1. magic marker

“No, no, no!”

That reprimanding tone 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 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. I felt for him.

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. Home alone, I slid a kitchen chair to the stove, climbed up, and 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, and 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!

My heart beat a little faster as I reached in and plucked the marker from the mug. 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, determined to be quiet as I secretly drew with that marvelous thing. I’d return it to the mug when done and no one would know. No one could be as stealthy.

Except for 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 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, 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 one thing only.

  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 seemed like it would never come.

But it did, and when that morning came, 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 about 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 held the precious thing high in the air. 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 of scrubbing. I know, because when she wasn’t looking that Christmas morning I’d scribbled a test patch across my knee.

Stuart M. Perkins




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72 responses to “1. magic marker

  1. Nothing like the exuberance and persistence of a toddler!

  2. Garrie Madison Stoutimore

    Love this story! I was always getting into trouble for drawing on my desk. The smooth surface was the perfect canvas for my doodles, but my teachers were not impressed. I used pencils. Magic markers were only permitted on special occasions, and the only students allowed to use them were those who were always well behaved. Now that I have grandsons, I allow them to use markers whenever they visit. Lucky for me, they are washable.

  3. Sweet story from the mouth of a little one. Enjoyed it greatly.

  4. Lovely memories, nicely recalled!
    Long before I ever acquired proper ink and nibs, a chisel-point black magic marker enabled my introduction to calligraphy.

  5. Diane

    Stu, that’s a fantastic story! I can picture that scene in my head as though I was there.

  6. Lovely story… Kudos to the writer…

  7. This is great. Right inside that tiny mind 🙂

  8. That story made me laugh. I remember the magic marker days and I never got one, but my neighbor friend had one and I got to use hers.

  9. What a Norman Rockwell memory! Love it.

  10. What a brilliant and memorable tale to share with us! Thank you!

  11. I love the innocence of childhood and your expression of how much wonder a child finds in their interests touched me on the deepest of levels. Thank you for taking the time to pen this wonderful memory.

    My only wish is that to go along with this wonderful retelling, was to be a fly on the wall that Christmas morning to see the joy on your face when you found your Magic Marker. Truly, that is the magic – the excitement and joy and bliss at being given what you had hoped beyond hope for.

    Thank you again for the wonderful gift of your words. I appreciate that I was blessed to read them.

    • Thank you for such compliment! And it goes without saying that even today I remember that Christmas whenever I smell a magic marker! Simple times and simple joys back then…

      • Simple pleasure for simple joy – I think as we get older we forget how to appreciate the splendor and wonder of the simple things in life. Like as we grow we must make it more complicated to be happy. But in that complication of life, we lose the simple pleasure that comes from being happy with the little things.

        Since that realization I have begun searching out the tiny details that make life wonderful. And my life has positively blossomed into magnificence with the sheer volume of blessings available to be appreciated.

        I hope we can all find a similar sense of joy in our moments as when you found your first Magic Marker on the Magical Christmas all those years ago.

      • I agree, the small moments can be so powerful!

  12. Fantastic! What a great memory. This story inspires memories in all of us of that Christmas gift each of us needed so! Well done (yet again)!

  13. The wonder of childhood memories, so precious. Thank you for sharing.

  14. What? And we are not seeing any of your magic marker work? 😎

  15. Love this! Now you have made me wonder what I wanted from Santa when I was a child.

  16. There’s a wide smile on my face!

  17. What wonderful memories. And I’m so glad you finally got your magic marker! 😀

  18. What a wonderful story! Such joy and exuberance from a magic marker. Magic indeed!

  19. Lovely story! It puts me in mind of another post that is hoping to be written!
    This is my first time here, but I’ll be back,

  20. I’ve made a career out of magic markers, they did not exist when I was a child, but when I first started work in advertising they were everywhere. The original glass bottle type had a wad of fabric that if you unscrewed the top ( you could do this in those days before health and safety got to them ) could be used with lighter fluid to cover large areas of colour. It was not a fireproof zone. Enjoyed your story.

  21. Beautiful… simply beautiful! Thank you for a wonderful nostalgic share.

  22. Wonderful story.

    When I taught Corporate and government level workshops, an icebreaker I used was to ask people what their favorite smell was from childhood. Remembering that smell immediately provides stress release as smell is our strongest sense for memory. Plus, the various sharings provided fodder for team building as we heard such a variety of favorite smells.

    People would often mention the smell of markers or ditto machines. Of course by the time I had a child, the fruit scented markers had been created….and oh my what wonderful scents 🙂

  23. I love a marker. Oddly, the permanent ones aren’t as much anymore. Waterbased ones are a …if you will pardon the pun..a wash.

  24. Awesome. This is just as good as a Red Ryder gun!

  25. What a cute story! I loved drawing as a kid. Hell, I still love drawing. I doodle whenever I can.

  26. Proust:madeleine::Perkins:Magic Marker

  27. Pingback: Marking the Ages | Significant Encounters

  28. Great story. Your childhood memories are so vivid. Your readers are your beneficiaries.

  29. Kat

    Wonderful story! I craved the 64 count Crayola box with the sharpener but never got it. The kid in me envies you. 😉

  30. Tucker Perkins

    A wonderful story. And I am sure it is a biography and not fiction. Who doesn’t love a magic marker or a box of 64 Crayolas? Well done Stuart Perkins.

  31. Alan Malizia

    A great Christmas Story Stuart. I keeping with Ralphie and the Red Ryder air rifle.

  32. Children’s confessions are so innocent. Little do they know what lies ahead. Knowing what you know now, would you ever wish to be sixteen or ten or even five again?

  33. gunmarietextiles

    Lovely story!! Thank you!

  34. jasonlikestotravel

    Fantastic read! Certainly a Christmas to remember! 🙂

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