• Feeling a Little Magenta Today

    by Theresa Reichman

    “Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air – explode softly – and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth – boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn’t go cheap, either – not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination.” — Robert Fulghum

    A few years ago when I was a budding new adult, I had a job at a local daycare. Daycare workers everywhere know the perks to such a job. There’s fun outings to places like the apple orchard and the local pool, a cupcake with your name on it for every birthday in your class, a chance to revisit your childhood in games of hide-and-seek and freeze tag, the imaginative and hilarious things that bloom from a child’s mouth, and of course that sweet respite called “nap time” where you can lay yourself down besides the wriggliest child in the lot of them and sing breath-y lullabies into his ear until you both find yourself with closed eyes and restful souls.

    Among daycare workers (and parents, too, of course) there is also the knowledge that there’s no sound more grating than a toddler’s pertinacious whines, or that stringing a line of 15 two-year-olds down winding hall ways and sidewalks to any destination is not only daunting, but nearly impossible. Days spent with children and their unabated demands can be taxing.

    I learned a valuable survival technique while working in that daycare. When daycare workers feel their Zen-like chi being thrown off balance, they know what to do. They pull out the crayons. No matter how many knees needed to be branded with a Band-Aid, or spilled juice cups cleaned up, or meltdowns managed, at the end of a day, if you sit down next to your most trying child with a crayon and a coloring book, you’ll feel your spirit take a proverbial sigh and you’ll realize how much you love this job.

    Lately, Life has been quite a bit like that inconsolable whiney child, and as impossible as that string of wild bambinos. I’ve been wanting to tell Life to sit down, shut up, or else it’s going to get a big ole’ spanking! But much like “sit down, shut up, and a big ole’ spanking” doesn’t work in a daycare setting, it doesn’t really fly with Life, either. Oddly enough, you know what does still work? Coloring.

    In between worrying about what to make for dinner, what’s in my bank account, penciling in appointments to take my daughter to the eye doctor and my car’s oil changed, marital woes, parental woes, losing loved ones, dealing with the politics at work, and trying to keep my house presentable all the while, sometimes we just need a break. So we have a couple glasses of wine at the end of the night, or go to the movies. We treat ourselves to a new pair of shoes, or perhaps take a drive to nowhere with the windows rolled down and the music turned up. All of these are excellent ways to tell Life to sit down and shut up for a while.

    But there’s something about coloring. There’s something calming about trying to stay within the lines, something therapeutic about smooth strokes and steady hands. It’s all wonderfully simplistic when the hardest decision you need to make is whether the dog on your page should be colored with Antique Brass or Tumbleweed. And in those moments, the dishes in the sink don’t matter. The bills will wait. The kids will quiet. While you are engrossed in swirls of color and the task of filling white space, the static noise of life will hush itself.

    I don’t exactly know what it is about coloring that’s so therapeutic. Maybe it’s the recognition that sometimes Life throws us a boring brown, or a solemn gray, but that only makes it all the sweeter when Life gives us a vibrant chartreuse or a scintillating shade of fuchsia. Better yet, maybe it’s realizing that no matter what color Life doles out, we can choose to set it down and pick up a new one. A happier one. A color that says, “Forget the circumstances, I feel like magenta, today.”

      • David Lacy

      • July 3, 2011 at 2:58 pm
      • Reply

      It’s time for you to write a book.

      • Judy

      • July 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm
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      This is a lovely piece on all levels. It works as metaphor and as how to do it. Makes me thinks seriously about my unused box of colored pencils . . . .

      • Judy

      • July 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm
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      That should be “think” seriously.

    • Theresa, I color with my grandkids and I know exactly from where you speak. I love the 64 box with the sharpener attached. My favorite color was blue green and still love it today but back in the day I would color multicolor designs and gave them to my parents to keep as good luck charms in their wallets. My dad carried one until they day he died that I had made almost 49 years ago on that date. He believed that it was good luck and you know his life was pretty damn lucky so I think it worked too.

      • Pappap

      • July 4, 2011 at 8:58 pm
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      Hey Theresa, First thing tomorrow, I’m heading to Wal-Mart for a coloring book and a box of 64 with a sharpener!! Thanks for your positive advise!! Love Ya:)

      • Solace

      • July 4, 2011 at 9:04 pm
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      You have such a wonderful way with words, Theresa. I think I know what I’m going to get out for the kids to do tomorrow… 🙂

      • Norbie

      • July 4, 2011 at 11:01 pm
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      Since our Lovely Nieces have outgrown crayons, I simply stock up on duct tape… (((HUGS)))

    • I was 15 years old before I saw my first crayon-that’s when I found out I could not see colors. This was a nice col. Paints-I mean colors a good picture of your inner being.

      • Debbie

      • July 5, 2011 at 8:25 am
      • Reply

      This is a lovely piece.
      You might enjoy this: http://mashable.com/2011/03/10/mr-rogers-crayons/

    • Theresa,

      Great column, and I agree. Years ago I worked in daycare, too, and it’s so true. Coloring is the most zen-like activity for a child (or adult) and so I incorporated it into my workshops for adults and teens. Also, lying on the floor on your belly ( like kids do when coloring) keeps your breathing regulated – if you’re ever in the throes of an anxiety attack, remember that trick. It works! (my therapist taught me that one)

      Have a rainbow day!

      • Sivan

      • July 5, 2011 at 8:47 am
      • Reply

      Lovely, Theresa, and so true. You hit the nail on the head with this: “[M]aybe it’s realizing that no matter what color Life doles out, we can choose to set it down and pick up a new one.” Life is what we make of it; the perspective we have shapes our reality. Don’t focus on the gray, choose your happy colors!

      • Roxane

      • July 7, 2011 at 10:48 am
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      Oh my God Theresa, this is so beautiful.
      Thank you for this wonderful piece.
      You have such an amazing gift.

    • After my dad had a stroke, months later as he was “recovering” (I use that word loosely), I would bring him coloring books and crayons while he was in the convalescent hospital to encourage him to learn to use his right hand again. It helped a lot. Over the years, he deteriorated even more, but would still color if I brought the books. I’d leave them behind and discover he’d fill the entire book while i’d been away. I’d like to think it made his miserable existence a little more bearable.

      Great work there, girl. 🙂

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