On the Nostalgia for Color

(CRAYOLA Crayons) Happiness in another box (picture found through Google).

I remember crayons.

I remember their fruity and waxy smell: the unmistakable scent left in rusting tins and the smudges of color left from exposed tips.

I remember their names: my earliest experience of language’s marvelous ability to create variety and also my earliest experience of the sheer musicality of words. (I remember savoring the sound of Apricot, Aquamarine, Cornflower, Mahogany, Maize, Periwinkle, Plum and Salmon—and relishing how exotic they seemed against the banal blues, greens, reds and yellows that I learned in nursery school. And of course, how can I ever forget that marvelous conjunction of words Burnt Sienna?)

I remember that we had favorites: the browns and blacks always got whittled down to stubs because my precocious appreciation for realism meant that all flesh and hair had to be colored in their appropriately Asian hues. (I remember the indignation I always felt that no shade of brown ever quite captured the color of my skin. Brown was just too brown. Apricot and Peach were just too light.)

I remember that our favorites included non-favorites: the shades that always remained unbroken and sharp and therefore a pleasure to wield because they were hardly ever used. How many opportunities do you get to use Silver? How many opportunities do you get to use Gold

I remember that they were always clumsy: given to straying beyond the fine lines etched on paper, because sharpening their tips excessively was deemed a waste by my always pragmatic parents. (A technique I developed was to use one side of a blunt tip excessively, then to “rotate” the exposed surface slowly until sheer use had molded an acceptable point. There was, however, no substituting the frank pleasure of a newly sharpened crayon.)

I remember forgetting crayons: outgrowing both memory and fondness for waxy smells, rusting tins, musical names, favorite shades, righteous indignations and frank pleasures to assume the sobriety of pencils, pens, palm-held digital assistants, mobile phones and laptops—tools of an adult world bereft too often of color though also frequently lamented as “never black and white.”.

At least now I remember crayons.


2 thoughts on “On the Nostalgia for Color

  1. Tin says:

    Crazy thing: I was at Powerbooks last night, looking at coloring books.

    Well, colors are still in our adult lives. You just have to notice. Part of it starts in remembering. Here’s to more salmon and apricot to replace the blacks, whites and grays in your life.


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