"What's your favourite colour?" I would ask my grandmother.
"Sky blue pink," she'd say.
I would rummage through the coffee can of broken crayons, looking for blue and pink and gold that I could use to draw a sunset. The paper we used was a strange texture, with a weave like fabric, and it came in a big roll. We called it Joe's paper. We'd cut off pieces as we needed it, sometimes all of us kids hunching over a six-foot piece to make a holiday mural. Long Halloween murals, with haunted houses and cornfields and black cats, were our specialty. Someone – well, I'm guessing his name might have been Joe – had given us the heavy roll of paper, more than a foot in diameter, and even though we spent all kinds of time drawing, it took us years to use it up.
When my grandmother and aunt came to visit, they'd stay for a few days, and every afternoon, they'd sit at the kitchen table long after lunch was over to play Scrabble or make clay figures or draw on Joe's paper. My mother, washing dishes at the sink, would put the kettle on because Aunt Seashell loved a cup of tea. We'd eat homemade cookies and drink tea during those lazy afternoons while we kids scribbled on paper with crayons and the three women filled the room above our heads with comfortable chatter that swirled like cigarette smoke. I rarely said a word, or even looked up from under my hair while I rolled clay into snakes (the only thing I could ever really make), but I listened carefully, loving the rhythm of dialogue among three women who have a shared history and shared accent. I can still remember the way my grandmother told a funny story, with a dramatic pause just before the punchline. My youngest sister, Urban Sophisticate, tells a story in much the same way, even though my grandmother died when she was still a toddler, which makes me wonder if story-telling has some kind of genetic component.
For years, I didn't understand my grandmother's favorite colour. The sunsets I loved were summer sunsets at our camp, which looks west across the River That Runs Between Two Countries, brilliant red sunsets with vivid streaks of purple spread across the ripples of the bay. It's been forty years, probably, since she tried to explain why she loved that colour. But as I've gotten older, closer and closer each year to the age my grandmother was when I knew her, I've come to appreciate the more subtle colours of the sunset just outside my door in early spring, those soft colours, sky blue pink.
My front yard. The colours, unfortunately, don't look the same once I uploaded the photo to Flickr and posted it to my blog – something got lost in the process. Or maybe, really, the colours can be seen only in person.