Yesterday I attended Charlie’s preschool end-of-year celebration. The program featured songs that were so absolutely adorable, and so earnestly sung by such sweet children that my eyes glistened as I held my healthy and squirmy baby and listened. This phase won’t last forever. Chachi will inevitably join the ranks of jaded and defiant tween-dom. He won’t always run to me smiling and fling himself into my embrace. But right now, he does. Every time I pick him up from school or Sunbeams, or return from leaving him with a sitter, Charlie acts like the world is suddenly rosy.
We walked around the room after the program, gathering up Charlie’s homespun art projects on display. One corner contained pictures of the students’ names which they had been asked to color. A fair number of these pictures were completely, beautifully rendered. The children who produced them had used the full spectrum of rainbow colors and had more or less stayed within the lines. These children could effectively be described as “girls.” Charlie’s picture didn’t look like that. It was kind of a hot mess. Or his free-form take on contemporary art, not entirely sure which.
As I piled this messy picture on our growing stack, I couldn’t help but remember a moment from my own preschool days at the local Presbyterian church. Don’t ask me why I remember such a random little event with such precision. I sat at a little table with a group of children as our teachers handed out rectangles of white paper and boxes of markers. I grabbed a purple one and launched into coloring my sheet of paper with gusto. “Don’t scribble!” one of my teachers said as she looked at my drawing. “Color a NICE picture.”
Little did she realize that I thought my picture was the very definition of NICE. It was totally great. “It’s a blizzard!” I called out to anyone who cared. “I’m drawing a purple BLIZZARD!!!”
A few days later when I returned to preschool and took my place at the little table for snack time, the teachers began distributing plastic mugs. Each mug was personalized with a name and the pictures we had drawn onto those white rectangles of paper not long ago. In the context of “adorable art projects memorialized for future generations on a coffee mug,” my purple blizzard suddenly didn’t seem so great.
I looked at my neighbor’s mug. It featured a well-drawn house beside which stood a tall, leafy tree and a patch of colorful flowers. My mug stunk.
There was no do-over option for this preschool project, and I drank out of my purple blizzard mug for the rest of the academic year. I hated it every time I saw it.
I uncovered the purple blizzard mug in a cupboard at my parents’ home shortly after I had my first baby. I dusted it off and took it home, where we put it through the dishwasher so frequently that the purple blizzard faded to a misty lavender fog. Henry and Jack drank from it for years.
The purple blizzard came full circle. I created it as a scruffy preschooler who had a boy haircut (side note: don’t do this to your preschool-age daughter as it will haunt and embitter her) and now my red-headed preschoolers were drinking from it.
It’s kind of fitting, actually. Our home and my life sometimes resemble a purple blizzard. Maybe we can rest easily, knowing we are evolving toward a misty lavender fog, which sounds rather lovely.