The Things I Thought I Wanted: 64 Crayons with a Sharpener

crayola-crayonsWhen 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.

The Things I Thought I Wanted: The Ballerina Jewelry Box

When I was young, I thought my world would be different — better — if I were in possession of certain items.  If only my parents were rich enough or receptive enough to feel motivated and/or inspired to head to the stores and shop, shop, shop for me.

In that I didn’t come from a family of wealth, I wasn’t a trust fund child, and I wasn’t some yet-to-be-discovered princess who was living as a servant in some rich relative’s attic, I found myself in the unfortunate position of having to work for what I wanted — for the things that went beyond food, shelter, and a good pair of school shoes.  I babysat, polished my dad’s wingtip shoes on Saturday nights, set up woefully-unsuccessful Kool-Aid stands, and swept the dance floors of my dad’s bar on Sunday mornings, hoping that some inebriated souls had carelessly dropped some coins our of their pockets while pulling out their hankies  to mop their polka-dance-sweaty brows.

I sometimes remember some of the highly-coveted items that I dreamed of possessing . . . I look at them now and can still identify the charms that once beckoned to me.

Lenox Childhood Memories Ballerina Jewelry Box

http://amzn.to/2bUH3eD

This ballerina jewelry box was a standard in many girls’ bedrooms while I was growing up.  I remember Kim P. who seemingly had every magical girl thing and gizmo imaginable, so of course she had one.  While the box must have contained her childhood jewelry, she never once opened its lid in my presence to simply listen to the music.

Kim P. was the kind of girl who demanded that her mother redecorate her room at the end of every summer.  She would casually toss some color combinations at her mother, and her mother would then go to work at creating some sort of theme and scheme.  At some point in time, Kim P. must have thought that the pink in the jewelry box was clashing with her psychedelic orange-and-blue color scheme .  I went over there one day after school and the ballerina box was gone.   I remember thinking, Why didn’t she ask me if I wanted it before she threw it away?   But how could she have known?  I had never once asked if I could lift the lid to listen to the music or to see the ballerina spin in place.

I was to never own one of these fancy, girl-y jewelry boxes.  Instead, I used a hand-me-down wooden chest with some vintage-faded image, in muted shades of blue and green, of an Irish cottage and a farmer in the field.  The outside of the box was pressed with a carved design, and to its credit of quality, it did hold the coveted feature of having a mirror inside the lid, but the box’s simple features couldn’t quite compare with pink velvet and a spinning ballerina.

In the ways of moving me and my belongings across the country in a pick-up truck, I had to cut ties with many of my various treasures.  Hence, I lost the jewelry box in some manner of neglect or forgetfulness.  But I did come across one of these plain wooden boxes at an antique store recently, and I bought it immediately.  I didn’t even look at the price, as I knew that it was coming home with me.

My excitement upon finding it in that dusty, cluttery shop revealed to me the strength of a memory . . . how a memory can have greater value than phantom wants from the past.  I now have my jewelry encased in this retro-memory-box, and it is in a prominent place in the center of my rickety-legged, drawer-sticking dresser — another find that reminded me of a bureau that my grandma had.

It makes me happy when I see this ballerina-less wooden box.  I think of my three  big sisters and how they all had triplet boxes like this when they were teenagers.  I can’t remember how I came to inherit mine, but I am quite certain that it was from one of the Big Girls.  It was a sweet gesture, and I am sure that I was happy to receive a treasure box for my odd mix of jewelry bits . . . in spite of my wanting different, more, or better.

We turn our thinking around when we focus on the meaning, the memory, and the value in any given thing, moment, or gesture.  Now?  I think about one of my sisters giving me her jewelry box.  And how special it made me feel to have it.

Childhood memories get refinished in so many ways.  They get re-painted, re-purposed, and their edges get sanded and their scratches smoothed.  And we sometimes  deconstruct and reconstruct a thought based on what we wanted it to be and not what it actually was.  Which is not necessarily a bad thing, I am thinking.  After all, we are in the memory-making business, and I want to focus on the good stuff — the stuff that makes a difference or that inspires me to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Lenox Childhood Memories Ballerina Jewelry Box

http://amzn.to/2bUH3eD