Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rich as the Queen

Funny how certain smells can take you right back. I picked up a big box of crayons for only a dollar at a yard sale, thinking they would be handy to have for visiting kids. It was when I got home and opened the box and inhaled that crayola aroma that all the dormant grade 2 memories awoke.
Nowadays kids take the measure of each other by the brand names they sport and the aquisition of the coolest electronic gadgets. In the late 50's in Canning Elementary school, Nova Scotia, there was no concept of brand anything, we all wore hand me downs and wool socks and sweaters made by Mom and Grandma. If you wanted to be awe inspiring it was all about your crayons.
    Most of us, like me, had the standard box of eight. Some of the Hungarian refugee kids had none at all. The Dutch family with kids in different grades shared a box, alternating colors each day.
Sometimes a kid would get a new 15 cent coloring book and a deluxe box of 16 crayons for a birthday and the 8 crayon box kids were green with envy. And then there was Susan. Susan was delivered to school each morning by her father in their glossy turquoise Chevy Bel-air. The rest of us walked through the village, or up or down the railroad tracks. My saddle shoes never looked like Susan's with her impeccably white toes. There were far too many adventures to be had along the tracks coming and going. The train always whistled in plenty of time to get out of the way, it was just that if the whistle blew when I was in the section with swamp on either side, the saddle shoes would pay the price. I dont think school buses had been invented at that time. And I dont remember a single fat kid. But back to Susan and what we perceived as her boring life...It was rumoured that her family owned the bank and were as rich as the queen. That was to be confirmed the day after her birthday when she showed up with the world's most extravagant box of 96 CRAYONS! AND with a built in sharpener!! The class of 7 and 8 year olds would not have been more gobsmacked had she won a million dollar lottery. She was instantly the most popular kid in elementary school. "I'll be your friend if you'll lend me your gold crayon..."
      So here in my senior years sits this box of 96 crayons that once was as out of reach as the moon, and I must admit to feeling a tiny bit smug and quite unreasonably happy in the owning of them. I hope Susan who had everything gets to feel small important joys like the smell of spring sunshine on warm railroad ties. Me, I feel rich as the Queen.