all of the selves we Have ever been
This pandemic is getting long.
There are days when I feel like my eight-year-old-self. Stuck in the middle of a long, hot summer with all of my friends on vacation, I would throw myself across the couch like a worn afghan, legs dangling like loose threads, and whine, “There’s nooooooothing to do!”
Sometimes my siblings joined me in a chorus of that late summer song, but a busy parent didn’t care much for the number and warned, “Find something to do, or I’ll find you something to do.” My brother, sisters and I were bored, not stupid. We intuitively understood that whatever our mom or dad had in mind would be sure to take us from the purgatory of boredom straight into the fires of chore hell. We took our whining elsewhere.
Sometimes we scattered and found solitary activities, other times we found things to do together. Staples of play that could be done alone or together were cutting out paper dolls, playing jacks, shooting marbles, and reorganizing collections of baseball cards, but the most reliable go-to was coloring.
It would be a dull world without Crayola crayons. There is nothing like a little spring green or magenta to rub away the dreariness of a summer grown too long. Those waxy instruments taught children their colors and grew eye-hand coordination. They provided the life lesson and discipline of learning to stay within the lines. Coloring was therapy we didn’t know we needed--relaxing, shielding the mind from dread and worry. We occupied ourselves by creating art. As we got older and more sophisticated, we learned to outline in black or to mix colors.
All children coveted the 64-pack with the built-in sharpener. All those colors! And the fresh tips standing straight up like soldiers in progressively raised rows! We longed for that flip-top box the way kids today crave a new iPhone. A fresh 64-pack put a youth in league with the Renaissance masters. A child could color alone or with others. Tear out pages or sit side-by-side. Rank and ownership were reflected in who maintained control of the coloring book. We poured over each page looking for the “good” one—an image we liked or could imagine complete with just the right colors. And the 64-pack made us aware of a growing palette of colors: burnt orange, lemon yellow, forest green, cornflower, periwinkle…
I am happy to see that coloring has returned in adult form. I still have a box of Crayola crayons leftover from my children’s early elementary school days. It is only the 48-pack. No sharpener. I notice that after all of the years that have passed, there are still several crayons with pointed tips standing at attention underneath the flip-top lid. Melon, blue green, lavender, and sky blue did not get much of a work out. I will have to make that right…
I read somewhere that inventor Thomas Edison’s laboratory burned to the ground in 1914. Edison was quoted as saying, “I’ve been through a lot of things like this. It prevents a man from being afflicted with ennui.” Now there’s a man who could not tolerate boredom! I am surprised that he is not the one who invented crayons. What would Edison be up to in a pandemic? It is not likely that we would find him stretched across the couch whining about nothing to do.
I’m no Edison, but I am a grown up now. I am not bored; I am experiencing ennui. Coloring is fashionable again. I am busting out the crayons and throwing out the matches. I have something to do!