Monday, December 03, 2007
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
Monkey on your head!
Because I have heard it, or at least some variant on that theme (cat on your head, robot on your head, etc.) approximately three thousand times in the past five years. I dreamt of the day when my babies could verbally communicate, and then this is what came spewing forth like fizz from a shaken soda can: a steady stream of nonsensical jokes that could barely be delivered through hysterical giggling.
For kids, rib aching laughter is always just a silly voice, an exaggerated dance move, or an altered lyric (“Jingle Bells, Batman smells,” you get the picture), away. It is sitting there on the tips of their tongues, dying to be unleashed by the slightest of efforts from their siblings, classmates, or their own imagination. We were born, apparently, with the capacity to be very joyful.
Its been awhile since I laughed till I cried, till I doubled-over in fits of snorts, gasps, and howls. With awareness, of tragic possibilities, came gravity of the least amusing variety. Adulthood has slowly but surely flattened my effervescence; it takes a whole lot more than it used to to get me going. But oh, the release when I do! All regrets, “what if’s”, and “shoulds” fade impotently into the background while I seize a present moment to reclaim my youthful tendencies toward facetiousness.
This past Summer I got together with some old and very dear friends of mine from college. My children watched on dumbfounded as their “not so funny” mother broke out near constantly into open-mouthed cackling of the most satisfying and delightful variety. I was nineteen again as my former roommate (now in her mid-thirties with a five-year-old son of her own) recounted tripping and landing sprawled out “bear skin rug” style on the crowded cafeteria floor, the contents of her full lunch tray strewn haphazardly all around her. Memories were just sitting there on the tips of our tongues, dying to be unleashed by the slightest of efforts. We took much needed pleasure in our nostalgia heavy fellowship – and it was good.
Last week, my eldest son Elijah came home from school with a riddle:
“Why is it so hard to tell a joke at a party?”
“I don’t know,” I said distractedly. “Why?”
“Because the punch line is too long!”
I stopped abruptly, mid-chuckle, to revel in an astonishing phenomenon. “Wait a minute…I get it!! That’s actually and truly funny!” I said. But his eyes weren’t smiling expectantly like they used to. “Yeah, I guess so,” he shrugged without an ounce of slapstick hilarity, and I missed it immediately – the inanity of his innocence, the rainbow colored glasses through which he comically viewed his days. So I did what any jaded mother would do: tickled him mercilessly until a grin broke out like sunlight piercing holes though cloudy skies. I did anything I possibly could to keep him laughing.