Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Color of Seven

In the beginning, it was white. All white. I suppose that seems a little obvious, doesn't it? But it wasn't to me. It was supposed to be blue, blue, all over the place blue. For years. Even before we got pregnant - we made a deal: boy or girl, we like blue. We'd stocked up for years on all kinds of blue things. Boy blue. Girl blue. And everything in between. The predictable baby blue. Sky blue. Deep, rich cobalt blue like the glasses in my mother's kitchen windows. Powder blue. Kingfisher blue like a decadent streak spotted on an afternoon's walk. But in the end; in the beginning; it was white. White onesies, white bubbles, white diapers, white blankets, white bows. All on this little white bundle that we'd waited - what seemed like forever - to say hello to.

But let me pause; back up, and tell you that one way or another - even if marginally - I am an artist. Not in a Georgia O'Keefe, Jackson Pollock kind of way. Not even like my uncle Rick who's gracefully dripping sea life watercolors grace galleries and aquariums around the world. My art is in my words. In the still life arrangements I inevitably create on my shelves. And my art is in my revelry with color. For as long as I can remember - except for perhaps a short, dark, brief-stinted love affair with being Goth - I have lived my life out loud in color. I've had color wheels since I was three or four, inhaled my color theory art classes in college, and delighted in the discovery of the pantone matching system book - oddly named, "the PMS book" by designers in the field.

For me, color can convey, classify, and capture moments - sometimes as well as words. When I see burgundy, I'm immediately transported back in time to my senior prom and can feel fourteen yards of slippery satin twirling around me on the dance floor. The right shade of cerulean blue takes me back to my favorite beach at home - the one that most tourists can't get to - with fine sand like dusting sugar and trade winds that cool even the hottest August afternoon.

In the same way, color has become a defining characteristic when thinking of my daughter's life. I will give you seven years. Seven memories. Seven Colors.

I've told you that the beginning was white. Pure, clean, beautiful white. After that, I feel like I'm flying all the way to the other end of the prism with One being red. The red of twice-kissed lips. The red of excitement and emergencies. The red of ladybugs. Because of all the nicknames my daughter Bella has, "ladybug" has been the easiest one to translate into dress. I don't know if I can tell you how many ladybug outfits I discovered for her in the first year of her life. Ladybugs on dresses, ladybugs on pants, ladybugs on shoes. These sweet little redbugs were even the mascot of my mother's high school back in Fordyce, Arkansas, so you might imagine how many of her old friends and acquaintances made sure we were stocked up on redbug note pads. We celebrated that first year with, of course, a ladybug themed party complete with red-spotted cake, red balloons, and red roses.

With white plus red, the natural result is pink. And pink is truly what year two was. With a year of experience under our belts, it was a tad less dramatic than the red of year one, but still with more color that the beginning purity of white. In our pink year, we had a solo Easter Egg hunt. We were still recently moved back home to Washington; no church connection yet; no radar out for community events. So that Easter, Bella, dressed in sweet pink sweats and hoodie, got to find all the eggs in our yard. I can still remember the cold, crispness of that spring morning; watching her hold the still-too-big basket; walking from end to end of our front yard; trying to find these pastel little eggs - that seemed shout out at us from their hiding places. Of course, she found them all, and her delight as she found each one - squealing as though they were the most wonderful treasures - is a truly sweet memory.

At three, I was overwhelmed with such warmth and joy from my little girl; it felt like the sun was out all the time. With glowing highlights in her hair and a smile that could melt me like butter, we were surely in a golden yellow time. Those highlights of hers stand out to me in memory so clearly. I was happy to see actual evidence of my recessive gene in action and hoped that this meant Bella's green eyes would stick around as well. For some odd reason, the one piece of seventh grade biology that stuck with me like a glimmer of light in the attic after all these years, was the chart we drew with the big B and the little b to show how dominant and recessive genes were distributed. I often amused Bella by telling her all the different names of the colors I saw in her hair: honey, strawberry, pecan, marmalade, and butterscotch.

At four, my honey-haired child was off to her first taste of the learning in the Blue Class at our local Cooperative Preschool. Introducing her to education was like standing on the edge of the ocean; looking out into its vast azure expanse, and launching our daughter off towards the horizon where sky meets sea. It's an amazing thing - watching a child learn. When everything is new and fresh and waiting to be discovered. Being a co-op preschool, parents were asked to be present to help the teacher - and what a wonderful thing to be hands-on as your child uncovers something new each day. I can still remember the look on her face when she sank her fingers into the bean bin - literally: a sandbox filled with every kind of dried bean imaginable. Standing there, pushing through the smooth, sliding orbs; feeling them cascade through her fingers, she looked up with delight and quickly grabbed my hand so I could run my fingers through the silky streams of dried beans.

Five and Six go together in my mind - these are the years Bella began her own garden. They are absolutely green and orange. Gardening, as I've talked about here, is a real passion of mine. I love putting seeds and starts into the ground and caring for them until they turn into something good to eat. That passion is mutually shared with Bella who picks out, waters, and tends to her own little 6 foot by 3 foot patch of happiness each summer. With tomatoes, radishes, green onions, and carrots, I have quite the little gardener on my hands. There is nothing as priceless, though, as those early times in the beginning of the gardening rush when she would pull out the vegetables - particularly the carrots - to "check and see if they were ready yet." It used to drive me crazy, but after a while, looking at those little teeny bits of carrot at the end of those frothy, feathery tops, all I could do was laugh out loud together with her - and enjoy a small yummy bite.
My Lovely Bella Girl

I cannot believe that eleven days ago, my little bit of rainbow girl turned seven. Seven is a drink. It is a movie. It is a prime number. Seven is purple. Seven is probably seven shades of purple if I start to think about it. It is the stormy aubergine of a growing girl exploring every end of her seven year old emotions. It is the pensive violet of daydreams and as she discovers her love of writing and storytelling. It is the soft lilac of tulle and satin as she continues her love affair with ballet. Seven is the twinkling amethyst of unicorns and magic. It is the softness of wisteria on our front porch - the backdrop for so many photos my child who's growing with Amazonian speed. And it is the regal purple of royalty as she works to exert and define her role in our family.

The color of seven is for me, a rich amalgam of bright and shadow, light and dark - a liquid fountain of hues and tints running in and about our lives. The colors I see characterize happiness, work, sadness, and delight. But most of all, they are the color of a life well lived, and of more life yet to come.

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