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  • TraceyJayneThomas

Child's play



As a child, I cannot remember ever being without a colouring book, drawing pad, crayons and felt pens. They were a constant. Other activities, toys and games, would flow in and out of favour and find themselves migrating from living room to bedroom cupboards and ultimately up to the attic - if they made the grade to stay in the house at all.


Drawing materials were always at hand. There was a tub (an old ice cream carton) full of a variety of wax crayons, colouring pencils and felt pens that had permanent residence in 'the big kitchen' (dining room was far too posh a term for us). This tub sat together with paper, colouring books and scrap books, and a bag of 'things to cut out' - which mainly comprised old birthday and Christmas cards. If we were lucky there would be a tub of Gloy glue in the corner cupboard, but failing that we'd have to resort to making our own with flour and water, which always resulted in a disgusting lumpy gloop.


I would also have my own personal drawing supplies, upstairs in my bedroom. These were special sets that had been received as gifts, or that I'd saved up my pocket money for.


An early memory I have is of laying on the floor in front of the television with a Camberwick Green colouring book and a pack of new felt pens, received as a Christmas present. It is a memory of complete contentment.


Reaching for something to draw with was a fundamental part of daily activities, like drinking when you're thirsty. It didn't matter what was drawn, or how it was drawn. It was pure, uninhibited expression.


I miss that irreverent approach. As a grown up I have become weighed down with (often) self imposed expectations of results. Responsibilities put such demands on time itself that a preciousness forms and builds around the moments taken to pick up a sketchbook.


I look at my grandchildren reaching for their crayons or felt pens, and see a freedom I recognise, but know I've lost. They gleefully flit from drawing on one side of the room, to playing with cars on the other. From colouring at the kitchen table, then dropping the pens to go and dance in the living room. Being curled up on the sofa watching a film, with a sketchbook on their lap, drawing at the same time.


I observe their actions with admiration, and a nostalgic pang. Where did that freedom go? When did the playfulness go?


Sometimes being a grown up sucks.


It's time to learn to play again.

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