By Sue Murphy
I tried to let it go. Really, I did.
I had spent the better part of January going through closets and drawers, getting rid of things I didn’t need and organizing those I did. There’s just something about opening up a door and seeing everything laid out in order that makes my shoulders relax.
And then, it was time to fly out to California to visit my grandchildren. Being the grandmother that I am, I, of course, had to arrive bearing gifts — for my grandson, an X-wing fighter Lego kit, and for my granddaughter, the biggest box of crayons I had ever seen. I was excited about the X-wing fighter because I love Legos and Star Wars, but I was even more excited about the crayons. There were 120 in all and the box was ringed with a row of vertical crayon drawings, each color giving way to a slightly different shade. They even threw in a sharpener. It was an organized person’s dream.
It was such a good gift, however, that my granddaughter already had one, but it was as yet unopened, so we sat down to open the boxes together. When I lifted the lid, I was shocked to see that the crayons were not standing at beautiful rainbow attention but lying flat in plain cardboard sleeves, and the colors were all mixed up. I sat there staring at the chaotic mishmash of color, thinking, “Why?” When they had the opportunity for rainbow perfection, why?
It was a struggle for me, but I was determined not to say anything about the blatant disregard for all things perfect, until my daughter walked by and said, “Ooh, that’s not right.” (Apparently, the OCD genes run deep in our family.) And so, that is how my daughter and I came to set about organizing 120 crayons into some semblance of order.
You’d think it would be a simple task, but we ran into a host of obstacles. First of all, there were only five cardboard sleeves, when even the most basic box of crayons comes with eight distinct colors. Not only that, but one of the sleeves was larger than the other four. Was the company trying to send me over the edge?
Then, we had a host of placement issues. Cadet blue was really more of a gray. Brick red seemed more at home with the browns. Both apricot and peach were a toss up for yellow and brown and orange. A half hour later (we were very thorough) my daughter and I finally finished, satisfied except for the black, white, and metallic gold that had to bunk with the purples because that was the only space left.
Now, while we were doing our obsessive sorting, my granddaughter had been busily creating. As I reluctantly closed my crayon box lid, she presented me with a multimedia masterpiece, glue still wet, that included crayon shavings she had fashioned with her new sharpener. I was appropriately oohing and aahing until I realized that she had taken her new box of 120 crayons, peeled off a number of wrappers, and put them through the shredder.
I was proud and aghast at the same time, aghast at the violation of the brand new crayons, but proud that she was able to see the crayons for what they truly were: simply the means to put your ideas on paper.
I’m still working on that. When I got home, I bought myself a 120 pack and organized them until my shoulders relaxed once again. Letting go? Successive approximations, my friend, successive approximations.