a sweet perplexed manner. It’s moments like these that, as an expat, make me long for my children to have the childhood I had.
Of course, she doesn’t know these colors. She isn’t growing up using Crayola crayons -the luxurious pack of 64 with built-in sharpener- that was a staple in my childhood. My friend Kim and I colored for hours on end. We took crayons to the ends of the Earth and back. They were treated like crown jewels: always careful not to break them, tearing the paper the bare minimum needed to sharpen them when the point became blunt. Every bit was used, even the stumps. We spent hours shaving them, carefully collecting the fine curls in an old pencil box to use for a grand piece of art, that I’m pretty sure we never made. That wasn’t really the point, though. It was more the experience of working with the colors, the feel of the smooth wax, the smell, the crumbles of left over color that stuck to our fingers that created their own little Jackson Pollock-esque splatter with every flick of the butter knife blade.
We were –unwittingly- scholars of color. Through play, we developed a picture, a link to what our understanding of 64 colors were. These colors rolled off our tongues like surgeons calling for instruments in an operating room: Scalpel. Forceps. Clamp. Please pass the Carnation Pink. Can I use the Burnt Sienna after you? Cadet Blue is so cold. Plum is so warm. Instinctively, we knew just what to do with these instruments to get the desired effects.
I’ve forgotten a lot from my days at Crayola Academy, so when I invest in a box, I think I’ll make a ceremony of it. I’ll teach my children to treat them like crown jewels. We’ll explore the colors, learn the names, save the shavings in a box and maybe, just maybe we’ll get around to making that grand piece of art.