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August 24, 2022 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Dark Cotton and Boxes of Blues

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in the desert on the quest. painting by Daumier (USPD. artist life, reprod of PD art/

“Just one more store. We’ll surely find one there.”(Daumier /USPD/

“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” (Jonathan Swift)

The search for the Holy Grail couldn’t have been more intense.

A tradition as old as not wearing white after Labor Day: the search for dark cotton.

Preferably plaid. Sleeveless, if possible (AC was not common and school started long before the first cold front even thought about showing up.)

Apparently only three such items were ever shipped into this town each year. Also, there was only one dark cotton per size once you found a shirt or dress….and your size was gone.

The task almost impossible, yet my mom, like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, set her mouth and undertook the quest each August. A personal goal and community standard here in the semi-tropics. “Can’t have my kid wearing leftover summer clothes at the start of a new school year.” The early bird gets the appropriate threads. 

Some expectations are best relaxed. 

But not all.

“I have never entered into any controversy in defense of my philosophical opinions; I leave them to take their chance in the world. If they are right, truth and experience will support them; if wrong, they ought to be refuted and rejected. Disputes are apt to sour one’s temper and disturb one’s quiet.” (Benjamin Franklin) 

Who could forget the crisp, brand new, box of crayons also purchased each fall?

The 16 in a box one, not the 48. 16 being deemed enough.

The only kid that got the 48 was one whose mom hoped the rarity would be enough for her child to be more socially acceptable – to gain more friends – or at least be allowed entry into a group.

Sharing is good.

Lessons for life.

Heart shaped by rainbow crayons (Pink Sherbert Photography/

You never outgrow crayons.”Santa? A box of 48 colors? Please? I’ll forgive you about the pony.”(Pink Sherbert Photography/

Not long ago, each student had a cigar box for all their pencils, crayons, scissors, and glue.

Everything in one place. No getting up out of your chair to get things. No whining “I forgot to bring…”.

You were responsible for your personal supply box all year long . That meant checking to make sure the paste/glue lid was screwed on tight.

Woe to the child who forgot and let their glue turn their entire supply items into a glue brick over the weekend. 

But times change.

Maybe too many mom caught on to the extra social push a 48 box offered.

Of course, using a cigar box with lingering whiffs of tobacco became socially unacceptable.

“It’s frightful that people who are so ignorant should have so much influence.” – (George Orwell)

Besides, Schools, being sensitive beings, decided to collect all the crayon boxes in bins until needed, then handed out at random.

To avoid any child feeling his crayon box wasn’t as nice as another’s – whether it be the number of crayons or the brand. You know some crayons are really waxy, do not draw smoothly, or make good, dark marks without skipping.

Sharing is good.

Take a box and leave a box.

Take only what you need. 


And there’s always an “only”.

There’s always the kid – usually a wild and crazy one who will probably end up as a breakneck NASCAR driver – who colors with wild abandonment: swift rapid strokes and sharp jabs. No moderation or braking of downward pressure. Snap. Breakage. (At least with car races, there’s a tall metal screen protecting the onlookers.)

Once back in the collective crayon tub, there’s no clue which box holds nothing but nubs or peeled down paper sleeves.

“Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.” (George Orwell)

Boy running being chased by others. (1975/FOTO:FORTEPAN/Urban Tamas /

“No. No. Stop. I didn’t mean to break all the red crayons! Teacher!”(FOTO:FORTEPAN/Urban Tamas/

My kid was most perturbed by the crayon destruction and being forced to tolerate dull crayon points, and pieces masquerading as whole behind paper sleeves – even halves of the different colors suspiciously re-stuffed inside the paper wrappers.

“Why should I have to get stuck with crummy crayons? I brought a box of new ones all in one piece. I take care of my crayons and don’t break them. Why should I suffer with some slob’s damaged colors? That’s not fair.”

 My first thought was “Welcome to your first brush with collectivism and socialism.” But, instead, the kid being so young to face such, I simply said “It’s not right, but sometimes life isn’t fair.”

Yep, life’s lessons start early.

During Chairman Mao Zedong’s tumultuous reign, the revolutionary zeal for collectivism overrode the wishes of the individual, often leading to devastating, deadly consequences. (Nectar Gan And Steve George, CNN, 8 Sep. 2021.)

Somehow we got past the rigid “Don’t wear white after Labor Day”, so maybe there’s hope.

Managing your own colors might be a welcomed return to sanity.

Dark cottons?

Probably an insane, unattainable dream from another dimension – one where heavy sweaters don’t dominate the clothing racks until the temperature actually drops here….after Halloween. 

As the leaves turn – and the world wobbles

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

Lovely womanin grey dress. Русский: Eve Anders Collection (Olga Zvereva/

“No. No dark cotton for you. You shall have to endure the shame.”(Русский: Eve Anders Collection /Olga Zvereva/






Leave a Comment
  1. Kate Crimmins / Aug 24 2022 6:44 am

    What? We can wear white after labor day? I didn’t get the message! I went to Catholic school. We (at least some of us) took care of our art supplies or we suffered the consequences.

    Liked by 2 people

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Aug 24 2022 7:38 am

      As usual, to get around things, the color was repurposed/reborn and became elegant and luxurious “winter white”. I remember when Vogue mag first announced it…and then there were those late night discussions about the barely able to be seen “obvious” differences between the two colors HaHa.
      Ah, those sharp corners of a new crayon carton – and the stiff opening of the lid the first time. Symbolic new beginnings of each fall and opening of school. Sort of like the kid’s New Years celebration?
      Thanks for coloring in this lines

      Liked by 2 people

  2. disperser / Aug 24 2022 7:23 am

    Crayons? Luxury!

    . . . we didn’t have crayons in Italy . . . and didn’t have them when I started school in the US (eighth grade). Besides, never liked them things. Give me colored pencils any day . . . and a decent pencil sharpener.

    Liked by 2 people

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Aug 24 2022 7:45 am

      How we looked forward to the Fall of 3rd grade. That’s when the back to school supply list said “map pencils” or “colored pencils” instead of crayons. (And by the next year, we had discovered that like crayons, there are better grades/qualities among the brands.) As you say, a decent pencil sharpener is critical. (And the skilled can peel off long curls when sharpening.)
      Thanks for getting to the point!


  3. Anne Mehrling / Aug 24 2022 8:06 am

    Another marvelous post! I resonated with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Aug 24 2022 8:29 am

      Funny what things stick with you. Fall was like New Years for kids: fresh start and that “new” smell of crayons and construction paper. Thanks for glueing in a comment

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The Coastal Crone / Aug 24 2022 8:13 am

    You brought back so many school memories for me! Now I think I need a new dress or blouse in a dark color and maybe a new pair of shoes. And maybe I could use a good cigar box to store something in. And we never started school until after Labor Day!

    Liked by 2 people

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Aug 24 2022 8:35 am

      We started after Labor Day – and had better achievement. (Possibly because elementary schools started at 9 am with the “big kids that we couldn’t wait to be” secondary started at 8:00…less sleep deprivation?)
      Old school dies hard….I just took out all the spring and summer colored tank tops from the closet and hung up some fall colored tank tops HaHa…Fall colors may be required, but no ignoring the heat that is hanging around. Hmmm, you may be right about the shoes….We all used to complain about wearing those stiff new fall shoes – moms always said we’d gotten spoiled by sandals and bare feet.
      Thanks for tying in a memory in that comment

      Liked by 2 people

  5. SusanR / Aug 24 2022 9:49 am

    Ah, cigar boxes. I used them for all kinds of things. Crayons, rocks, horny toads …

    Liked by 2 people

  6. 1bl0gr3ad3r / Aug 24 2022 10:39 am

    Seems like a lot of school lists request a box of 16-color crayons, then also, two or more boxes of washable colored markers. I always loved, ok, still love, new crayons, too. Yet my favorite was the brand new set of Prang watercolors with the beautiful oval cakes of clean colors and the new brush in the tin. Think that’s

    Liked by 2 people

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Aug 24 2022 12:39 pm

      Orwell is always astute – his words are really resounding these days with many.Oh, had forgotten the watercolors. Glorious indeed. (and the brushes were so much better than the ones now)
      Thanks for brushing up that memory


  7. 1bl0gr3ad3r / Aug 24 2022 10:41 am

    Oops, finger slipped. Wanted to say how spot on George Orwell’s quotes are for me right now!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Helen Devries / Aug 24 2022 10:48 am

    It was best to check that someone had not substituted their cross nibbed pen for your item before writing anything

    Liked by 2 people

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Aug 24 2022 12:45 pm

      Ditto with beaver-like nibbled pencils – some with chomped erasers on top. UGH!
      How grown-up the 3rd graders felt with their brand new ink pens and ink bottles the first time they were used. How sad the students now don’t get to experience actual ink pens’ flow. Took skill, but what an accomplishment not to stab a hole in the page…or fill one with that little lever on the side neatly without spill or drips. All sorts of lessons useful in many ways in life simply dismissed without thought.
      Thanks for your flow of words

      Liked by 2 people

  9. walkingoffthechessboard / Aug 24 2022 11:58 am

    Once I figured out the crayons were not for eatin’ but drawin’ I think I did pretty good with them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Aug 24 2022 12:49 pm

      It took a while to inform some that crayons were not arrows, rockets, or spears. (Teachers sometimes have so little vision of possibilities HaHa)
      Then there were the paste eaters – before the liquid glue like Elmer’s and glue sticks (which break all the time even with care). Adhesives were an advanced degree level art project HaHa
      Thanks for shifting through the supply box

      Liked by 1 person

  10. sustainabilitea / Aug 24 2022 6:21 pm

    You were spot-on with your first thought about the crayons. Welcome to a world where everyone is supposed to be equally mediocre…except for those in charge and yes, that reeks quite heavily of socialism rather than tobacco. Very much like you-should-wear-a-mask, but I’ll be eating at the French Laundry. I’m talking to you, Gavin Newsome, Hypocrite in Chief, although Lori Lightfoot, mayor of Chicago gives him a run for the money.

    The white-after-Labor-Day thing never really crossed my horizon as something anyone would really care about but it reminds me in a small way of what I like to call the Beer-pocalypse, the summer months when dark beer isn’t readily available. For those of us who like dark beer, those months should never exist. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ally Bean / Aug 25 2022 11:05 am

    I loved the scent of my cigar box. I’d open it, think of Sunday dinners with Grandpa, and feel warm + loved. I’m sorry kids today have missed out on cigar boxes. Did you ever use one with thumbtacks and string to make a loom? Great fun, that too.


  12. shoreacres / Aug 25 2022 12:55 pm

    Ah, the cigar box filled with crayons. Wonderful, although not quite as good as a new box of them. Even at Christmas, there was something thrilling about finding a box-of-eight in the stocking.

    But that cigar box wasn’t nearly as thrilling as The Pencil Box. I still remember mine. It was pink, and sort of padded, with a snap. Things I remember from it: the big pink eraser, the square brown crumbly eraser, the 6″ ruler, the protractor, the #2 pencils and sharpener, and the pair of blunt-nosed scissors. We were prepared for anything! The only thing more exciting was moving up to pen and ink in 4th grade: real ink pens with nibs, and ink bottles in our desks. Remember when ink cartridges showed up? Talk about high tech!


  13. cat9984 / Aug 27 2022 4:40 pm

    I’d forgotten about the cigar boxes for school supplies. My other memory from way back when is the smell of wheat paste.

    Liked by 1 person

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