I’ve always liked the color purple. Eventhough I rooted for Pink5 when I was younger, deep in my heart I adored purple. I realized it when Ma bought a Hansel and Gretel coloring book for me and my cousin and I used blue and violet to color Gretel. Nevermind that she looked like a domestically-abused Smurf, she looked smashing in my eyes.
My fascination with the hue developed into an obsession when I decided to use it to color Hansel, their hen-pecked father, the witch, the gingerbread house, and yes, even the rainbow. My cousin told me the rainbow should be in different colors and I looked at Ma to double-check. Scoffing at my cousin’s reproach, she told me it can be in any color I liked. So on I went with my mania. By the end of the week, the pages of the book looked like it had been dipped in grape-flavored Kool-Aid. Though Ma gently reminded me that purple-colored skin was a little over the top for kids who had no evidence of being beaten up by the witch, she said nothing about my rainbow. Two years later, I was seated in kindergarten class and was self-assuredly raising my hand as the teacher asked for the colors of the rainbow.
“Purple,” I proudly answered when she called on me. Making a face, she informed me that I gave the wrong answer. Puzzled, I slumped back in my seat. A myriad of colors, yet purple is not to be found in a rainbow? I heard my classmates shouting out a common answer yet I couldn’t quite make out what it was.
“Roy G. Beef! Roy G. Beef!” my gap-toothed seatmate said.
“Exactly!” Ms. Rieza nodded in agreement.
I thought there was a crazy conspiracy going on. Who or what in the world was Roy G. Beef? Did he discover the rainbow? Was it the kind of beef used in making Japanese dishes? I was too upset to pay any more attention to the lessons and it was only in first grade that I found out my classmate who had problems with his diction actually meant ROYGBIV.
Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet. Violet and purple are the same? Almost. Not quite. Still feeling a little miffed about being misinformed, I vowed never to trust my mother again.
Ah, the arrogance of a bratty kid. Later on, in high school, while confessing how many things I wanted to study in college did I finally see the rainbow connection.
“It’s up to you, Pam. You can decide whichever path you want to take” eerily sounded the same as “Color it any way you want.” Her radical way of thinking did not die during childbirth and survived midlife crisis and flourished even more as I started formulating what I wanted to be. She may not have taught me the acronyms for the colors of the rainbow but she did teach me to trust my own judgment and not to conform to other people’s perception of what ought to be. “Know the rules so you’d know how to bend them,” she’d always say. Of course, she did (and continues to suffer) the consequences whenever my version of what’s right clashes with hers, but hey, you gotta take the good with the bad.
She’s adding the 53rd hue to her own rainbow today. Happy Birthday, Ma. You rock.