The year was 1974. I was in kindergarten, and my teacher had her hands full with me. I was reading books. I was counting by 1s, 2s, 5s, 10, 20s, 25s, and was working on my 3s. I was able to do simple math, and my vocabulary was out of sight.
And then we’d get to coloring time.
Coloring and drawing were things that I HAD to do. Mrs. Periwinkle made that clear. But there was no way that they could get me to LIKE doing it. She did her best, but I was the most unenthusiastic artist she had run across. I would do anything that would get me out of doing another art project.
I was reminded of this recently, when I went to get a gift for my wife. So apparently, there has been a recent surfeit of adult coloring books on the market. Mandalas, I think they call them, and they are made of beautiful, intricate designs with incredible potential for hours spent in frustration and self loathing.
Lots of chances to make mistakes. For people without Adult Hyperactivity Attention-to-Detail Deficit Something-or-another, I am told that these coloring books provide a wonderful tool for relaxing.
My sister even sent me an article that talks about how important it is to re-visit some of the things that you did as a kid – things that made you happy, and that at some point, you realized that you weren’t good enough at them to do them for a job, so you left them behind. Drawing and coloring were the two things that the article pointed to. Do them for yourself, the article said. Not for anyone else. And reconnect to that joy.
I picked up one of those books for my wife. And when I opened it up, I reconnected all right. Reconnected directly to the horror - the abject terror - of having so many mistakes just waiting to be made. Opportunities to do something I hate, and to be made to feel guilty for not loving it.
Yep. THAT reconnected me to kindergarten, all right.
My trick in 1974 was to draw snow. You know, snow.
Here. Let me demonstrate.
And just like that, I was done with my time 'drawing', and could get back to what I loved. Reading.
After a couple of weeks of that, the teacher called me out. "Crorey, you can’t just draw snow, making it exactly the same as what you did yesterday."
I thought about it for a bit. And came to my solution. I changed from black snow to blue. It was different, at least.
Weeks of this went on, with me outsmarting my teacher at every turn. Black became blue became red became yellow. After the pink snow phase, she finally she sat me down, and said, "Crorey, dear, you HAVE to do something else."
“But I don’t LIKE drawing. I don’t want to spend any more time doing it than I have to.”
So she taught me a new skill. She showed me how to draw stairs (maybe it was Mom who showed me. Not sure). Five minutes later, I had made a quantum leap in my drawing skills.
A month later, however, I had exhausted all of the colors that I could draw stairs.
My exasperated teacher finally gave up after one more shot at getting me to engage the natural artist in my soul. Because the request came that I not limit myself to snow, or stairs, my teacher was faced with a month of this:
I think Mrs. Periwinkle eventually got past that awful drinking problem that began that year.
Don't get me wrong. I am all for reconnecting to the things that gave you joy when you were a kid. I think we do far too much of the adult things, and far too little of the throw-the-cape-over-the-shoulders-and-play-superman-in-the-front-yard activities in our adult lives. I think that belting out a song as you come into work in the morning is good for everyone's morale. I think that splashing in the creek - even in your Sunday clothes - it probably a good thing.
And if coloring was your thing? Go for it.