When I was going to school, I soooooooooo wanted the big box of Crayolas with the built-in sharpener in the back.
As a rule, coming from a big family of small means, we would instead receive a box of 16 or 24 at the beginning of the school year . . . never the coveted 64. I don’t think my parents could have ever known how much I wanted the built-in sharpener feature, as I didn’t feel comfortable pointing out that I had less than what I wanted. I know now, looking back with the eyes and heart of an adult, that my parents were swamped by life’s demands and obligations and were doing the absolute best that they could. They were pretty amazing magicians when it came to keeping everything at home afloat.
I do recall the school year (I was in 5th grade) when my dad gave me a box of 48 crayons . . . the Crayola box that was square and fat and just so jammed with color goodness . . . and I felt like a princess receiving those crayons. I dearly hope that I thanked him in a manner that reflected my appreciation, but I simply can’t remember.
It’s weird how the memory works. I want (hope) to believe that I thanked my parents throughout my childhood repeatedly for these childhood essentials . . . but I’m not sure that I did. Now that I can no longer tell them directly, I want to tell them now. I want to thank them for what they did for all of us . . . demanding that we take advantage of the opportunity to learn and get a good education and also that we learn to play a musical instrument when young. Me? My father was a big fan of Benny Goodman and chose the clarinet as my instrument-of-his-choice.
There were other gifts that came in the form of life lessons: My father used to tell us that if we are mean to someone, we will have to reckon with that same person again at some point in the future so we might as well try to get along. My mother used to laugh at the darn-dest things . . . things that didn’t seem funny to me as a child . . . but now? I can see how she tried to find humor in the oddest of circumstances. She chose to laugh when I now realize that she probably wanted to cry.
All of these life gifts from my parents that definitely surpass and outshine a box of 64 crayons. My life now? My art supply cupboard is full of paints and brushes, gesso and gel, colored pencils and crayons, markers and Sharpies. Truth, I have all of the art supplies I could dream to have. And as for crayons, I keep a jar of 8 crayons (this particular box of crayons being a gift from a loved one . . . thanks AW!) in the kitchen to have at the ready for doodling away that waiting-for-the-water-to-boil time.
And I now know why I have those crayons out and why that box of 8 meant so much to me recently when I received it. It brought back all of those brand-new-school-year memories of knowing that my parents had so little resource to prepare us for the year ahead . . . and yet they made it all work out year after year.
. . . that they somehow prepared me for this thing called Life when I didn’t even realize that is what they were doing at the time. It felt so fraught with randomness and chaos growing up, but maybe there was more of a plan in place that I just couldn’t see. Maybe they, themselves, didn’t know it either. Call it parenting, call it family, call it surviving. I don’t know. I do know that they prepared me to appreciate the finer things in life like receiving a box of 8 crayons and feeling like I am loved, heard, and blessed.
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