Saturday, December 21, 2013


Hugo hands me a new Crayola, green.  The tip is dulled by small teeth marks and its wrapping is damp.  His lips reflect displeasure and his tongue explores the end of the crayon still his mouth.

"Out," my palm waits under his chin.  "Yucky, Hugo.  Spit it out."  Hugo deposits a trail of saliva and green waxy shards in my hand and turns to leave the room.  "Hugo?"  His body forms a half-turn, his eyes search my face.  "No more eating crayons, OK?  Yuck."

"Oh, okay, mammy."

I keep Hugo's name-brand crayons in a hinged tin - the same crayon tin from my childhood.  Outside, the tin is patterned with a vintaged, royal blue floral motif and the inside, a matte silver, is the backdrop to a multitude of sticky rainbow markings.  As a little girl, once I discovered that the ends of crayons left small dots of colour just by being in the tin, I figured I could make a few embellishments of my own.

When I open the tight-fitting, hinged lid the scent is comprised of these new crayons of my son's, barely out of their pristine cardboard boxes, freshly minted and still sharply tipped (unless recently masticated) mixed somehow with the ghostly smell of my crayons from the 80s.  The fragrance of my own collection, now long gone, has been embalmed and is a deeper, mustier one.  Their generic, quatrefoil designed paper wrappings were stained and peeled by my hands, their ends blunted by "filling in" large areas of newsprint colouring pages, many of them halved, or thirded, into smaller, unwrapped pieces that would slip through my grip by the heat of my fingers.

The summer of The Incident began with that tin.  I was colouring in the backyard of my parents' first home, a butter yellow, vinyl-sided semi in Newmarket, one afternoon.  My favourite crayon had always been a silver-coloured one: it was the first to loose its paper casing, since I wanted to more closely admire the sheen of metallic specks which sparkled when I held it up to the light.  The hinged lid of my tin provided a perch for crayons to rest between uses, and there sat the naked, silver crayon, awaiting duty. Sadly, the sun's rays claimed it that hot, summer afternoon and the next time I looked up from my artistic endeavour all that was left was a shimmering dollop of putty.

All instantly available at the opening of a tin box, such is the power of scent.  I wonder if, when he opens the tin for himself in years from now, Hugo will feel the soft fragments of green, non-toxic wax, stuck between his teeth.

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