As I approach, she smiles and quickly turns her attention back to her paper.
“So, what’s this?” I ask.
“I got a new box of crayons yesterday. I like when they are new because they’re pointy.”
I bend and kiss the top of her head. “That’s very pretty,” I whisper as I sit next to her. She smells of baby shampoo.
She exhales deeply, “It’s easier to stay inside the lines when the crayons are new.”
I nod my head in agreement.
She continues with the yellow crayon, “Yellow is for the sun.” In case I didn’t know this, now I do.
I pick up the box of eight crayons – most of which have already lost their points; at the same time, I make a mental note to purchase a larger box, with more colors and maybe a sharpener. “Yes, and red is for the flower,” I speak softly.
“Red. Red is for flowers.” She carefully places the yellow crayon into the box and pulls out the red one.
“What about the blue one?” I ask. The blue crayon is still very pointed, not yet used. Would she remember that blue is my favorite color? “What is blue for?”
Silence. She works within the lines of the flower petals. A beginner’s coloring book with large, easy prints. Some of the pages ripped out.
“Green is for grass.” She takes the crayon and fills in the blades of grass. “Oops!” It snaps in half under her tight grip. “That’s okay,” she grins. “There’s only a little bit of grass.”
“Tomorrow I’ll bring you a new green one, a pointed green.”
“Okay,” she says, satisfied. “See my house?”
A dog-eared page – hastily extracted from a more advanced coloring book – is on the table. The red and brown blend together. I am guessing that the colors represent the brick of her house. The brown and green tree, decorated with little red dots, stands under an uncolored sky. The sun is a bright yellow with yellow lines stretching out in all directions.
“Do you like the blue one?” I persist holding the crayon in the air.
“Black is for dirt,” She replies as she sets the broken green crayon aside and pulls the black crayon out of the box.
“Yes, black is for dirt.” The ticking clock above the bookcase echoes in the nearly empty activity room.
She inspects the box, “Orange is tricky. You don’t use orange much.”
“Orange could be for a pumpkin,” I offer, almost excitedly, although not expecting a reply.
A bell rings in the distance; far-away chatter and movement approach.
“Oh,” she says, and quickly closes her coloring book. “It’s time to wash my hands for dinner.” She takes the blue crayon from my hand, still extended. “You have to go now. Tonight’s guest will be Frank Sinatra. This is the best resort ever.”
I rise, “Okay, Auntie Heley, I’ll see you again tomorrow.”
She touches my arm and smiles. Our eyes meet for an instant. Her frail fingers bring a flood of memories. For a moment I want to believe she knows who I am. I kiss her forehead and turn toward the door.
“Blue.” My favorite aunt says confidently, “Blue is for beautiful. It always reminds me of you, Judy.”
This story is based on an actual event.
word count: 546