Tuesday, June 28, 2011

People of color

Others don’t often connect florescence and me in the same sentence. But I knew my little vice was outed when I received my own florescent, chisel-head, retractable tool assortment for my birthday. For me, how on earth did you know?

Hello, my name is Julie and I am a highlighter.

Adding color to my pages stirs up childhood memories of 64 sharpened crayons neatly wedged into a blue and gold box. I recall being more fascinated with the names of my Crayolas more than my artwork. Even then, color was associated with words. Colorful Crayola names contrasted the ordinariness of being a fifth child. Today my vibrant strokes across the page highlight an author’s thoughts, emotions and voice. Its as if highlighting their words embolden my own. Perhaps I would like to be more hot pink, vibrant orange, neon green, deep blue, or fluorescent yellow…every now and then.

My good friend, Pruda, is like a bright orange highlighter. She speaks rapidly, wears vibrant colors, and grabs hold of life moments as if they are her next gulp of air between swim strokes. Pruda and I met more than 30 years ago when our sons were taking their first steps. I was a first-time mother; Pruda was a seasoned mother of three. I think I saw orange streaming behind her car each time she drove her son over the mountain pass for special testing and services. She was focusing on the important stuff. I first dared to infuse with color after meeting Pruda in my twenties.

Recently Pruda recounted her father’s 90th birthday celebration. Hundreds gathered in Indiana to recognize this influential elder who had daubed indelible color into the lives of so many. Maybe orange-ness runs in the family.
No one in the room was more excited for Grandpa’s party than Pruda’s 32-year-old son. All the while Luciano fretted over what to say about his best friend, Grandpa. Finally, after a host of others took their turn extolling Grandpa’s wisdom and heart, Luciano and his older sister walked side-by-side to the front of the large birthday audience. Big sister spoke first: “My brother is part of Special Olympics and knows well their oath which is  Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. Today Luciano wants to be brave. He wants to sing a song for our Grandpa.”

I was not present when Luciano remembered all the words to The Star Spangled Banner. Yet I imagined bold, sweeping orange strokes as I heard of Luciano’s courage of voice. I’m convinced orange-ness runs in that family! Choking back emotion, I packed two yellow highlighters into my carry-on for our spontaneous adventure to Israel. I challenged myself to highlight our experience with the florescent kind of bravery and impact as my young friend Luciano.


beancounter said...

This was thought-provoking. I feel so much safer "in beige" (and it's sure to match something!) But color brings out the life in me and in others, doesn't it? I have never been much of a risk taker. You're challenging me to keep at it.

beancounter said...

I've never been a risk taker. But your article reminds me how much I loved color when I was little too. (that big crayola box was a favorite for my sisters and me back then also -- I loved "midnight blue") Something happened as time went on that made me feel safer with beige -- neutral, goes with everything, doesn't stand out. Now that I'm older, I'm finally seeing the value of going outside my comfort zone, and while I want to be sensitive to those around me, I can still "be" me, even if it means standing out a little or being a bit brighter than I'm comfortable with or choosing to be a color instead of just blending in. Thanks for your thoughtful writing!