I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
October 15, 2015
You might have noticed by now that adult coloring books are a major trend. Okay… Wait. Now I’m getting a mental image of a coloring book with black-and-white drawings of Playboy Centerfolds, and that’s just all kinds of wrong. Let me rephrase that first sentence. Coloring books for adults are a big trend right now. They are so popular, in fact, that four of them are in Amazon’s top 20 bestseller list right now. Yes. Four.
The trend is prompted in part by recent news reports that coloring provides stress relief for adults and can help ward off depression and anxiety. My mom read this news and promptly bought a couple of fancy coloring books for my 90-year-old grandmother, who was struggling with the boredom that inevitably afflicts those with sound mind and without a driver’s license. Mom presented her with the coloring books and a deluxe box of 96 Crayola crayons a few weeks ago.
“Thank you,” my grandmother told her, “but I’m too busy putting together this 1,000-piece puzzle you brought me to even think about coloring right now.”
And so the coloring books and crayons went into a cabinet. Shortly after that, we visited my grandmother on the way back from a road trip and sat with her for a spell and marveled at how far she’d gotten on her 1,000-piece puzzle, and then we all hugged her and told her how much we loved her. And five days after that, she died suddenly of heart failure.
I wrote my grandmother’s obituary. I wrote her eulogy. But I’ve had trouble writing about her on this blog. Everything seems trite and melodramatic when I try to put into words how I’m feeling. Suffice it to say that she was my lifelong role model and she taught me everything I know about unconditional love. As many of you know from personal experience, that kind of loss is very hard to take.
But as painful as it was for me to hear that she had died, the ones I really worried about telling were my son and daughter. The kids absolutely adored ‘Chick Chick,’ as they called her, and really loved spending time with her. I dreaded having to tell them that she was gone. I knew from what I’d read on the subject that children often express grief in strange ways, so I was prepared for some unusual reactions– which was good, because unusual reactions were exactly what I got.
My empathic eleven-year-old daughter immediately began comforting me after hearing the news. “She’s in a better place now,” she said, hugging me tightly. “You’re going to be okay.” Only after she’d established that I was holding up did she allow herself to absorb the news. She was unusually hyperactive for the rest of that day and then, for several days afterward, she’d periodically go and lie down, saying she was tired– something she almost never does. Today, weeks later, she’s still slowly working through what happened. We talk about Chick Chick from time to time and she’s handling the whole thing as well as can be expected.
When I told my eight-year-old son the news, he paused for a long moment and tears flooded his eyes. I steeled myself for anguish and sobbing. “At least she’s in Heaven now,” he said finally. Saying those words aloud seemed to flip off some inner emotional switch. “Can I play Super Mario Maker?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said, surprised. “But I want you to know that we can talk about Chick Chick and how you feel any time you’d like.”
“Okay,” he said, and went off to play his game.
Bruiser didn’t have much to say about Chick Chick that day or the next, when we left town to attend my grandmother’s memorial service. At my mom’s request, we stayed in my grandmother’s apartment on the lower level of their home. Once we arrived, my daughter immediately plopped down in my grandmother’s favorite chair and turned on the television. Just as he always did, my son began removing toys from his bag and putting them on her coffee table. Both kids asked for homemade chocolate milk, a Chick Chick specialty, and Punky insisted on making hers by herself, just the way she’d seen her great grandmother do it. Life at Chick Chick’s was proceeding as normal for them, with one big difference– Chick Chick wasn’t there.
As I unpacked my things in my grandmother’s bedroom, I decided that despite my sorrow, staying in her apartment was a good idea. The space still contained the warmth and quiet joy that I had always felt in her presence. It was comforting for me to feel close to her for a few more days, and I was glad that the kids seemed to feel the same way.
My mom came downstairs and took the coloring books and crayons from the cabinet. “I had bought these coloring books for Chick Chick,” she told the kids, “because I read that coloring can keep people from feeling depressed or stressed out, but she never got around to doing them. So I thought you all might enjoy them.” The children thanked her and set the books aside. My daughter hasn’t colored much in recent years and my son has always preferred to color his own drawings. I suspected the books would remain empty.
But a half-hour later, my son paused in his games and looked around. His face was solemn.
“Mom?” he said hoarsely. “Can you get the coloring book and crayons for me? I’m starting to feel depressed.”
“About Chick Chick?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. I gave him the coloring books and crayons and he set to work.
Once he’d completed the drawing, he tore it out of the book and proudly hung it with a magnet on my grandmother’s refrigerator door. “Do you feel better now?” I asked him.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I do.”
An hour or so later, Bruiser sat up from the sofa, where he’d been watching a Disney show. “I’m feeling depressed again!” he announced loudly. “Where’s my coloring book?” Once he had his crayons in hand, he fastidiously completed another page of the book.
Over the next two days, my son would stop what he was doing and color every couple of hours. Clearly, he had taken my mother’s words literally– He wholeheartedly believed that coloring in this special book would make him stop feeling sad about his great grandmother– at least temporarily. And because he believed this, the coloring seemed to work. As a result, Bruiser colored more that weekend than he has in the last four years.
At my grandmother’s memorial service, both of the kids wanted to share a memory about their grandmother after I had shared mine. Punky wrote down what she wanted to say, and read to everyone about the wonderful snacks that Chick Chick would always prepare for them when they’d come down for a visit. “Her kitchen was like dessert heaven,” she reported. My son, though, simply wanted to say what was on his mind without any advance preparation. When it was his turn to talk, I held the microphone before him, praying that he wouldn’t clam up with so many adults watching him.
“Chick Chick was really nice,” he said earnestly. “She always had snacks for us whenever we’d come down to see her. I loved her a lot.” He paused for a moment and decided he had more to say. “When I got home from school, my mom told me what had happened,” he told the audience with great solemnity. “And I felt very sad.” Pain flashed across his face and tears came to his eyes, and to my eyes, and to the eyes of every person in the room.
Without flourish or fanfare, he had spoken the contents of all of our hearts.
Back at Chick Chick’s later that day, he colored some more– and slowly, his sadness seemed to ebb away. By the time we left the next morning, he seemed much closer to accepting the idea of Chick Chick in Heaven, happy and healthy and watching over us all here on earth.
Looking at these pictures always makes me feel a little bit better.