A friend, and a member of my writers' critique group, gave me a book to read a few days ago. I almost said no; I'm not sure why. In truth, I'd heard so much about the book over the years, I couldn't believe I hadn't read it, like Treasure Island, War and Peace, The Bible. My friend said it wasn't what had she expected, so I decided to crack the cover. I finished it that evening, along with a bottle of my favorite wine. The combination was perfect.
The book came out twenty-five years years ago. The title: All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. The chapters are short, to the point, and Robert Fulghum's insights are impossible to disagree with. Two chapters in particular hit home: one is about spending time in San Saba, Texas, and the other is about Crayons. San Saba, now home to Tommy Lee Jones as well as a few hundred other Texans, is located in the Texas Hill Country. Oh, and it is the Pecan Capital of the World. Allow me to digress.
A few years back, my husband and I spent a couple of nights in Golthwaite, a tiny town a mere twenty miles northeast of San Saba. Just like San Saba, Golthwaite has pecans, goats, live oak trees, and treeless hilltops that provide 360 degree views of land, land, and more land. Unlike San Saba, Golthwaite, located in Mills Country( San Saba is in San Saba County), is dry. No booze anywhere, which makes San Saba a much coveted destination for folks spending a few nights in Mills County. Folks like us who can't imagine a steak without a beer (my husband) or a grilled and tomato cheese sandwich without a glass of Cabernet (me).
I was on assignment for a Texas travel magazine, researching an article on the region. We had booked two nights in a ranch house, thinking small cabin on a hill. The house was on a hill; but small, it was not. It had five bedrooms, five baths, a kitchen large enough to feed a gang of buck-house cowboys, a dining room with a chandelier, two fireplaces large enough to roast a steer in, a bank-size vault in the basement (go figure), and a front porch with a dozen rocking chairs. Yep, we lucked out. We made a trip to Junior's, a alcohol reserve just across the county line and the grocery store and stayed put for the next two days. From the porch, we enjoyed the sunset after dinner as the coyotes howled in the distance. In the morning, while sipping our coffee, we watched goats and cattle grazing in the valley. That first afternoon, I explore the house and found a load of treasures, one in particular caught my fancy. It was a wooden box filled with boxes of Crayons and coloring books. I spread them out on the dining room table and spent the next two hours indulging myself. I created blue-violet bluebonnets, hot magenta hummingbirds, goldenrod sunflowers, and of course red orange sunsets. Then I let myself go and colored whales lavender, cows lemon yellow, frogs sky blue, cupcakes pine green with salmon icing and a thistle cherry on top.
What's my point in all this wild behavior and reminiscing? Fulghum's book reminded me of those simple, joyous things I'd forgotten. Even now, retired from teaching, I get caught up in obligations I really don't have, setting goals I really don't need to keep, spreading myself too thin, preventing myself from writing what truly gives me pleasure.
Fulghum goes on to write about the magic of cosmic compost, why one little boy chose to trick or treat at Christmas, what giraffes are for, why mermaids do have a place in our world, and why spending time in places like the Hill Country, coloring page after page in coloring books is a necessary thing. Even though I will probably never read War and Peace, I'm going to let go of feeling guilty about it. And when I need a reminder of the important things in life, I'll pick up All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and read it again.
Labels: book reviews, Crayons, learning, memoir, relaxing, simple things, travel, wine, writing