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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crayola Bombs, Afternoon Naps & a Book Review

Robert Fulghum, wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten, in 1986 with a second printing in 1988 when it became a bestseller.  He's gone on to write more short essay style, slice of life books, that have all sold well. Much of his work has become almost pop culture.

People still keep their original copies of this book.  I know because a friend of mine recently lent me her copy, knowing I would enjoy it. I did, but perhaps for a more reflective look than anything else. It took me back a bit.

I was  reluctantly introduced to this book when it  first came out. I was a new grad from Paramedic school and was partnered for a few months with another graduate from my class.  Of all the close knit classmates I had, he wasn't one of them.   He had been a  bit of an outsider it seemed in the two year intense struggle of emergency medicine. Truth be told, perhaps we didn't really like each other that much.  But that can change pretty quickly the first time you carry someone out of a more than questionable inner city bar with multiple knife wounds while the fight is still going on.  We were both being razed  during those first few months, for different things, but the same reason. Our only crime that we were both rookies. We were also both "out of province" which increased the razing in the West's version of the East's "come from away". We started to appreciate each other a bit.

So when he started telling me about this great book he was reading I half listened.  When he told me about the introductory poem, almost a mantra that suggested we all should have a nap in the afternoon, I took note. He was exhausted and that line really struck a cord for him. Although we were the same age he was going through a tough marital separation and trying to bring up a very "girly" daughter that was just entering school ,as he was trying to get his feet on the ground in a career he wasn't sure he was suited for.  I wasn't even married yet, truly couldn't appreciate the world of parenting let alone single parenting, and for perhaps those reasons alone, was adjusting pretty easily to the adrenalin world.

The first line from the poem is "Share".  When my partner came to work one morning with burns on all the finger tips of one hand I realized I needed to share my limited knowledge of how to work a curling iron.  His daughter's straight hair wasn't cooperating and he was trying so hard it melted my heart, that at the time, had a pretty tough layer.  I told him  about the comb trick to keep your fingers away from the hot iron and your daughter's head!  When my in-laws were coming for Thanksgiving, he gave me his cheescake recipe and I still use it today. In fact, a version of it is in Sweet Shack and Bach Bar.

So when my partner got to the chapter about the crayola crayons on a pretty slow night shift, we went out and bought a box.  My partner carefully colored a beautiful unicorn picture for his daughter, keeping exactly within the lines. I made my own lines, didn't finish the picture but had fun with the process, and when he was still coloring and I was bored, I tried unsucessful to see if I could melt the crayon into a candle. Luckily we got distracted by a cardiac arrest call. 

Over twenty years later, I am really sitting down and reading the book. It's the kind of book that you can start anywhere and just read a section. It doesn't have to be read from front to back and I like that.  You can read it in 5 minute chunks, or over an afternoon.  In twenty years it still seems pretty appropriate. 

There are some passages and thoughts in the book that I don't agree with. But that's part of the joy of reading this book. It will make you think about what you do, and don't agree with.  Robert Fulghum suggests you do just that.

In that span of twenty years I am astounded by how much my views have changed. Not the core pieces so much.  I still don't color within the lines and I'm still trying to make candles, but the outside layers of me are so different.  It's not so much the passage of time, it's the experiences along the way that have changed the layers- taken some off and added some on.  For that reason alone, it's enlightening to read this book- for self examination I guess. I highly recommend it.

I'm not going to wreck the surprise if you haven't already read the book and explain the crayola bombs- you have to read that yourself.  But to that partner, that I have no idea where he is or what he might be doing, I energetically at least, send you a big box of the 64 crayola crayons with the built in sharpener, and a little bomb of happiness. I hope you kept your book and are reading it with pleasure, or maybe just having that afternoon nap.

And for the friend that recently lent me the copy, who's been a friend through all those layers- thanks! And I will get it back to you- I promise!

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