penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.


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Today I opened up the fourteenth box of my advent calendar and found…paint.

Joni Mitchell wrote a beautifully sad song called “A Case of You.”  In it she sings, “Oh, I am a lonely painter. I live in a box of paints.”

The idea of living in a box of paints has always been evocative for me.  You are full of undiscovered, unknown colour.  You are a medium waiting for a muse to be used.  You are the painter and you draw your meaning from living through the potential of colour in all those bottles or tubes.

There was a time when I had more time to draw and paint, but that kind of fell by the way side on the road to work and family.  Every once in a while though, the idea of picking up a paintbrush and going back to spend time in all that colour is attractive.  It might make the scenery along the road more interesting.

Today though, I had a chance to spend some time painting with a number of children.  Or, to be more exact, keep the children from painting each other.

Each year, the church where we go to now has a children’s Christmas pageant.  My husband is the producer, writer, director and one of the musicians (I’m a groupie and sometimes child wrangler). He has been doing this since before we were married – probably about 15 or so years now.  We have literally watched children grow up through this pageant, as they each take a turn playing one of the principal parts.  The general narrative has remained the same, but every couple of years he throws a new curve ball in there just to keep it interesting.  This year, some of the parents and other Sunday school teachers offered to make a few sets – including a couple of inns and a stable.

Which is how I wound up with eight children splattering brown paint all over some craft paper, the church floor and themselves.

The first issue was just trying to get the kids organized.  I had one mom (who had never seen my husband in action before) come up to me and say “I asked him if he needed help, because he sure looked like it. But he said no.”  I assured her, “No, this is normally the way we work.” If by normal, you mean total and utter chaos.

Once we had the kids organized between those who were practicing their parts, those who wanted to paint and those that wanted to use power tools (I’m only half kidding here), I discovered I was in charge of a bunch of enthusiastic Picassos and Da Vincis.  In their good Sunday clothes.  And the girl playing Mary had taken the initiative to wear her costume right away (She was very good about removing it for painting though).  Then, we found out that we didn’t have any brown paint.  Nor did we have very much paint of any colour.  We would have to get creative. “Okay, so what colours make up the colour brown?” I asked.  “You mix’em all together!” they all said together.  So, I started to mix in some yellow, blue, red and green. With a bit of black thrown in for good measure.  My first attempt wasn’t great.  “That’s too green! You need more red!” one opinionated little guy told me.   “You are right!” I said. In went more red.  Eventually we got somewhere close to a brown sort of colour.  I handed them their paint brushes and the paint and let them go to town, while I mixed up some more.  This time, the brown turned out very red.  One flexible little girl said “It’s okay, the wood is probably old anyway.”

As we continued painting, and hoping to keep them engaged, I asked them what their favourite part of Christmas is.  “Unwrapping gifts!” Of course.  “Decorating the tree!” said another.  I had to agree.   “Getting together with family! My whole family is coming to town for the first time and I haven’t seen them in forever!”  I loved this one because I know how stressful having the whole family can be for adults, but for kids it’s like an amazing party.  One little girl said that her family had decided not to give each other gifts this year – instead they would buy gifts for families in need.  I was blown away by how happy she was by this.

By the end of Sunday school, we had a few giant swaths of paper covered (approximately) in sort of brown paint.  No one had paint on them – except me (My hands especially were covered in red – I looked like Lady McBeth).  And the floor cleaned up nicely with a bit of soap and water.

And so today, living out of a box of paints with a group of creative children, I felt inspired anew by everything that Christmas can be.  Maybe I just need to take a little more time to use may imagination…and admire the scenery.


Written by pennyinacastle

December 15, 2014 at 4:24 am

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