This is a guest post by Stuart M. Perkins from Storyshucker.
“No, no, no!”
Why did the tone of that reprimand ring a bell, I wondered, as I waited in the check-out line that morning.
“No, no, no!” a mother repeated to her little boy who had taken several ball point pens from a bin near the cash register. He had removed the cap from one and was about to demonstrate his unique brand of artwork across the top paper in a stack of Washington Posts. Naturally, he resisted when his mother pulled the pen from his hands. What child doesn’t like to draw?
I drew constantly as a kid, with pens, pencils, and frequently with my oldest sister’s fountain pen until it emptied. She always wondered why it ran out of ink so quickly and unless she reads this it will remain a decades old secret. Of course I had a box of Crayola crayons, 64 count with built-in sharpener. I lived large. One thing I didn’t have, but craved greatly, was a magic marker.
In a cabinet above the stove at home was a shelf where Mama kept a deck of playing cards. Glue, rubber bands, and other random items, all of which should have been thrown out years earlier, also filled the shelf. When I stood on a chair once to see what else she kept up there, I saw it. From inside an old coffee mug, wedged between broken pencils and a pair of scissors, it called to me. A black El Marko magic marker! I slid it from the mug and removed the cap, catching a whiff of that distinct and beautiful aroma, That’s when I heard her coming…
“No, no, no!” Mama said.
“You can’t use that. It’ll get everywhere and it won’t wash off.” she continued.
Even when I drew with my generic assortment of pens, pencils, and crayons, Mama was clear that I was to sit at the kitchen table, draw only on the paper, and never get near the walls. One time in the past she had sternly called me into the den to explain to her why my name was written in red crayon several times across the wall. I was exonerated when I pointed out that the “S” in each case had been written backwards. A hallmark of the work of my little sister. Still, the notion of me with a magic marker made Mama nervous.
For months then, I contented myself to draw with my old assortment of pens, pencils, and crayons. If my oldest sister left the house I got in some time with the fountain pen. Still, I knew the magic marker was in the cabinet above the stove and I couldn’t forget it.
Christmas, right around the corner at that point, provided a distraction. As my sisters and I wrote down presents we wanted from Santa Claus I noticed that their extensive lists included things like record albums, dresses, dolls, and curling irons. I had written only one thing on my list.
1. magic marker
This provided everyone with plenty of laughs, but to me it was serious. I had to know what it felt like to draw with a magic marker! I knew what pens, pencils, and crayons could do, and fountain pens were nice while the ink lasted, but what about a magic marker?
Christmas morning came and I had actually thought little more about the magic marker. In my spot near the Christmas tree was the mountain of gifts Santa Claus so generously left every year. As my sisters tore through their gifts, I marveled at my remote control helicopter and took note of a new pair of slippers. To the left of a Lego set I saw a small, plain box. I reached for it not knowing what it could be. There were no words or pictures to provide a clue. Opening the box, I smelled it before I saw it. That distinct, beautiful aroma gave me all the clue I needed. I lifted the lid from the box and there it was – a brand new El Marko…
Merry Christmas to me!
I had to draw immediately. I stood to go to the kitchen table where I knew it was safe, grabbed my drawing pad, and sat down. Mama appeared from thin air to pull me and the entire kitchen table three feet from the wall. She instantly spread a layer of newspaper beneath my drawing pad, handed me several wet paper towels, and reminded me that magic marker ink would never wash off and we had to be at church later. Daddy grinned at Mama’s panic, so I think I know which half of Santa Claus was behind that particular gift.
Still, in the midst of the barrage of rules, I happily drew. The distinct and beautiful aroma of the El Marko filled the kitchen.
For a kid who finally got his magic marker, it really was the most wonderful time of the year.
And Mama was incorrect. Magic marker ink will wash off, but it takes three days and a Brillo pad to remove it. When she wasn’t looking that Christmas morning I scribbled a test patch across my knee.