Yesterday John and I went to our favorite taco place for some happy-hour margaritas and snacks with our friend Katie and her baby Zoe. We accepted the nice waiter's offer of a coloring book and some crayons for Zoe, and he brought back a big handful of brand new Crayolas, and I was completely overjoyed to find that most of the color names hadn't changed since my childhood. Is there anything else that hasn't been redesigned, updated, reformulated and probably cheapened? Very little. The reds, especially the red violet and a new, orangey red called scarlet, were as visually satisfying and seemingly edible as lipstick. Holding them and, yes, coloring with them (I was much more interested in coloring than Zoe) brought back a flood of memories:
- I remember having an intense argument with some girls in first grade over which was more blue, blue green or green blue. They argued that obviously blue green was more blue because the blue came first. No, I insisted, green blue is like "greenish blue," so it's more blue with just a little green. I WAS RIGHT.
- Green blue was retired, along with seven other shades, in 1990. One of the replacement shades was called "Jungle Green" and I remember that was very popular, all the girls thought it was very cool.
- I remember thinking "magenta" was pronounced "magneta" with a hard g.
- The gray and carnation pink crayons held together always make me think of a mouse. Carnation pink is a disappointing crayon, though; it looks super pigmented but comes out pale on the page.
- I always felt there were too many brownish orange and orangey yellow colors; I hated those colors then and I still kind of hate them now. (Raw umber and orange yellow have been retired.) They remind me of the sand art that the Mystics are making at the beginning of The Dark Crystal, as well as that throaty sound they make when one of them dies.
- I'm fascinated by the minute differences between certain shades, like thistle, lavender and orchid, and all the blues (robin's egg, sky, cadet, aquamarine, turquoise, etc.). I remember one of my teachers (in second grade, I think?) teaching us that the sky got lighter toward the horizon, and for the rest of the year all our drawings had this variegated sky, though almost everyone overdid it so it was blue as night at the top of the sky and almost white at the bottom.
- What on earth are you supposed to do with the white crayon? I didn't know then and I don't know now. Though I guess maybe it shows up on manila paper? Incidentally I absolutely hate the way manila paper feels. I also hate the feel of particle board, and I guess they're basically the same material.
- In first grade my teacher taught me to do the coolest thing with crayons. Basically you totally cover a white sheet of paper with random bursts of color, then you color all over the whole thing with the black crayon. Then you can scrape off the black (what did we use to do the scraping? the round end of safety scissors maybe? not a credit card, but that would work) and the color shows through. You can trace your name, for example, and it shows up in color under the black. I want to do this right now.
Bottom line, I've gotta buy a box of crayons.
Image via laffy4k