The Best Coloring Book Ever

The Best Coloring Book Ever

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

The Best Coloring Book Ever

Simply having children does not make mothers.
~John A. Shedd

“Mom, I need a new coloring book.” I was sure my mother would understand. Anyone looking at my old coloring books could see that I couldn’t continue to use them. Using each crayon in my sixty-four-count box, I had sampled every page.

With barely a glance she said, “They’re fine, Becky. Go on and play.” My neighborhood friend, Denise, and I slowly made our way back to my bedroom. I knew I was meant to be an artist. I loved to color. I was just never able to translate the beauty I saw in my mind through the crayons onto the page. What I really wanted was a sketchpad, a true artist’s pallet. Not the scratch paper Dad brought home from work, with writing on one side. I wanted a blank slate.

I slowly flipped through the pages, hoping to find a fresh place to start. I wanted to create perfection, just the right combination of colors, blended and shaded. My dream was to create the kind of picture with which people could identify. Until then, I would settle for just being able to stay inside the lines of a pre-printed picture.

I was still flipping through the pages with the blind hope of a child, when I glanced up to see my mother in the doorway to my room. “Hey, I found a coloring book for you,” she said. Denise and I grabbed all the crayons we could carry and ran after my mother. We followed her down the hall and all the way to the family room at the other end of the house. We were so excited we were giggling like, well, like little girls. So, where was it? It had to be super special for us to have to use it in the family room!

“See this wall? That is your coloring book. But only this wall, understand?” We froze. This had to be a trap. I may not have figured out all of life’s rules at that young age, but there were a few I had down pat. Don’t draw on the walls was one of the biggies. I couldn’t move. I just stared at my mother and wondered why she was trying to trick me. She gave me a little shove toward the wall. I looked at my crayons. If this was really going to happen, this would be my masterpiece—a blank wall, all for me. I slowly drew a line then quickly looked to see if my mother had changed her mind. She just smiled and went back into the kitchen. I became engrossed. For hours I colored, drew, created.

Being the fourth of five children in a neighborhood full of children, word quickly spread. Soon the room was full of kids of all ages, vying for space to leave their own mark on the wall. Being allowed to draw on a wall was so unheard of it was like being allowed to eat ice cream for breakfast. My mother quickly blocked off a small space for my older sister to draw on when she came home. I wasn’t worried about losing the space. I was sure a teenager would think that this was baby stuff and walk away. But age made no difference that day. Even my older brothers, who were normally “too cool” for such things, were eagerly grabbing crayons to scribble and draw. The room was filled with laughter and shouts of “look at this!” and “give me some room.” All too soon, there were no empty spaces left to fill.

Thanks to my mother, my dream of drawing on a blank canvas was realized. She gave me this unique opportunity to draw outside the confines of a coloring book and to experience the magic that is possible when we are not restricted by boundaries. I learned later that my parents were remodeling the house and that my canvas was the wall destined to be knocked out. After the demolition crew came and went, most of us combed through the debris of plaster and drywall trying to find our pictures, remembering, and perhaps, reliving the joy.

~Rebecca Olker

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