When I was five I had my own Popeye coloring book. Growing up in a large family with a tight budget, not having to share a coloring book with siblings was a pretty big deal for me. For once I could color just the way I liked. And so I colored every page red. Wasn’t red wonderful? I’d ask my brothers.
Our little sister at the time was still a toddler who slept in a crib in our parents’ bedroom. She bit the heads off the plastic stable ponies in our farm set and so we didn’t trust her around our coffee can of crayons. Only decades later did I discover what color meant to her. We were spending a cold April day in our nearby ski town when she coaxed me inside a quilter’s fabric store — one of the few places that close in on me and make me nervous. I am not domestic when it comes to fabric, but she was and still is. She ran her hands along every bolt of fabric, naming colors in such wondrous ways: Azure Dairy Cream, Rock Hen Red, Foam Curler Pink.
Shewhobittheheadoffponies wouldn’t leave the store. I was bordering on hyperventilation when she turned and asked what it was that centered me the way color made her glow. Color? Somewhere between my Popeye Phase and my Black Sweater Todays, I had misplaced my feel for color; I had misplaced my feel for . . . red!
How had I let that happen? The notions and bobbins and fabric bolts — even the pinking shears — closed in on me, waiting for my reply. I took one deep breath and answered: Wide open spaces. And then I did what I always do — slipped out the store’s back door.