Sunday, December 23, 2018

Laughter: It's What's For Christmas ...

It's been a year.

Not 2018 specifically but the past 12 months. Well, 13 months, really. It's been a baker's dozen of a year.

My father had a major health episode on November 3, 2017. He went into hospice on December 6. Christmas last year wasn't really Christmas. It was more of a blur. A stressful blur. We needed laughter. It was not easily found.

Thankfully, I have a secret weapon, a memory I can repeat out loud that never fails – never – to make Mom laugh.

Here's the story:

Many years ago, when one of my nephews was in grade school, most of the family – the kids grew up with all of their extended family nearby – clambered up the bleachers in the school gym to watch a program put on by a goodly number of the kids.

As family is wont to do, I was focused on my nephew. All the kids were doing a good job but, well, I don't know them. I know him. So I was kind of not bothering to stick with the plot of the play.

If memory serves – though it really doesn't – the device on which the whole program was built was a quiz show. Questions and answers. Contestants buzzing in.

Here's the thing: The "buzzers" were kids wearing red pillbox hats. Like bellhops (for those of you reading this who are old enough to know what bellhops are and what attire they used to wear).

I add this detail not to boast but to illuminate the absurdity of my confusion that night: Years ago, I took the Mensa exam. I passed. For a year, I was a member. I am a member no more. But the point is – not to sound like Trump – I'm, like, pretty smart.

Most of the time.

That night, though, I could not for the life of me figure out why the hell the kids answering the questions were pressing on the heads of seated bellhops. What kind of crazy David Lynch-ian shit was that?

I expressed my confusion to Mom, in a whisper.

"They're buzzers," she said.

Oh.

Yes.

They were.

That made sense.

In that moment, someone in Mensa was probably headed for the bleachers to revoke my test results.

But the good news is that any time I need to make Mom laugh, I can simply blurt out, "They looked like bellhops!" and she laughs. A lot. Like the kind of laughter that almost makes her double over.

And so, this Christmas, I thought that one of her gifts should be an image from that night, in a frame.

But this Christmas has brought some new challenges to the broader family and I don't want to burden anyone unduly, asking them to look for a picture from so many years ago, if, in fact, such pictures even exist. (I presume they do but I don't remember a lot of flashes going off that night.)

Also, I figured that an actual framed image would lose its oomph. If you see something constantly, its impact wanes.

So I decided that any image of a bellhop hat would do. It's about the hat, not about the exact kids who were wearing said hats in the school program.

So I Googled. And I found an image that emphasized the hat is for sale on Etsy, by GriffinCircle*, from whom I borrowed the image because I decided that it would be kinda funny to create wallpaper for Mom's phone so that each time she brought up her lock screen, she would see this:

She came by this morning. I made soft-boiled eggs for her and pogacha toast. While she ate, I tinkered with her phone to set the image. Then I asked her to swallow before I handed her phone to her and told her to turn it on.

She laughed.

Mission accomplished.

Here's to finding some holiday moments of laughter and love.

* There are many styles available, supported by glowing reviews, if'n you're in the market for a bellhop hat. GriffinCircle, if you happen to see this post, I hope you don't mind that I used your image and I hope that crediting and linking to you suffices as an exchange for said use. It's making my mom really happy!

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