Ramblings: Crayola House

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By Judy

Crayons and kindergarten are forever linked in my memory, like Siamese twins that cannot be separated. On my first day of school every child was given a piece of rough paper and a small yellow and green box. I smelled them before I managed to flip the cardboard lid with my pudgy fingers. Six colors, with honest names: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Of course, I couldn’t read the words “Crayola crayons” or the names on the labels — that came later. 

The paper on my desk had an outline of a fish. The teacher said we could use any colors we wanted but, “Be careful, don’t go outside the lines.” What color is a fish? In Boston, the only fish I was familiar with was what my mother served for dinner.  I looked at the fish drawing and then looked at the crayons but couldn’t find the color of batter-fried halibut. Kindergarten was going to be hard.

Years passed. I graduated high school, married, bought a house, and forgot about my first box of crayons. Red, yellow, blue, purple, orange and green had no place in our home. Home Beautiful magazine featured beige, gray and ivory. They became the colors-of-choice for upwardly mobile couples, a term that wasn’t yet invented but we aspired to, nevertheless.  We’d never heard of Egyptian cotton, but we bought bed linen in shades of buff, ivory, sandalwood or Champaign. Walls matched the color of the bed linens. Upholstery was understated. Our friends had homes which were carbon copies of ours. It was the age of “one size fits all”.

Of course, there were exceptions. A few neighbors were braver than we were. A purple house was a sure sign that it was owned by foreigners. We considered ethnic restaurants exotic; exotic color choices were considered tacky.

Then we came to Mexico. Color was everywhere; bright and happy.

We bought our little house from American ex-pats. Every wall was white. Wicker furniture supported beige cushions. The bedspreads were off-white. So were the curtains. We’d bought a tasteful, but boring house.

Maybe it was the sky or the sea. Perhaps it was because we weren’t interested in resale value. Whatever prompted it, I remembered my first box of Crayola crayons. For the first time I refused to live in a halibut-colored house.

I wanted a red kitchen. “Rojo?” asked the painter. I pointed to the fire extinguisher. Later, when I was out of the room, the painter pointed to the kitchen wall and asked Alex, “Rojo?” Alex had nodded his approval. Today, not only do I have a fire-engine-red kitchen, I have an explosion-yellow stairwell, a lime-green office and glossy eggplant hallway.  Why not? It’s no longer important to appear up-and-coming. I’ve come as far as I want. I’m having fun. And I’m not afraid to live outside the lines.

Judy Ristity finds humor in the ordinary, then looks again and discovers the poignant.