Beige. Why beige when there is yellow? We call it a warm color. Like the sun that warms us after submerging ourselves in the cool of blue water. So deprived of sunshine we are in the Pacific Northwest, yellow seems even warmer to me than it did in Illinois. And I celebrate it, just as we in the Northwest celebrate the sun’s even short appearances with a name: a sun break. In the company of yellow, I am optimistic. Like how riding with my mother in her yellow Ford Escort station wagon when I was a teenager, windows rolled down, music blaring, on our way to the Indiana border to buy fireworks made me more optimistic about our troubled relationship. I wonder if my mother had celebrated yellow if it would have made her more optimistic. Would it have been enough to help her overcome her past—the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father and then later, the men she chose to replace him—and to see that she did not have to remain in the black of her childhood, the weight of this heavy color holding her down, preventing her from getting out of her bed on her darkest days to be the mother she wanted to be and the one I needed her to be?
Warm. Yes, yellow is warm. Like my mother-in-law, whom I call my real mom. She exudes warmth, extending it to all those around her, as far reaching as the sun’s rays. She embraced me with it. It was the warm compress that eased the pain caused by my own mother. The buoyancy of the yellow that surrounded her pulled me out from under the heaviness of my own difficult childhood and allowed me to bask in her sunshine-like cheerfulness.
Beige. Why beige when there is blue? I have grown very fond of blue. Sky Blue. In the Northwest, there are few days in the year that we wake to a blue sky, and the most beautiful shade of blue is that that immediately follows the gray that hovers over us in the morning and just as frequently, in the afternoon. There are times I look at the sky and mentally lighten the shade until I see my grandfather’s eyes, greeting me with the same friendliness as the newly-blue sky. It was his eyes, with their happy lightness, that guided me through my dimly lit childhood. I saw the world not through my mother’s or grandmother’s eyes, or even my own brown eyes, but through his hopeful ones. I would study his blue eyes as he reminisced about his time in the military, which took him to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. When he spoke of the saltwater air and took deep breaths in as if he could still smell it, I could see the ocean in his eyes and I knew that someday, when I was old enough, I would leave my dysfunctional family and move to the blue ocean so I could smell it, too, and this left me with the same feeling of hopefulness my grandfather had.
Beige. Why beige when there is pink? Dogwood Pink. It makes its first appearance in the springtime, right in my front yard. The view of the tree from my living room window is obstructed by the green of a rhododendron almost as tall as my house, making me forget it is there until I step out onto my front porch and there, it welcomes me to spring in a way that only bright pink can. I linger on my porch, taking a break from writing in my office, and find myself getting lost in the tree, allowing it to replenish my creativity and energy. When the pink blossoms are in full sunshine, I am transported back to a sunny day in my grandfather’s office. There, not long after I began living with my grandparents after my mother abandoned my brother and me, he took out his paint samples and invited me to choose a color, any color, I would like to have my bedroom painted with. It took only a few moments to spot it: Flamingo Pink. And just like with my dogwood, I found myself forgetting my bright pink bedroom was there, until I needed a break from my alcoholic grandmother, and upon entering my room, it welcomed me to a happier season—to Spring—than the rest of the rooms in the old farmhouse seemed to be in.
Beige. Why beige when there is green? Nature’s favorite color. And nature first introduced me to it by showing off the green of her corn that surrounded my childhood, fields of green stopping only to meet the blue sky at the horizon. How boring I thought that view of flat green earth was as I grew into a teenager. I wanted to be surrounded by the blue of water instead. It took four years of being an adult to work up the courage to move where I knew no one. I headed out west, to Seattle, but nature could not wait for my arrival at the Pacific Ocean to impress me. She wanted to try her hand at green again, so she presented me with the green foothills of the Cascade Mountains and with giant conifers, extending upward, and stopping only to meet the blue sky above.
It took another twenty years for me to appreciate nature’s first offering of green. Although I am still enamored with the breathtaking scenery of green hills and trees so tall they pierce the clouds, they obstruct my view of the horizon. There are times I am acutely aware of this and feel claustrophobic. I want to be back in the middle of the flat green cornfields I found so boring, to view them stretching before me and all around me, and to be left with the feeling of having endless possibilities, a feeling only a wide open space can provide, with nothing coming between me and the horizon.
Beige. Why beige when there is red? I am inclined to say it is one of my least favorite colors, but then I am reminded of my grandparents’ red barn. Whereas the bright pink of my bedroom was my indoor escape, red was my outdoor escape. It was my playground and although my grandmother had the tendency to lash out verbally when she was drinking, her voice could not reach me from the distant house. The barn was a world unto itself. It had long been absent of farm animals, but their presence could still be felt. I could smell them, almost see them, some of them horses in their individual stalls, gazing out the small windows and absorbing the view of the green earth before them, longing to be there, running free under the yellow sun in the blue sky, to a field of bright pink flowers, far, far away from rooms painted beige.