When we were little
You took us to the library,
our nearby Dallas branch.
My sister and I chose books
in the children’s section,
then wandered through the library,
where we stood over the air vents
and let our skirts fly up as we twirled,
simply because we were young
and it was fun.
I sometimes sat on your bed
and read my books aloud to you,
while you put on your makeup
or brushed your hair—
it was coffee brown then.
You stood in the attached bathroom.
We called it “the pink bathroom.”
But I never realized until just now
how important color was in our lives–
that we labeled rooms by color.
You, an artist in your soul,
see color everywhere.
You would liked to have gone to art school,
but your parents thought that was impractical.
And so you chose colors where you could
for your walls,
for your furnishings,
for our clothing.
I remember the blue and gray suede shoes
you saw for me when you worked
at Lord and Taylor’s.
And how fun you thought orange woodwork would be
in the room my sister and I shared
You collected Chinese ceramics,
the beautiful turquoise hue
adding more color
to your surroundings,
but you didn’t have the time to paint
flowers or landscapes
while we were young.
You were busy working
and driving us to lessons
and taking care of us when we were sick.
But you made certain we knew colors–
and had art—crayons, paper, and homemade clay,
a special treat for rainy days.
And your color-knowledge passed to my daughters.
Our first-born gray-eyed daughter
still a toddler telling her father
she wanted to go to the restaurant
with the green door.
(We had never noticed the door.)
But she always remembered colors,
and taught color names and knowledge to her sister,
before I even had a chance.
What is the opposite of color blindness?
Is it marked on our genes?
You and my father,
though you disagreed and parted,
did agree about many things.
You agreed on the importance of art, music,
I read nearly all of the books
in the built-in bookcase in our family room.
Rows of long shelves filled with books
their spines in shades of brown, blue, red,
green, and white,
bringing random color to the wall.
It didn’t matter what they were,
history, art, the classics—
I read them.
And I found the jumbo-sized
Hershey’s chocolate bar hidden there, too.
I broke off squares for my sister and me–
and then neatly shelved the bar
back into the bookcase,
where it appeared to be just another book.
Now your hair is white,
and my tangled brown curls
The colors of my childhood have vanished,
but the memories remain.
I didn’t realize that not all households held such treasures—
books, art, and music, I mean.
I didn’t realize
that all families don’t visit museums
or play “the dictionary game” at the dinner table.
I didn’t realize–
how fortunate we were.
There was always love for us.
And, chocolate, of course.
©Merril D. Smith, May 2014
At Valley Green, along the Wishahickon.