My Personal Yellow Journey, from Plastic Cups to Coldplay

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My mother and I spent a few weeks each summer, and sometimes on school vacations, with her mother; a fragile sprite of a woman who was deaf and lived in a huge white house in Vermont sprawling with cats and houseplants. At bedtime I would take ‘my’ yellow plastic cup from the ‘cupboard’, which was the simple board for cups above the sink. I smelled my cup. I got involved in its color, seeing the sun, and buttercups, and all the things that are yellow. ( This whole bit is about yellow, the color, and the memories it bestows me, since it has always been my favorite. ) I’d chewed along the entire rim of the plastic cup; to discourage any cousins from using it when I was not there. My mother would put water in it and we’d take it up the narrow stairs to the upstairs bedroom. The dark stairwell was a little spooky; its stairs seemed farther apart than most stairs; were of dark wood, and the ornate banister (kind of sticky from over half a century of polishing?) lent a cramped narrow closed-in feeling when I climbed. I would hold my cup tightly, never looking back, as there was a door at the bottom of those stairs that had a simple lace curtain over its window, an ornate metal knob, a slide lock, and the darkness behind its glass…The bedroom had sci-fi models from Todd my Godfather’s childhood- a realistic Frankenstein on one bureau and a Wolfman statue on the other. My mother would put my yellow water cup on the white wooden stand beside the brass bed, and throughout the night I’d wake her to ask for sips.

So yeah, yellow is comforting but it’sImage more than that too. I enjoy color, perhaps more than people should, but yellow is more pleasurable to me than other colors. Now I can’t paint my kitchen yellow, because I always end up repainting it, as it never seems right, and I can’t wear yellow either; it does me no justice. But I like it dammit, I do! Hey, remember Harvey Ross Ball? I’d never heard of him either until I read his obituary in April of 2001. He created this famous icon:

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I grew up in the era that this famous icon really ‘took off.’ Suddenly the smiley was everywhere. Of course Harvey never registered it, and earned only $45.00 for its design… A couple of enterprising brothers came along from Philadelphia and combined the symbol with the catch phrase ‘Have a Nice Day’ and capitalized monetarily on Harvey’s simple smiley. There weren’t personal computers back then but smileys appeared on lunch boxes, coffee mugs, T-shirts, pins, in clothing decals, just about everywhere! I wasn’t one to enjoy its message: SMILE! No, that’s too gushy for me. But I liked the color.

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I also liked Volkswagen Beetle cars. My aunt’s “hippie” neighbors (who had a beautiful frisbee-catching all-white dog named Karma) had one of those cars. My friend Starr and I lived by a highway and waited for our bus under a huge rotating Texaco sign. We’d sit there on the concrete slab playing the “car game” to pass the time. One of us would call out a color: green! And so forth. If a green car passed by, we’d have to stand up; if a black one went by we’d sit, etc. And there was a special move we’d make for yellow Volkswagen Beetles. We would have to yell out LoveBug and crouch…

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Now, as you can imagine, (although my favorite flower, considered a weed, is the Queen Anne’s Lace,) I like dandelions too, and forsythia bushes, yellow roses, yellow tulips, the centers of daisies and daffodils… They say you should throw daffodil bulbs and plant them where they lay. This makes for a scattered natural-looking setting. Not so for a memorable dark blue house I visited in 1995. I was meeting a lovely friend and author there, Donna, who went on to write the Foreword for my book, Under The Banana Moon. Prim uniform daffodils; each as vibrant and healthy as the one in line before it, stood deliberately in single file along both sides of the walkway in precise furrows. They were soldiers lined up; daffodils saluting me; come this way ma’am. This welcome made me smile and I shall never forget it. I became mindful of a line from Edna St. Vincent Millay’s, Afternoon on a Hill: ‘I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one’.

I like bananas too; both to eat, put in smoothies and of course to enjoy their sunny color. I can sculpt them. Someday I will post a picture of that. But here’s an elaborate one I’ve found online:

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Great fun! So what is it about yellow that appeals to me? I just know it has always made me happy. I used to dress my beloved smiling poodle Suzy in a pale yellow T-shirt. Yellow, in the ‘meanings of color’ in color psychology, is the color of the mind and the intellect. It is optimistic and cheerful. However it can also suggest impatience, criticism and cowardice. I don’t know about all that! But I don’t think it’s any coincidence that two culture symbols for children of our time (take ’em or leave ’em, but they’re memorable and loved by many!) are yellow. Coincidence? I think not.

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Here are a few examples of things my mother had that made me happy: Pyrex bowls, Tupperware, and yellow and white checked table cloths…

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Now not everyone likes yellow, and it’s been my experience that when people hate it—- they REALLY hate it with passion.

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I can’t forget a horrid teacher I had five years ago when I was taking a Red Cross course. She expounded on the atrocities of taking Tylenol (liver damage, she said) and yet she took frequent breaks to chain smoke! (After telling the fifteen of us (it was a small class) that her relations seemed to die horrible deaths related to their lungs. But I digress.) Around the third day of class she pulled out fifteen small spiral ‘assignment notebooks’ of various colors. We were to use these to take notes…

She called upon me first. “Quiety,” she said rudely. Quiety was her nickname for me for obvious reasons and it always got laughs all around. I was in my early forties and should’ve called her on it but alas my nickname wasn’t Rude-y. Hers should’ve been. She went on, “Which notebook would you like? What’s your favorite color?” She fanned a few out for me to see and the rest lay spread out on her desk. “Yellow,” I said assertively.

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She cackled until she had a coughing fit. “Yellow!!!!” She said disbelievingly. “I have red, blue, black, orange and green here. I deliberately didn’t buy yellow!”

“Red,” I said, because it was a short one-syllable word. She’d asked my favorite color and I’d answered her, literal me! I went to her desk and collected my red notebook. She wasn’t finished because the rest of the class wasn’t laughing as hard as she was yet.

“Do you see yellow here? No! I didn’t buy it on purpose…I mean WHO LIKES yellow?!!!!”

Aaaah now they were laughing.

I didn’t say it then but I say it now loud and proud,

I DO.

I like yellow.

It makes me happy.

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Around the 18th century yellow roses were discovered growing naturally in parts of the Middle East. Prior to this, roses they were usually shades of pink and to a lesser extent, white. One of the more compelling attributes of most roses is their sweet smell. This was a trait the first yellow roses did not share, but as breeding and cultivation methods were refined, they became sweetly fragrant. Also changed over the years were the meanings related to yellow roses. Of course yellow has been associated with the sun. It’s integral to life on Earth, and has been worshiped in early societies. In many Eastern cultures the color yellow represents joy, wisdom and power. However, in Europe at the time of the introduction of these roses, the color yellow carried much more negative overtones. Consequently, yellow roses were long used as a symbol for jealousy and dying love. As time went on, the more universal meanings connected with the color yellow have come to prevail and entwine themselves with the yellow rose. Today yellow roses are more commonly associated with joy and friendship. A bouquet of yellow roses now brings to mind all of the sunny, cheerful feelings of warmth and happiness. In contrast to the romantic meanings attributed to other roses, the yellow rose is purely a symbol for friendship.

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Rosie O’ Donnell has written a book, a memoir I think in which she says this:

“Fame stole my yellow. Yellow is the color you get when you’re real and brutally honest. Yellow is with my kids[…]The bundle of bright yellow warming my core, formerly frozen and uninhabitable[…]They got yellow from me, and I felt yellow giving it to them and it was all good[…]So, why am I leaving my show? It took my yellow. I wanted it back. Without it I can’t live. The gray kills me.”

Have you heard that song by Coldplay? It’s called YELLOW (what else?) and to me it’s very beautiful…It goes like this:

“Yellow”

Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah, they were all yellow.

I came along,
I wrote a song for you,
And all the things you do,
And it was called “Yellow”.

So then I took my turn,
Oh what the things have done,
And it was all yellow.

Your skin,
Oh yeah your skin and bones,
Turn into
Something beautiful,
You know,
You know I love you so,
You know I love you so.

I swam across,
I jumped across for you,
Oh what a thing to do.
‘Cause you were all yellow,

I drew a line,
I drew a line for you,
Oh what a thing to do,
And it was all yellow.

Your skin,
Oh yeah your skin and bones,
Turn into
Something beautiful,
And you know,
For you I’d bleed myself dry,
For you I’d bleed myself dry.

It’s true,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine.

Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And all the things that you do.

NOTE: I assume the images here are in public domain. I post them with respect and admiration. Pls contact me immediately for credit if you are the photographer

Kim, author of Under The Banana Moon http://www.amazon.com/Under-Banana-Moon-Living-Aspergers/dp/1469985144/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

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