My mother never called anyone an asshole

crayon drawing of a smiling purple-haired woman, with "MOM" written above it.

A picture of me from some years ago, by my oldest child.
It reminds me of my mother.

 

Today in workshop: coloring back in time

In today’s Amherst Artists & Writers workshop, we finished with a prompt rooted in mindfulness and childhood memory.  Here’s how it goes: you choose a few crayons from a big bowl, make sure everyone has drawing paper, and together we all breathe in the smell of the crayolas.

Now imagine you are sinking back in time, drawing with crayons, when someone’s told you to go color. You have nothing else to do, and busily you begin to draw what you would have drawn then. We have twelve minutes. Draw until you feel moved to begin writing, just noticing the feel of the crayon as you make lines and scribble—as long as you want to, you can skip writing entirely—and then write until the time is up.

…What came up for my workshoppers was wonderfully diverse in tone, ranging from wry to meditative to inspiring. I’m always blown away by how writers can take risks and write from the heart when we relax and get in front of that internal critic. Try it yourself sometime! Playing is fun, and brings out creative ideas.

Here’s what came up for me:

My mother never called anyone an asshole

Orange, I thought it was orange but the name on the label said “scarlet.”

I remember the fatter crayons they gave us in kindergarten, fat like our fingers were. I remember the way the color flowed out onto paper and everyone noticed I could draw what I saw, a gift, they said, pointing. But I just wanted to be small and unseen.

Seen, I blushed like the red crayon and inside turned cyan and chilly like the car on winter mornings on the way to school.

Seen, they said, “Oh, look how cute, she’s so shy!” And how my mother never told them to “stop talking about her as if she’s not here. She’s listening, assholes.”

(My mother never called anyone an asshole, but if she were alive now, I think she would.)

Mama got feistier and feistier as she grew older. But back when I was in Kindergarten, she was shrinking pale blue and gray and lots of black skies. There were no petal or dandelion-colored flowers blooming in her smiles. I drew her tulips and daisies and roses. I used all the crayons in the big box, sharpening them with the little sharpener to make the flowers as real as I could make them, but they were never real enough for her to feel them in her heart, it seemed.

She was blue and alone but much later, when I was all grown up and she was dying, she was brave and alone, instead. She would have called an asshole an asshole, I’m sure of it—if only she’d lived a little longer.

She was blooming like a warm summer day, right as she died back.
(I just wish she could come back.)

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  1. #1 by Dawn D on July 30, 2018 - 6:38 am

    Beautiful. I took part in a writer’s retreat not that long ago. It was marvelous, to see everyone blossom, once they started to listen to their heart rather than focus on “how” they thought they should write.
    I wish my Mom knew how to let the red grow inside of her and be as brave as a lion, defending herself. I try. I can only show her, not do it for her. At the minute, she’s learning to be angry with people who don’t do right by her daughter, which is a start.
    I hope one day she is able to call someone an asshole, before she dies.
    XO

    • #2 by Elaine Olund on July 31, 2018 - 11:31 am

      Dear Dawn,
      Thank you for your heartfelt response—I agree, we learn from our mothers and we learn from our daughters. It sounds like your mama is finding her voice, and that is a beautiful thing. Maybe in seeing our mothers struggle with that, you and I were inspired to find our voices sooner? I feel the love you have for her, and she for you.
      E

      • #3 by Dawn D on August 1, 2018 - 4:52 pm

        Yes, I agree about finding our voices sooner. And I know that our daughters will find theirs sooner still 🙂
        XO

  2. #4 by Ellen Austin-Li on July 31, 2018 - 11:24 am

    Lovely post/prompt. In a side note—you look good with purple hair!

  3. #5 by Ellen Austin-Li on July 31, 2018 - 11:25 am

    Harrumph! Why is WP making me post this comment again? Lovely post/prompt. In a side note—you look good with purple hair!

    • #6 by Elaine Olund on July 31, 2018 - 11:27 am

      You know, unearthing that drawing made me think, hm, purple hair… 🙂
      But then my kids would think I was copying them, I suppose…
      Thanks for reading, Ellen, and commenting.

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