My Father's Crayons
In the room I recently transformed and proclaimed as my studio, there is an old wooden, hinged cigar box sitting on the far left end of the brick and board book shelf, visible upon entering the room. Greystone is lettered on the outside lid and Cabinets - 20% Havana Filler aged in cedar in lettered on the inside cover. This 3” box is filled to the top with my father’s crayons, some, unbroken, some intact, and others, paper faded, broken in small pieces. My father’s name: David Bennett, 3542 SE 62nd, Portland, Oregon, repeatedly is scripted and written over one side of the box in pencil. It is easy to imagine then my father in art class using these crayons. It is easy to imagine this being able to physically touch the box and the crayons. I was offered this gift sometime after my father died more than fifteen years ago, but the box went in to one of those wooden rollaway kitchen storage cabinets which stored all my collected art supplies and anything having to do with creativity for at least 10-12 years. It has managed to make its way to the bookshelf thereby becoming quite visible and aromatic each time I enter the room.
As a child, (and sometimes beyond), along with making my own dancing girl paper dolls, I also loved to color. I loved the smell of crayons, the color of crayons, the newness of crayons. The last time I can recall buying any crayons was for my elementary school aged twin son and daughter as part of a required school supply and it was only the basic # count of 8 or 16. I cannot remember exactly except that everything I ever bought for the last 17 years came in twos, and all I had ever known was Crayola. “C” for crayon and Crayola meant childhood. My father’s box of crayons held both Crayola and Crayonex. I thought perhaps I had uncovered some vintage crayons, thinking Crayonex was the predecessor of Crayola, when in fact, I had not, and they were not.
It’s not my intention to give you the history of crayons, but I did learn that Crayonex crayons came out in 1932 from a company originally known as the Paramenter Crayon Company, in Sandusky, Ohio and N.Y., which later became the American Crayon Company, the oldest and largest manufacturer of crayons since 1835. Crayonex were listed in 1921 in the Teacher’s College bulletin supply list as a necessary item for children in rural schools. Crayonex box #3, 8 colors were 10 cents a box and box #4, 16 colors were 20 cents a box.
I’m not sure exactly what possessed me to hunt for and then buy a brand new box of crayons. Maybe it was an excuse to take myself on an Artist’s Date, buy myself something reasonable inexpensive, maybe it was a yearning to color. Imagine my delight with a box of 96 crayons. “Gad Zooks” as my father would say, is the equivalent of OMG!! (I never heard my father swear.) I now have to decide upon using metallic blue, steel blue, turquoise blue, sky blue, cadet blue, pacific blue, navy blue, wild blue yonder, periwinkle, cornflower, midnight, cerulean, denim blue, or just plain blue. I determine having to make this decision has given me the blues. Too many options, too many choices, overwhelming, like a kid in a candy store. Good thing I don’t have to decide about the scratch and sniff or glow in the dark ones.
I’ve been doing some doodling thanks to my friends over at coachcreativespace.ning.com, but I found myself wanting to add some color to one of my doodles, which is in part, how this entire crayon thing came about.
It’s been nearly 40 years ago since my father “left his position” of being my father and more than 15 yrs since he died. I wanted to know him more than I did. It has taken me all of those years to realize I got more than my myopia and scoliosis from him. I view those crayons as a representation of my life, of our lives, leaving us sometimes broken and sometimes intact. I have to tell myself that he would be proud of me, would get a kick out of knowing his box of crayons holds a special place on my shelf and in my heart. Those crayons have served as a reminder recently that I can be metallic at midnight, choose to wear turquoise or denim, and I, too, am able to ride high, into the wild blue yonder.