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Coloring By Candlelight

Updated on March 31, 2013

When I was growing-up we didn't have much. My father left when I was an infant, my mom was a single mom struggling to care for two pre-school kids from the late 50s and then two pre-teen and full-blown teenagers through the 60s. We never lived in any one place more than a couple of years, I was perpetually the 'new kid' at school and in the neighborhood. I had few toys, most of the time no tv, and my clothes were made fun of - and yet . . .

A Special Lady

"Lady" might be the first idea that most folks formed in their mind upon meeting my mom - she had a natural grace and an non-performed sophistication about her that was instantly observable, and then you came to recognize a broad scope of knowledge, a creativity, and a warmheartedness that simply made her a very special lady. I've said this in another hub, but it's exactingly descriptive of my mother - everywhere and all the time, my mom was consistently the smartest, the prettiest, most interesting, kindest, most artistic person in the room. She was one of those rare people who, without moving to the center of the room, without getting loud or flamboyant, not because of what she was wearing, not because of any background information about her, etc, there was something about her sheer presence, the way she carried herself, that commanded everyone's attention.

Growing-up her son, under her tutelage, I learned; how to think critically, I learned the power of the skillful use of words, I learned to strive for objective truth and detest biased narrow-mindedness, and I learned an appreciation of art, music, and film. And I learned from this single mom of the 60s that a real man is not a real man because he drinks beer while watching car races as he flips through a Playboy magazine, but rather a real man is a real man because he knows himself and is not ashamed of his weaknesses or shy about his strengths but uses his gifts and abilities to aid, and even rescue, people without his strengths - a real man is a hero of sorts, to somebody, or he's not a real man at all.

A Remarkable Mom

My mom saw everything as a teachable moment - she was a mom above all else, she counted her job, her career, to be training me to be the man boys should grow-up to be. I recall once shopping downtown around Christmas time, with snow on the ground, and a little old lady in front of us slipped a fell dropping her packages as she hit the ground hard. I was maybe 9 or 10 and so, of course, I burst into laughter pointing to this woman sprawled-out in the snow with her packages scattered around her . . . to me it all looked like The 3 Stooges right in front of me, but of course, it wasn't at all The 3 Stooges, it was a little old lady. My mom smacked me on the back of the head commanding me like a drill sergeant "Get over there and help that woman up, make sure she's not hurt, and get all of her packages for her - NOW!"

Looking back on it, my mom (as the adult) probably should have rushed immediately to the woman to tend to her - but her first and most essential identity was as a mother, she instantly turned to train me about my responsibility in such circumstances. That's who raised me, not someone who was obliged to be sure I was fed and sent off to school, not someone happy to have some manner of companion when it suited her, not someone imposed upon by a responsibility no one can really grasp until it's too late - my mom, at a very young age and without the kind of parental guidance herself that would have prepared her for parenting, my mom became a mother, first and foremost, her own personal conduct and her choices defined by her identity and role as my mother and what would best serve to raise me to be the man I ought to be.

When The Lights Go Out

One example among scores; because we lived paycheck to paycheck, we didn't always make it between paychecks . . . having our electricity shut off was not an uncommon circumstance in my childhood. Now, I imagine some kids had to deal with something like this themselves, pretty much all on their own while their parents tried to fix the problem or just sat in despair. And I imagine that some kids actually had to try to console their fretful and overwhelmed parents. My mom keep candles in a drawer, and kept crayons and a coloring book with them.

When our lights went out, and we sat there in sudden darkness, just about instantly my heart rose - mom was going to teach me to color! She would make her way to the drawer, and when she lit the candle I could see the coloring book and crayons under her arm. We would sprawl-out on the floor and color by candlelight. It wasn't a tragedy, it wasn't a miserable occasion - I have wonderfully fond memories of when our electricity would get shut-off. Now, I'm sure for my young mom, lots of things were going through her mind, I'm sure she was troubled, I'm sure she felt terribly bad for my sister and I - but I saw none of that, it was all about coloring by candlelight, a special occasion for me.


Now, that should be the end of the story, that seems a fine and story I laid out, it seems a fine tag at the end, well balanced, etc, I'm happy - but, here's the clincher with my mom that I have to include in my tale; I wish you all could see her coloring! I'm nearly 60 now and I've never come across anyone who could color like my mom . . . by the time she was finished her page looked like a single frame from a Disney classic. Again, being poor, our crayons were the small, 8 or 10 colors box of crayons, but she would do stuff I would never imagine.

She used outlining and then filling in to great effect, she would press hard around the edges and then lighten her touch as she moved toward the middle of an item giving it a rounded 3-dimentional look, she would color in a portion of an object and then lick her thumb and smear the colored area over into the non-colored area giving it a textured look, and she would fill in an object with one color and then peel the paper off a different color and quickly pass the tip through the flame of the candle softening the wax and then go over the color she already applied making a whole new color that was not in the box at all. To top everything else off - her coloring book pictures looked like works of art! She was indeed, a special lady and a remarkable mom.


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