I know, somewhat of an unusual name for a post, but this one just snuck up on me.
I was on Facebook a few days ago and noticed a post from a friend speaking to the fact that they were already purchasing school supplies. In the photo was a box of crayons, and that was the trigger.
My mind raced back a lifetime, to a memory from Mrs. Kroysers’ Kindergarten and 1st-grade classes at P.S. 41 on 11th street in NY.
You know from previous posts that my early school years were not good for me. I was frightened to be away from Mom, picked on by other kids, insecure, intimidated and anxious. Basically, an overall mess; to the point of becoming physically ill before being walked to school by mom. I’m certain it was my body reacting to all the anxiety going on in my mind. This was a daily occurrence.
There were, however, two bright spots in my day; Mrs. Kroyser and her reading and art portion of the day. Mrs. Kroyser was a kind, older teacher with grey hair always worn in a tight bun. She cared about “ her kids”, something that was apparent even to a wreck such as me. She had a kind and soothing smile and, in hindsight, I know she did her best to quell my fear and anxiety.
I loved “story time” when she would read to us from children’s books. After her reading, she would teach us to view, understand and read some of the words in the stories by ourselves. The story seemed to always include two small children that were about my age. They had a dog named “Spot” and they ran and played and had adventures all day! I wanted to be like those children in the story… they always appeared to be having fun, the sun was always shinning.
I believe Story Time with Mrs. Kroyser was the very tiny spark that led to a burning love of books and reading that has lasted literally a lifetime for me.
After Story Time came “Drawing Time” or “Art time.” How I loved to hear the words; “alright now, let’s take out our crayons.”
Now was my time to create! I couldn’t write yet, but I had pictures in my mind. Pictures of children and dogs and trees and sun and stars and cats and ships and cars. Pictures that made me happy and safe and secure, and now, I could put those “ mind pictures “ on a beautiful, big thick sheet of art paper. A blank sheet. I liked that. Mrs. Kroyser would move around the room giving each of us one of these big, beautiful, white sheets of paper. The possibilities were endless. Most of the time she would gently guide us on what we should draw, saying things such as ;
“ Today we read about the children going to the country to play…draw what you think the county looks like. What would you like to be doing in the country”
I imagine she could almost feel the little minds racing in the room as our imaginations went into overdrive.
The desks we sat at were basically small tables, each seating two children. The child sitting next to you was always referred to as your neighbor. The tables had small drawers where we would keep our crayons and snacks brought from home. The moment we heard “ take out your crayons”, little hands all across the room reached into the small drawers and withdrew our individual box of crayons. These crayons were prized possessions. They were my gateway into another world with very few barriers. If I wanted my trees to be red, so be it, red they were. I could make it snowing or raining or sunny. I always seemed to choose sunny. It was fun drawing the sun.
I don’t remember her name, but I recall that my neighbor was a little girl. She was neither nice nor mean to me… she just was there. We didn’t talk much, but she never was mean either, so that was a positive. I remember a few things about her. She had long, light brown hair that she wore in a ponytail and she was left-handed. I was fascinated by her being able to draw with her left hand, as I could barely open a door with mine. She drew the most amazing horses! Horses of all colors and sizes, but all perfectly proportioned. All her horses had “puppy dog” eyes. I loved watching her beautiful horses come alive right next to me.
But, what I remember most was her crayons! She had the biggest box of crayons I had ever seen! There were 48 crayons in her box! Every color imaginable plus all different shades of colors. I was in awe. I had a box of 8 crayons with the very basic colors; red, blue, green, yellow, brown, orange and of course black and white.
Please understand this is not a “poor me” thing. Even at this young age, I was well aware that we, as a family, struggled to make ends meet. Dad worked all hours, and any hours to take care of his family. Mom was always upfront and honest with us about this. The small eight pack of crayons was all we could afford; that was the reality. I honestly don’t remember ever being envious of my neighbor and wishing and longing for the big box of crayons that she had. I was simply in awe of them. As I sneaked quick glances at all the colors, I imagined what I would draw if I had them. I didn’t look with disdain on my small eight crayon box, I simply imagined what I could do with more colors to tell my picture story. It even made me a bit more creative… I figured out how to make a gray and a pink out of what I had. ( life lesson there?)
One day, my neighbor caught me stealing a glance at her crayons. Without saying a word, she pushed the box closer to me and whispered. “We can share if you like”.
I didn’t respond, I was so taken aback. I think I borrowed one crayon from her that day. It was a gold color….. I wanted my sun to be gold. I don’t think I thanked my neighbor.
Wouldn’t it be cool if she were still with us and reading this blog? I would love to imagine that as true.
Wherever you are, neighbor, thank you.
My sun was a beautiful gold that day because you shared your crayons.