1. magic marker

“No, no, no!”

That tone of reprimand rang a bell for some reason. Behind me in the check-out line, a young mother wrestled something from her toddler’s tight grip.

“No, no, no!” she repeated. The little boy had grabbed a ball point pen from a display rack near the cash register. Having swiftly removed the cap, he was about to demonstrate his unique brand of artwork across a stack of Washington Posts. He clenched his little fist when his mother tried to take the pen. What child doesn’t like to draw?

I drew constantly as a child. Pens and pencils were my implements of choice and when I could sneak it away I’d use my oldest sister’s fountain pen until it emptied. She always wondered why her ink ran out so quickly and unless she reads this it will remain a decades-old secret. Of course I had a box of Crayola crayons, 64 count with a built-in sharpener. I lived large. One thing I’d never used, but craved greatly, was a magic marker. I didn’t have one, but Mama did.

I’d seen her use it once then toss it into something in the back of the high cabinet above the stove. I was too short then to know the secrets of that cabinet, but one day as Mama backed out of the driveway to go to the grocery store I seized the opportunity to learn. Although home alone, I quietly slid a kitchen chair to the stove, quietly climbed up, and quietly eased open the cabinet door. I saw spices, aspirin, glue, rubber bands, and a deck of playing cards. That was it. Disappointed, I started to close the cabinet, but that’s when I saw it. There, from inside an old coffee mug, wedged between broken pencils and a pair of scissors, it called to me. A black magic marker!

Quietly I reached in and quietly I plucked the marker from the mug. Just as quietly I removed the cap, catching a whiff of that distinct and what I considered beautiful aroma. In slow motion I turned to hop from the chair. I’d been quiet and I’d be quiet as I drew with this marvelous thing. I’d return it to the mug when done and no one would know. Nothing and no one could be as quiet as me and that marker. Except Mama.

“No, no, no!” Mama said, coming in the back door with an armload of groceries.

“You can’t use that. It’ll get everywhere and it will never wash off.” she continued.

Even when I drew with generic pens, pencils, and crayons Mama made it clear I was to sit at the kitchen table, draw only on the paper, and never get near the walls. No surprise that the notion of me with a magic marker made her a bit nervous. I handed Mama the marker, she returned it to the coffee mug, and I headed to my sister’s room to take out my disappointment on the fountain pen.

With Christmas right around the corner at that point, my sisters and I started making our lists for Santa Claus. I noticed that their extensive lists included things like dolls, dresses, games, and make up. I had written down only one thing.

  1. magic marker

Oh, everyone laughed but to me it was serious. I had to know what it was like to draw with a magic marker. Pens and pencils were great, crayons were fun, and fountain pens were nice while the ink lasted, but I had to have a magic marker!

Christmas morning came and in my spot near the tree was the mountain of gifts Santa Claus generously left every year. As my sisters hugged new dolls and compared games and make up, I marveled at my remote control helicopter and a book on dinosaurs. To the left of a new pair of slippers was a small, plain box. There were no words or pictures to provide a clue, but as I lifted the lid the distinct and beautiful aroma gave it away. A brand new magic marker.

Merry Christmas to me!

I stood in a rush. I had to draw immediately! I ran to the kitchen table where I knew it was safe, grabbed my drawing pad and sat down. Mama, on my heels the entire time, pulled me and the entire kitchen table three feet from the wall. She instantly spread a layer of newspaper beneath my drawing pad, handed me several wet paper towels, and reminded me that magic marker ink would never wash off. Daddy stood by calmly, grinning at Mama’s panic. I think I know which half of Santa Claus was behind that particular gift. I happily drew as the distinct and beautiful aroma filled the kitchen.

For a kid who finally got his magic marker, it really was the most wonderful time of the year.

And Mama was incorrect. Magic marker ink will come off, it just takes rubbing alcohol and three good days. When she wasn’t looking that Christmas morning I’d scribbled a test patch across my knee.

Stuart M. Perkins



Filed under christmas

108 responses to “1. magic marker

  1. Perhaps your mother was a bit too strict. At the age of five, Edvard Munch, known for painting the second world’s most recognised painting, after the Mona Lisa, was first caught drawing on the kitchen floor with a piece of coal by his aunt. Obviously, she didn’t cry “No, no, no!” as the Norwegian artist went on to paint The Scream. Not that afternoon, I hasten to add.

    Still, maybe we are the lucky ones, as I’m sure your mother never shouted “No, no, no!” the first time your picked up a pencil in order to write.

    • What a compliment, thank you! However, I’m willing to bet she cringed any time I picked up pen, pencil, or crayon. She was (and still is!) a great mother, but nothing was going to harm her walls! Thanks again.

  2. Why this magic marker was not with me.. 😦
    anyway Happy Christmas.

  3. I took a sharpie to my Mother’s green, closet door when I was about 6 maybe 7. I wrote, ” I love Ponch and John. You may not be old enough to remember the TV show CHIPS.
    It was my absolute favorite. My written proclamation of love stayed on that closet for 30 years or so. My sister recently started remodeling my Mother’s home. That closet got a hefty dose of paint. This was a treat to read. Your stories are a real pleasure.

  4. Thank you. It gives me jjoy to read this story of your misschief

  5. shann273

    Magic marker. Implies magic. As a kid I was like magic, huh? Let’s see. Six stick figures later on the wall in my bedroom closet, I saw the magic! My mother did not. Great story, Stu! Loved it.

  6. Ahhh….the magic marker. It brings back memories and mostly how we weren’t allow to have one. I have boxes of unopened markers in a drawer and never will be deprived again!

  7. Outstanding story! Loved every second of the reading of it.

  8. Oh yes, just one whiff gets me in a tizzy… what a lovely story from Xmas past!

  9. Thanks for your “like” today Stuart. I enjoyed reading this post about the magic marker. Your writing really pulls a reader in. I was right there in the kitchen with you holding the chair as you reached up to get that mug and marker. I could see your little boy face and you opened that small, nondescript box, and I held my breath as you started with your Christmas marker (certainly matching your mom in that moment). I really loved the post. The smile will linger all day.

  10. Great story! I could see and smell it all. Wonderful job! sd

  11. Great story. I love your test patch at the end.

  12. Yes!! My youngest son will sneak out anything from a crayon to a marker she we aren’t looking. So far he’s tagged two walls, the kitchen table, his drawing board and and a kitchen chair. I think he might be a little like you. I can’t wait to see him grow up and cultivate his obsession with writing utensils. Such a lovely story!

  13. I worked with what we call magic markers for years, they were used over here for colouring visuals in the ad industry from the early 70’s. Small glass bottles with a wad of colour and of course a ‘nib’ if you can call it that. To get large areas of colour down quickly, you simply unscrewed the bottle and fished out the wad carefully to wipe over the colour area. The vapour it gave off could leave you thinking it was more like magic mushroom than marker. Best used in a well ventilated room. I stopped using them some years ago, but still use Pentel Sign pens to draw with and large black indelible markers to do other areas. Colour is added digitally these days. I don’t think small children were allowed to buy magic markers here in the UK, large ones like me were. Enjoyed your post.

  14. Paulina Radzisauskas

    Great story, as always.

  15. Absolutely loved your story about the magic marker at Christmas! May you have the pleasure of many more. If you send me your address, I’ll send you one! Muriel Kauffmann

  16. Lovely!
    Such a warm story!

  17. Another fantastic blog post, Stuart!

  18. Kim Smyth

    Hey Stuart, I have nominated you for the Blogger Recognition Award! I hope you have fun with it and choose to follow the rules- the are found right here: https://kimmy1563.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/blogger-recognition-award/

  19. Great story, especially the part about your knee!

  20. I will be relating your story verbally to my folks this Christmas eve. Brought me to tears, happy tears. -Kim

  21. Loved this story. Uplifting and full of family love and joy. Just what we need at this time of year. Thank you for posting, really cheered my heart!

  22. “fountain pens were nice while the ink lasted”

  23. Laughed at the knee. We wrote on our hands. Markers are cool, indeed. Funny how the best presents are sometimes so simple.

  24. And here I was thinking I was the only one who remembered the distinctive smell of that new product! My sibling and I were both fascinated and would follow Mama to the bedroom where she put it inside the chiffrobe cabinet. I’m thinking she had two, one red,( really more like rust) and black. The smells were so much stouter back then.
    Thank you for the story, which in turn triggered my own childhood memory! I really like your writing style

  25. That magic marker smell is as memorable as the smell of rubber cement and the smell of a test paper fresh off a mimeograph machine.

  26. 😀👏🏻I love you, Stuart Perkins! Are you still appreciating magic markers?

  27. Nowadays, we have Magic Eraser to undo a lot of overzealous marker wielding…. 🙂

  28. I never got a magic marker of my own too. I had to make do with crayons, colouring pencils and pens. But how I loved ink pens. Chinese ink pens were always a favourite and then those ink marks all over the thumb and clothes. Funny to think how I have not used one since I was a teenager! Anyway, before I stop rambling, loved the post. I could picture it all.

  29. This is great. I love the way you prose! And your titles are always creative.

  30. What a beautiful story about love and how the “little things” in life are not so little after all. Thanks for sharing!

  31. hearmorefromgod

    Love your writing!! Im just getting started in the blog world – loving discovering people who write from their heart like you! Thank you for visiting and following my blog. God bless you.

  32. I thought at first to skip your story. I am glad I did not. The story in itself is short, sweet and engaging. Loved every letter of every word of every line. Kudos!😊 Thanks for sharing!

  33. What an immediate reminder of our first trip to visit my parents in California.when our twins were 2 and our oldest was 5. After lunch, the twins would go into their room for a rest and our oldest went to the pool, with either my Mom or me. One day, it was my turn to take my oldest to the pool and when we got back, my mother said, “Wait til you see what your girls did.” With trepidation, I looked into their room and saw crayon drawings encircling the room, as high as they could reach. I was mortified. My mom, on the other hand, was thrilled and excited. She loved their creative streak and that room remained as it was for years and years, an expression of inventive twins.

  34. I just read this aloud to Robyne B. And she loved it. Said you’re a bad ass. Not 1 word out place. Congratulations!!

  35. BETH

    I had a friend whose mother gave her youngr siblings one entire wall in the kitchen. It was painted with enamel paint and could be washed of most things–but probably not magic marker.

    After I grew up and became a teacher some thugs wrote profanity across most of the metal lockers in my hall, but the janitor had some magic potient that removed it all. Likely those rude kids were terribly disappointed their vulgarities did not last forever.

  36. Now I ‘want’ a magic marker! Thanks for sharing this. 😊

  37. Structuring of your work is good. Gives a great insight when reading.

  38. You are SO FUNNY! I loved your ending, because I have a twin brother and I could see him doing that… wanting to PROVE the grown up wrong, but still knowing he had to be obedient. :). http://Www.brilliantviewpoint.com

  39. nishascorner

    Such a sweet story, got me in tears… I totally get the fascination with markers, I rarely ever did use one…

  40. Oh I love this! The utter beauty and simplicity of that desire. And, the joyful fulfillment. You’ve caught it all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s