I knew it 60 Christmases ago. I knew it as surely as those cave dwellers did ten thousand years ago when they scribbled on the Lascaux cave walls.
“Harry, my repetitious love,” said Dearest Duck, “stop sounding like Joey Smallwood and tell us what you knew.”
“I shall, my Duck,” said I, “but first I want to talk about Roy Rogers.”
“Oh dear,” said Dearest Duck and went away.
Every Christmas morning, Roy Rodgers, king of the cowboys, rode Trigger into my bay-boy home hot on the heels of Rudolph, Donner, Blitzen and all of Santa’s legendary team. And, while the goose — or more likely, a roast of mutton from a poor ol’ nanny-baa — roasted, he brought calm to an otherwise frenetic kitchen.
Roy appeared, not in a cloud of trail dust and gun smoke, but in the pulpy pages of a colouring book. Santa Claus, a perceptive ol’ cayuse himself, always tucked a pack of sixty-four crayons in Trigger’s saddlebags.
Calm as a flat-k’am-on-the-cove morning, I spread myself out on the chimney-corner floor and coloured Roy and Trigger and Dale and Buttermilk until the arrow-sharp tips of all sixty-four crayons were scrubbed as blunt as bullets.
On reflection, chances are cave-kiddies coloured the horses and bison and spear-throwers on the Lascaux walls while Mammy turned a spit, roasting a prehistoric goose the size of a pony. They coloured calmly until their grubby little fingers wore down to nubs…and their goose was cooked.
I have always coloured.
Ages after Roy rode into the sunset, I coloured with our children on Christmas mornings while Dearest Duck roasted a Christmas …well, not a duck, for sure. I coloured Barbie with our granddaughters, at least until they drifted away to play with more sophisticated things. Like those friggin’ iPads, for instance.
A fully-grown Pop lying alone on the floor carefully — and calmly — colouring the contours of Barbie’s classic plastic figure seems a smidgen strange, eh b’ys?
So I stopped.
That’s a lie. I have never truly ceased colouring.
If, perchance, you see me somewhere — say in a crowded food court while Dearest Duck prowls The Mall, on the hunt for the latest perfect pair of comfy shoes for her bunioned toes — with a newspaper folded against my knee and apparently filling in a crossword puzzle …well, I’m not.
My paper is folded to the comics and I’m colouring.
Colouring calmly while I wait and wait and wait.
“Of course, my Duck. I’ll get to it.”
The day I knew would come arrived midst some embarrassing confusion.
Partly because I don’t always pay full attention to the world around me, I s’pose. Partly because I sometimes become befuddled after Dearest Duck has poured me a mug too many of Tension Tamer, an oft mentioned calming herbal brew.
My mostly inattentive ears had heard about adult colouring books designed to relax high-strung grown-ups and — I imagine because I wasn’t paying full attention — also designed to sooth agitated seniors.
So, next time Dearest Duck sought shoes, I tossed my newspaper in the rubbish bin and went — went calmly I might add — into a bookstore to find an adult colouring book.
Immediately inside the bookstore a display caught my eye. In a rack the size of Giza’s pyramid was a thousand copies of an adult colouring book. Its title suggested it was especially for seniors: Fifty Shades of Grey.
I grabbed a copy and — shades of Roy and Trigger — galloped to the checkout.
The checkout girl looked at me … looked at me … ah, here’s the perfect word … looked at me nonplussed when I asked, “Are there special crayons to go with this book?”
Quickly, professionally, overcoming her bafflement, the clerk drew me aside and explained that the actual adult colouring books were shelved in another section of the store. Burning with embarrassment, I dropped the shady book and fled the bookstore without making a purchase.
But you know what? Never doubt it; Dearest Duck is eons more astute than I.
Remember that trip to visit Daddy’s Boy beyond the Rockies I spoke of earlier?
When our airplane leveled off, Dearest Duck reached into her bottomless carry-on, pulled out a book and a box of coloured pencils.
“For you, Harry, my high-strung hon,” she said handing me — wait for it — Zen Doodles.
For hours afterwards, I calmly coloured squiggles and swirls, lacy patterns and mandalas at 30,000 feet.
Thank you for reading.
Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org