There is an art to coloring.

Oh, you may think you have it down. Years of experience taught you how to stay between the lines, how to add just the slightest hint of color here, what color that should be there and how things should appear when the piece is complete.

Well, that’s what society and those around you have led you to believe.

I think my boys have it right. And, at 40, I wish I still did.

Zachary is the more conventional artist in terms of posture, crayon position in hand and uniformity. He’s 5. In his terms, “uniformity” is “everything gets colored the same because I’m holding this crayon at the present time.” Then, he surveys the piece, decides it needs another color because … well, it’s the first color he sees when he goes looking for another color to splash on the page.

Stay inside the lines? That’s for amateurs. Bold strokes haphazardly strewn across the page with eyes wide, face inches from the paper – so close you can smell the fresh crayon as friction melts it between the paper grains. Yes, I think Zachary is on to something…

Isaac … Isaac is so much like me, it’s almost like watching me grow up … the way he lackadaisically holds the crayon in his hand with just enough pressure to get the job done, but with enough slack to give the lines character – bold and strong at the point of origin and trailing to a whisper before the stroke requires more pressure for a return journey down the page.

His use of color is deliberate, probably the only purposeful act in the entire exercise. Isaac scans the rainbow of choices at his fingertips, hones in on a single hue and snatches it from the chaos that was once an organized box of crayons, now a jumble of pigments littering the table top.

Isaac’s tongue peeks out of his little mouth, suffocated by jaws clasped in concentration and intention. I used to do that … before my Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Margot, corrected it right out of me. My grandmother’s brother, the man who was more like a grandfather to me than any other man, did it, too, when he was concentrating.

At times I still find myself doing it when I’m concentrating. Sorry, Ms. Margot. And, it warms my heart to see something so simple I hold as a precious memory of someone I loved dearly surface unwittingly in my son.

Zachary displays few completed masterpieces above his bed. Isaac is more … proud … of his creations. One wall in their bedroom is plastered with images he created over the years – from “Red Rocket Ship Man” to a self-portrait, aliens, monsters and other creatures borne of imagination and innocence.

Each image is a masterpiece in their minds, and mine, too. No art critic is going to convince me otherwise. And, as long as I have breath in my lungs, my boys will be free to create, imagine and color outside the lines.

Wouldn’t life be a little more “colorful” if we all did?

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