Tag Archives: coloring

At the Small Table

When I catalogue my regrets
at the end of the day,
I won’t include the moments we spent sitting
at the small table in the living room.

The old-fashioned fire whistle,
remnant of summoning volunteers
across the town,
punctured our long silence —

you picked up your head only briefly
from the sea-blue magic marker
before returning to your work,
tongue pressed in concentration
against your cheek.

We laughed gently about
a pair of dogs we could see
through the window
and across the street
jostling in the slanted afternoon sun.

You asked me not to leave —
yet there was never any chance;
my movement only a reach to the floor
for the morning’s leftover mug and a
sip of luke-warm coffee.

Coloring a Sunny Day

photo

Recently, our youngest son discovered a couple of large coloring books that had been tucked away on some basement shelves, unused since we got them years ago. He has sat with them several times for long stretches, simply coloring, tongue planted in his cheek just the way mine was as a boy when I was deep in concentration.

One afternoon this past weekend, he cleared some space at the kitchen table and asked me to sit with him while he colored. He chose a scene with a cowboy riding a horse, and worked carefully in crayon to make a sun in the corner of the page, complete with rays spreading out from a bright yellow center. I watched as he then colored a large swath of the sky, coloring blue right over the yellow sun. I wondered if he intended it that way, or if he was just caught up in the enjoyment of the blue. The answer came a moment later when I noticed him take a black crayon and make a scribble over and over the sun, and then slump back in his chair, dropping the crayon to the ground.

I thought this would fix it. It was supposed to be yellow, he said staring down at the sun, but I did the blue on it. I thought this would make it back to darker yellow, but it just ruined it.

He exhaled deeply and looked at me, then half-heartedly scraped with his thumbnail at the blue and black that covered his sun. The contentment that I had felt in sitting with him faded into sharing his deep disappointment.

What if we make it a cloud? I asked. It was the only thing I could think of.

Okay, he said.

I picked up the black crayon and traced an outline around the sun. There, now you color it in, and it will be a nice dark cloud.

He took the crayon from me and did just that. The black cloud looked a bit out of place in the otherwise bright blue sky, but he picked up a brown crayon and went back to coloring the cowboy riding his horse. I quietly exhaled in measured relief.

Until he started to cry.

But I wanted it to be a sunny day, Dad.

I was completely and utterly helpless. He had been enjoying our moment as much as I had; I was sure he had been enjoying the idea of his picture too, the image of it he held his mind. Now neither one was the way he wanted it to be, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Remembering his attempt to scrape away at the crayon, I thought of getting my wife’s sharp pair of sewing scissors to do the same, to reduce that paper to white, to give my son the fresh start he wanted.

Perhaps it was the scissors that gave me the idea of drawing a new sun on a separate piece of paper and pasting it on top of the mistake. I wasn’t sure he would like the idea, but he agreed and drew a new sun on a white piece of paper. He asked me to color in the blue so he wouldn’t go over the rays. I worked carefully and then had him finish before we glued it on. He was happy with it, and went back to the cowboy, the grass, and the fence.

Even though it turned out all right in the end, I can still hear him saying to me, through his sobs and tears, But I wanted it to be a sunny day, Dad. He had tried to set aside his disappointment – but he couldn’t. Instead, he surrendered to complete presence in the moment. No pretense, no holding back, no self-judgment. Isn’t that what we all long for?

Most touching as a father is that my son was willing to do this with me, and in this way expressed his complete love and trust. As an adult, experiencing and expressing anger, sadness, or disappointment in the presence of others is difficult for me. I have come to fear doing so.

Yet here was my five year old, showing me exactly how to do it right here, right now.

But I wanted it to be a sunny day, Dad.

Coda: In the days since, I have thought a lot about having fixed the drawing. I know I won’t always be able to give him the sunny day he wants. And I shouldn’t. But this one? I had to.