‘Home Alone’ wisdom: Or why you should go ahead and use those crayons. Or wear the Rollerblades.

Of all the seasonal movies I remember loving as a kid, “Home Alone” — and its awesome successor, “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York” — stand above all the others. Though I’ve always considered myself a weird, too-philosophical-for-my-own-good sort of kid, “Home Alone 2” really helped solidify my role as an obsessive thinker.

I’ve heard some wise things in my day. Beyond the customary books that topple over with their enlightened principles, religious overtones and inspirational advice, I’ve formed my own mantras for getting through the day with (most of) my sanity intact. My favorite is “Be Here Now,” a thought expressed on a print I recently bought and plan to hang in my room.

No philosophical uttering has impacted me more than the thoughts of one Kevin McCallister, though. The warm words he exchanged with a bird lady in the rafters of a symphony in New York City have never left me. Lost and away from his family over Christmas, Kevin is shuttling around the Big Apple blowing his dad’s cash on private ice cream bars and plotting the downfall of two bumbling crooks still smarting from having been outwitted by the little guy the previous year.

When he’s not craftily getting out of crazy situations, Kevin is befriending random folks — and is totally wise beyond his years. Any 10-year-old able to check into the Plaza Hotel and keep up the charade for days isn’t your average dummy.

So I shouldn’t be shocked when Kevin teaches the brokenhearted woman one of the most important lessons of my young life.

Bird Lady: I’m just afraid if I do trust someone, I’ll get my heart broken.

Kevin: I understand. I had a nice pair of Rollerblades. I was afraid to wreck them, so I kept them in a box. Do you know what happened? I outgrew them. I never wore them outside. Only in my room a few times.

Bird Lady: A person’s heart and feelings are very different than skates.

Kevin: They’re kind of the same thing. If you won’t use your heart, who cares if it gets broken? If you just keep it to yourself, maybe it’ll be like my Rollerblades. When you do decide to try it, it won’t be any good. You should take a chance. Got nothing to lose.

I spend a good deal of time sifting through options until I reach just the right conclusion. Sometimes I’m so afraid of making a wrong decision that I do nothing — itself a choice. I try to be practiced and careful. Measured. An example of careful planning.

But that can be exhausting.

When I was 10 myself, I got an art set for my birthday. At least, I think it was my birthday — I’m not even sure anymore. We’ve gone through our childhood belongings countless times, donating to charity what we no longer want or need, but somehow this set has survived every purge.

Opening it for the first time and gazing in at the neat rows of colored pencils, pastels and crayons, I was euphoric. The possibilities! I thought. The beautiful possibilities! I was so enamored with this set that I never wanted to use it, and I certainly wouldn’t share it with my little sister. She just didn’t have any respect for my belongings, you know? (Younger siblings rarely do.)

When I wanted to color or design an art poster, I reached for my well-worn boxes of Crayola Crayons rather than the gorgeous, clean kit at my elbow. The colored pencils stayed sharp. The Crayons were unbroken and pristine in their packaging. Water never struck the watercolors, and no page was ever adorned in acrylic smears.

Everything was new, clean. Perfect and unchanged.

Years went by. I stopped coloring. Though I often talk about how I can’t wait to have kids so I can do stuff like draw again, guilt-free, it’s all a very long way off.

I think of coloring and I smile: I mean, who can dislike the electricity of changing a black-and-white image to Technicolor? It’s like owning the first color television on the block. Discovering Lucille Ball is a redhead. Following Dorothy as she swirls from Kansas and lands in effervescent Oz.

And then I thought, Why am I delaying my happiness? Why am I denying myself the free, innocent fun of something like coloring? Who cares if I’m 26. If I’m an uncoordinated artist with no talent for art. If I’m awful at staying in the lines and developing color schemes.

I wanted to color.

Katie found my art set, tucked inside a neat shelf in my mother’s crafting room. I’d purchased a set of color-your-own postcards on a whim this month and wanted to work on my project while watching “Christmas Vacation.” My fingers were itching to color, to blend hues and textures, and my sister slipped me a grin when handing me the set. “Well, you could always use this,” she said.

I opened it again — 10, 15 years later. The markers, usually the first to fade and wither, were my first target. I dotted the back of my left hand with purple circles, testing to see if they would still work. They’re all still capped. The markers mark. The pencils and crayons are still sharp, the ruler still nestled tight in its bed.

My set is clean and orderly. Planned. And though my instinct was to keep them just so, I swallowed it down. I fought it.

Why shouldn’t I wear my Rollerblades outside?

Why shouldn’t I press every Crayon down to its oily beginnings?

I colored one postcard, then another. Then I found a Christmas coloring book and drew in that, too. I pushed hard on the pencils, dulling them, and sketched long lines across blank sheets of paper. I mussed them up. I used them. I used them in a way I would never allow my measured, careful 10-year-old self to use anything.

It felt so good.

It’s almost Christmas and I’m tired, stressed, a little worried. Sometimes so much seems beyond my control — hard to explain, hard to process. Like everyone, I have the slivers of fears that wake me up at 5 a.m., tossing and staring at the shadows on my ceiling.

But I know one thing, something stronger than I’ve ever known: I don’t want to be the type of person who only wears her Rollerblades in the cushy comfort of her childhood bedroom. I don’t want to unearth an art set in two decades to discover I never created any art at all.

Use the crayons. Ride the bike. Take the trip. Eat the expensive chocolate. Drink the fine wine.

Enjoy your life.

“Embrace the bonfire,” a classmate wrote in my high school yearbook, “without fear of being burned.”

And that is all I want to do.

13 thoughts on “‘Home Alone’ wisdom: Or why you should go ahead and use those crayons. Or wear the Rollerblades.

  1. Meg, this post is amazing! I loved it…such a good reminder and I think we’re all guilty of saving things for later that sometimes shouldn’t be saved. Thanks for a well written, great reminder!


  2. This is beautiful Meg, and such an important lesson (and sometimes difficult to embrace too!). It’s far too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget to really ENJOY life. Kudos to you for making the time.

    On a side note, I firmly believe that coloring is good for the soul, no matter what your age.


  3. These are great, inspiring words! Just recently, when we were on vacation in the panhandle for Thanksgiving, we rented bicycles. I haven’t ridden one in decades (lest you put your life in danger down here on the crazy Orlando streets) and found that to be the best part of the vacation. Exploring on my bike. That is all I wanted to do. So you are right, you should give in to some of these childhood pleasures. (Our favorite movie is Christmas Vacation!)


  4. This is a great post! And so true!! We had just watched Home Alone 2 last night for the millionth time and still laughed!
    I am making a resolution to really live life in 2012! Will be making major changes, and already have some of that in motion.
    Thank you for this post.


  5. This is such an inspiring post. It’s easy sometimes to think that we can put everything off and do it later – but we only get one life each, we should do those small things that mean we really enjoy it while it lasts. It’s really hard to remember that in the middle of everything else, but you’ve reminded me to do so. 🙂


  6. This is a wonderful post – inspiring and true! I just turned 30, and spent a whole evening recently just coloring, and LOVED it. It was relaxing and freeing, and transported me back to my childhood years. Also, I’m pretty sure I had the exact same art set as you as a kid – and hardly ever touched it. I really related to this post, but plan to keep this wisdom in mind and remember to just let go and enjoy.

    Hope you have a Merry Christmas!


  7. Hi Meg! I’m becoming a “follower” your writing is so good and I loved this message. It’s funny, for Thanksgiving, we went over my sister-in-laws and she had a neighbor over who had a 5 year old. There were “place mats” with a turkey on them to color and lots of crayons and markers. My girls, and myself created masterpieces along with this little girl. We were all very proud. 🙂


  8. This is such a great post and a wonderful reminder. I tend to do the same thing, save up those things I don’t want to “ruin.” It’s so much better to just live life and dig in. My mom always used to tell us, “Never buy furniture that you can’t dance on.” I think that’s a wonderful way to look at life. Don’t buy anything that you’re worried about someone breaking or ruining.


  9. Love this post!! And by the way, I am an adult and love coloring too, LOL. It’s sort of fun that I have child clients who I have an excuse to color with. Sometimes they look at me and say “oh, you’re coloring too?”


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