Out of paper! I got up from my desk and snagged a brand new legal pad from the storage closet. As I fanned through the crisp new leaves, I was struck by the familiar smell of fresh ink and paper. I smiled. The first day of school! The beginning of another school year meant new things. New paper, new pencils, a notebook, clothes… Everything was different, even me. I was taller, skinnier, my ears were bigger and my hair shorter.
Fourth grade was Mrs. O’Conner’s class at Bonita Springs Elementary. She was tough I heard… so I wanted to be ready. My Mom had taken me to the department store and I had filled the required supply list enthusiastically… except for the crayons. A box of 16 is what was “required,” but then there on the shelf was the new “Crayola” box of 64… with a built in sharpener! Being a budding artist, I saw no point in limiting myself to 16 colors, but my mother said Ms. O’Conner had other ideas and she placed the puny box in the cart. As I rode home, sulking next to my mom, I tried to think of a reason that someone would even create a rule that limits how many crayons you could have. I finally blurted out. “I just don’t get it…Are you sure it’s a rule? I mean, it sounds like a suggestion, because why would she make it a rule? Does she think having too many colors will confuse kids? Shouldn’t we be able to color whatever color we want?” My mom rolled her eyes. “Look, I don’t know why it’s a rule… it’s just a rule, OK?” I looked out the window with my arms crossed, watching the water filled ditch next to the Tamiami Trail go by. I mumbled. “Well it’s a pretty stupid rule.” My mom just stared straight ahead and drove a little faster. Apparently I would have to argue my case to the teacher.
The next morning I was on my way to school, with a new “crew cut”, complete with a single butch-waxed tuft of hair on my otherwise barren head, a huge brand new pair of dark blue jeans that “had room enough for me to grow into” (they fit great now!) and my new school supplies, including 16 stupid crayons. On the bus, as we were all comparing our supplies and I was taking a ribbing for my disproportionate head to ear ratio, I noticed that one of the boys had the 64 pack of Crayons. “Arrrgh!” I yelled grabbing at the hair on top of my head that I still don’t have. “You can’t have those! You’re supposed to get the 16 pack Joey!” Joey shrugged as he put them away. “They’re just crayons man.” I looked at him like he had two heads. “What? You don’t care?” “Nope.” said Joey casually shrugging. I sized Joey up for a second and then instinct kicked in and I became… my father! “Okay Joey. But, how do you feel about… IRON MAN!” And I pulled out a brand new comic book from my note book. “Whoa!” said every boy on the bus. (I’d seen my dad “horse trade” in the store hundreds of times.) I dangled the comic by one corner. “Joey, I’ll trade you this comic book and my box of crayons for your box of crayons.” Joey jumped at the deal, which made us both happy. Now all I had to do was to convince Mrs. O’Connor.
For days I waited for my opportunity to argue for “crayon freedom” and then finally as she was slowly circling the room inspecting our work, Mrs. O’Connor stopped at my desk. I kept coloring, looking down, my giant box of Crayons sticking out like a sore thumb on the top of my desk. “Nice job Benny.” she said. (Wow, I’m in the clear!) I thought and then she tapped gently on the crayon box. “Are these the Crayons you traded with Joey for?” I turned slowly and glared at Joey who was slouched in his chair, his face red as a beet.
Although my interpretation of Mrs. O’Conner’s “guidelines” had been correct, Joey’s parents apparently didn’t attach the same value to “Iron Man” as their son. So, I ended up with a dog-eared comic and a box of 14 blunt and broken crayons. My parents weren’t exactly happy, but they must have had some appreciation for my impassioned argument, because I finally got a brand new box of 64 crayons.
Sweet Crayon Freedom!