Many years ago, I entered a coloring contest. I carefully outlined each space before meticulously filling in the area with the selected color. I stayed within the lines. I colored the whole page. Not an inch of uncolored page remained. I was as proud of the result as any 8-year-old could be. It was my masterpiece.
I lost the contest.
This was no ordinary coloring contest – one of my older cousins had organized it to keep the younger cousins busy during meal preparation for some celebration. As I recall there was a panel of older-cousin judges, but I might be wrong on that aspect. It was, after all, more than 40 years ago…
I lost the contest. The winner colored outside the lines. I remember asking the “head judge” why I didn’t win. My picture was better. My coloring was spot on.
“You colored the sky. You’re not supposed to color the sky.”
For years and years, I left the skies in my coloring books a boring white. The skies in Never Never Land and Cinderella’s Kingdom were always an overcast, unhealthy beige without a hint of blue. Occasionally I would get brave and draw a sliver of sun in the uppermost corner, but never again did I dare to color the sky.
I looked out my bathroom window this morning and saw the brightest blue sky. My iPhone camera simply didn’t do it justice. The sight brought the memories of my blank white coloring page skies back to me.
Life is short. Less than 3 months before Mom died, she told me that she planned to live to see age 90. Before she died, she wanted to go to the beach. She wanted to sit on my back deck and look at the flowers. I looked forward to days together where we might look up and watch the clouds together. The skies in my daydreams about what might have been are always blue, with a puffy cloud or two and a sliver of golden sunshine.
There are rules in place to keep us safe, like “you must stop at stop signs.” Other rules were just someone’s idea that caught on. We follow those rules because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Don’t eat dessert before dinner. Follow the pattern as it is written. Don’t wear white after Labor Day. Cover the gray in your hair if you don’t want to look old. Don’t put the good china in the dishwasher. You get the idea.
I’ve spent more than 40 years believing you shouldn’t color the sky. What a dumb rule. Always color the sky.