Fifty Shades of Blue


Like most kids, my son, Cowboy, has gone through several phases of favorite colors. Sometimes it was green. Sometimes purple. But for most of his life, blue has been the reigning champion. Regardless of the object, he usually picks blue. And no matter what we give him, we can’t go wrong if it’s blue; it’s our no-fault clause.

Cowboy owns a million blue “squishies” – the name we have for any toys or objects that are, well, squishy. Apparently others know about squishies, too; I googled “squishy toys” while doing on-line Christmas shopping and hit pay dirt.

For years, Icees were blue, bubble gum was blue, blue cars were the best, shoes were blue, cotton candy was blue, Jello was blue, toothbrushes were blue, and Blue’s Clues was a virtual utopia. You get the idea. I was often left unimpressed by a clear, blue sky – it was just more of the same.

Items need not be a particular tint of blue as long as they are members of the blue family. We do not, however, buy Cowboy only blue shirts. That would be over-the-top weird; kids might call him a Smurf. We try to reserve the strangest blue fixations for things that stay inside the house, like when we had over 100 bars of blue soap.

For several years, Cowboy preferred teal, which, of course, has blue in it. You see the redundancy. And his room was teal since before his birth, back when I still liked the color, before his neurons were programmed in teal. Second to true blues, it was the longest-running favorite color in the history of mankind.

On an out-of-town trip to visit GaGa, my stepmom, we stopped in a local thrift store to kill time before meeting her for lunch.

“Cowboy, would you like to buy something for GaGa?”

He nodded yes and started making his way through the store. There was a wide selection of clothes and knick-knacks, and he found something for her.

“Would you like to find something for Grandma and take it home to her?” He nodded again and promptly found a teal shirt. A beautiful rayon button-down men’s shirt, size large, rather than a ladies’ small.

“Cowboy, that one is too big. Let’s keep looking.”

He pointed to the shirt.

“I know it’s pretty, but that will fall off Grandma.” My mom weighs 98 pounds on a good day.

He persisted.

“Don’t you want to look around some more?”

He didn’t.

I knew Mom would love it because Cowboy picked it out, but she never wears anything I would call “sloppy.” Her generation’s “sloppy” is my generation’s “dressy casual.”

When he proudly gave the shirt to Mom, she could see how it would swallow her. She smiled. “Oh, thank you,” she said as if he’d handed her a check for a million teal dollars, and Cowboy flashed his ecstatic smile when she modeled it.

Mom sometimes watched Cowboy for me at her house. One day, after driving him home, she nonchalantly walked in; much to my surprise, she was wearing the teal shirt. 

“Oh, you have your shirt on today!” You could’ve fit three of her in it.

“Yes,” she said, “Cowboy insisted I wear this one.” 

“He insisted?”

“Yes, he got this out of the closet and made me change out of the other one I was wearing.” 

This quickly became a weekly ritual. Every Tuesday, Mom took Cowboy to speech therapy while I went to work. After the appointment, they would go back to Mom’s house for a while. As soon as they got there, Cowboy directed her to go to her room and change to the teal shirt. His OCD was in full bloom. Tuesday was also the night for Mom’s Bible study soon after she brought Cowboy home, so it got a little hectic for her since she didn’t want to wear a teal muumuu to her meeting. Eventually, Cowboy allowed her to wear the shirt over the clothes she was already wearing. After many weeks, Cowboy graciously agreed to her removing the outer shirt before they left her house. 

However, Mom was still expected to wear the shirt at every family gathering. Somehow, the teal-shirt infatuation eventually went away. But that honored piece of her wardrobe still holds its rightful place in Mom’s closet.

During Cowboy’s drawing-every-day years, we searched for packs of markers that included teal. We held the Guiness record for largest quantity of blue pencils, blue crayons, and blue markers owned by a single family, but teal markers were precious commodities. Once we found them, we stocked up, and Mom and I each carried one in our purses at all times. All other colors would remain unused, and we lamented, “Why can’t they make packs of all the same color?” Crayola Washable Color-Obsession Markers, available in 20-packs, would sell like hot cakes.

Now, we’re back to the pure blues, which is fine with Flash; he’d have blue furniture, blue curtains, blue walls, blue grass, and blue dogs if I agreed to it. It’s hereditary. He’ll be quite turned on should I ever become a blue-haired little old lady.

In the course of 17 years, there was, however, one lengthy hiatus from the blues.

Suddenly, we were looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. Although I have never met a man who didn’t look attractive in pink, I had to quickly draw the line one day. Cowboy and I were discussing his needing new underwear. He had some “tighty whities” as well as blue, gray, and black briefs. I asked him what color he wanted me to buy, and he answered “pink” in sign language.

“Pink? Pink? You want pink underwear?”

He nodded yes and signed pink again.

“You don’t want blue? Teal? Turquoise?” I was longing for our house of blues again.

He made sure I knew in no uncertain terms what he wanted covering his booty. I never expected the color of the month, which became six months, to be his choice for underwear.

“Cowboy, boys don’t wear pink underwear. Girls wear pink underwear. You are a boy, so you do not wear pink underwear.” I sounded like a politically correct first-grade primer – Dick and Jane Go Shopping for Gender-Appropriate Skivvies.

He was unmoved; quite stubborn about it. He gets that from his father, who does not wear pink underwear. Yet.

I don’t know why I worried about it; nobody would see it. But what if his jeans ride down and someone sees the pink peering out from behind? They might tease him, I reasoned to myself.

“They don’t even make pink underwear for boys.” I had no proof, but Cowboy didn’t know that. I was playing the “Parents know everything” card.

Of course, Mom’s response to my “Boys don’t wear pink underwear” was “How do you know they don’t?” She was playing the “I’m Grandma, so there are no rules” card.

A couple of weeks later, the Houston Chronicle ran a picture of a U. S. soldier wearing pink boxer shorts in a trench in Afghanistan. He was sleeping when his post was attacked; he grabbed his rifle and rushed out in his helmet, body armor, and pink boxer shorts. Of course, Mom cut out the picture and brought it over to prove her point.

I kept the newspaper clipping as a humbling reminder of two ultimate truths: Cowboy is often further ahead of the learning curve than I; and on matters when Grandma and Cowboy agree, my vote is nullified, with no veto power in sight.