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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Black (10/15/09)

TITLE: Staying Inside the Lines
By Judy Webb


Staying Inside the Lines

I loved to sit in the parlor coloring with grandma. It was during times like these that she would share so much with me. I would ask, “Grandma, what was my mom like when she was little? Did she color with you like I do?” Grandma would smile and say, “No, honey, this is a special time, just for us.”

My grandmother had broken each of her wrists twice and the doctor encouraged her to take up a hobby that would work her wrists making them flexible. She decided to try coloring in coloring books and it was during this time that I learned so much from her. I treasured the time spent with her at the table in the parlor. As we filled the pages of her books one of the lessons I learned was of unconditional love. She loved me as only a grandmother can. Grandma was blind to my faults as she would issue statements like, “It’s only baby fat dear,” when I would express concern about my size. She also said to me, “You are as independent as a hog on ice.” I was not sure what she meant by that until I grew up and recognized the self-sufficient way I dealt with life.

As I colored in her books she taught me the importance of the black crayon. I would pull the black crayon out of the box and set it aside, but grandma would use it to outline her page before filling in with an appropriate choice. She taught me the importance of keeping within the lines. Looking back I realize she was also teaching me the value of setting boundaries.

She taught me about contrast, illustrating how the black crayon enabled the white and the yellow crayon to standout. Now, years later as an adult, I have come to appreciate just how special those times were. The words of wisdom that she shared with me stayed with me throughout the years. When faced with a situation where I had to choose truth over comfort I knew how to make a good choice.

Grandma told me, “You have to take the good with the bad,” and she believed those words deep in her soul. She often described her life as a testimony to trouble with a bubble of blessing now and then. I loved to listen to the stories she would tell. It was obvious to me that few had as wise a grandma as I.

Sitting in her parlor was like occupying a safe port during a storm. My father, who was often abusive, was afraid of crossing her or getting on her bad side. While grandma cherished her children it was her grandchildren she lavished love on without hesitation.

How she taught me to use the black crayon is a lesson I will use for years to come. I will also teach my grandchildren this valuable message. We need to plan ahead, make a silhouette with the black crayon, creating boundaries that are comfortable. Then we should move forward boldly, and fill in the open space with color. Splash as fearlessly as you like, but always try to stay reasonably within the borders set, knowing in advance that grace will save you.

She was always real with me and I could be myself with her. She never criticized me nor put me down. She taught me that grandmothers are special people, generous people and when need be they are protective people. I witnessed this they day she took a broom to the neighborhood bully when he wouldn’t leave me alone.

When I got older, moved out on my own she always made sure I had enough food to eat. As she aged, I learned to give back to her. Every Saturday I would go over to her house and do her hair. I would bring her great-granddaughter with me and grandma would fuss over while I worked on her hair. We sat at the same table in the same parlor where the black crayon was given a place of respect and usefulness.

I am a grandma now and have just stocked up on a few boxes of Crayola 64’s along with half a dozen coloring books and I can’t wait to teach my grandsons about the value of the black crayon.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Mark Bell10/23/09
good memories portrayed here. it makes me remember how often i didn't listen to my grandparents stories and wisdom.
c clemons10/23/09
Nice story. Writing was very good also.
Jan Ackerson 10/27/09
Wonderful lesson in a delightful, non-preachy devotional. Excellent, in fact.
Mildred Sheldon10/27/09
What a beautiful story. I loved how Grandma taught lessons in life without being preachy. Thank you for such a loving and tender story.