I was always up for coloring. Lure me in with a box of crayons and a sketchpad, and I had achieved childhood nirvana. I could easily wile away a couple of hours creatively constructing a crayon-imbued world of still lifes and landscapes set against a pastel blue sky where a field of ivory and peach daises punctuated a lawn in Crayola’s apple green.

My personal landscape included a square house in burnt sienna with goldenrod shutters inside of which resided a matching set of stick figure parents, and the obligatory apricot cat that often morphed into a timber-wolf gray dog, depending on my mood.

There was always a lemon-yellow sun rising high above a range of hills in mountain majesty purple — one of the newer colors. A cerulean blue stream flowed off into nowhere while flowers in dandelion yellow lined a melon path leading to some enchanted spot, which, I imagined, was inhabited by whimsical creatures never seen.

I hardly ever used the black crayon, reserved only for rainy day scenes, and where torrential downpours were defined by streaks of thin lines signifying inclement weather. Coloring in January evoked Crayola white snowstorms and silver icicles that dripped off the sloping wild strawberry roof whose eaves fell just below my bedroom window. In summer, birds figured heavily and were drawn with exact precision: turquoise blue birds and robins in sepia brown with salmon red breasts, indicating that a new season had made its way into my art.

My world was ablaze in color. Crayons spilled out of their yellow and green box with the word: Crayola scrolled across the lid, its palette accessible and dazzling. I would become lost in its selections, choosing carefully the colors that best defined life as seen through the eyes of a child whose imagination was unstoppable.

I drew with abandon, my crayon wielding-hand running up and down the paper and off into oblivion. I never understood those who kept within margin perimeters. My paper canvas encouraged movement — a picture never confined to its frame. Coloring books with printed scenes were inhibiting, and so I drew outside the lines, often scolded by teachers for not adhering to an allotted space, and feeling boxed in by the limitations thrust upon me.

I longed to explore worlds not governed by boundaries; territories without demarcation lines holding me back from my pursuits. I was a pioneer embarking on my picture-perfect journey, and I needed room in which to discover where my muse would take me.

My art reflected life as I wished it to be: pictures filled with people, and objects suitable to my needs. Being an only child, often I included siblings — more stick figures resembling girls with yellow-orange hair and boys with periwinkle eyes, which Crayola readily provided. The dresses were adorned with tiny carnation pink flowers, the boys’ shirts in a multitude of shades ranging from sea green, violet red and tawny orange now renamed: macaroni and cheese

My pictures told the stories of my life. The scenes I inhabited allowed me to reinvent myself any way I wished. Examining my drawings, one would assume my childhood to have been bright, colorful, and happy, but it wasn’t always such. Coloring helped to smooth over the rough edges of the parts that felt lonely and bland. My drawings included idyllic beaches, damp forest hideaways, or bucolic settings on cemetery lawns hidden high on a hill. A make-believe picnic basket housed a Crayola mahogany peanut butter and persimmon-colored jelly sandwich. As the years passed and new colors were manufactured, I, too, eventually grew away from coloring books and pads, evolving into a life filled with even richer and illuminating adventures.

Yet, the thrill of crayons is with me still. I introduced them to my daughter as soon as she could hold one, and I passed on the gift to my grandchildren. Whole afternoons were spent coloring, as small hands fit perfectly inside the box, groping for just the right colors.

I owe a lot to Crayola crayons. They managed to temper the sting of youth, for a while turning me into a budding artist, which later gave way to writer, where a pen held greater allure than a crayon.

There are times when I pass rows of these freshly packed crayons, too compelling to resist. On rare occasions, as was recently the case, I succumb and buy a box. It sits on my kitchen shelf as a reminder of years past, when I colored with an intense and relentless passion. Time stopped still, and all that mattered was creating images that seemed palpably real, and are now tinged with Crayola memories portraying the colorful chapters of my life.

Judith Marks-White is a Westport writer. She can be reached at joodth@snet.net or at www.judithmarks-white.com.

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