Before I begin today’s column, I’d like to add a postscript to the column I wrote a couple months ago. The one about raising teenagers and the CVC’s CampFIRE youth leadership experience. If you read it, you’ll remember that I was fighting my eighth-grader on going to camp.
I knew all the pain would be worth it because I was confident that afterward, he would admit I was right all along. Guess what? Success! Yep, he muttered the phrase under his breath with great reluctance but mumbled it was! “I was wrong and you were right, Mom.” I glowed with smugness for a good 20 minutes.
Since I’m referring to past columns, I’d also like to refer to my last one. There, I spoke of my procrastination issues. How much better my writing might be if I actually gave it more time for review and editing. The bad news is that I’m writing this one at 9 a.m. on Friday morning before the noon deadline. The good news is that I am reading a couple of books simultaneously from Anne Lamott (again with the multiple books going at any one time) about life and writing. In her TED Talk, she says, “If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” My family should take a hint. Unfortunately, she also says that first drafts are usually hideous and should be edited and rewritten as soon as possible. Let’s not talk about which draft this column is. It will only depress all of us. On a happier note, she says that laughter is carbonated holiness. I love that! As a habitual offender with the Big Laugh, I must be very holy. I have zero ability to control my Big Laugh, which arrives unexpectedly but with great volume and sometimes duration. If you’ve ever sat next to me in a small room, you’ve felt the pain. Hopefully, you found whatever it was funny too.
In our family, we take bad puns to new lows. My husband is constantly trying to make up puns from everyday life. Sometimes (rarely), he hits the jackpot and finally pulls out a witty one. Mostly he doesn’t. He keeps trying though, often with painful results.
My youngest is a horrendous joke teller — seldom can he remember the punch line, much less the three lines leading up to it. It’s excruciating when he announces he has a joke and launches in. We’ve tried discouraging him with great moaning, tears and rending of garments but he is undeterred. Maybe if being a world champion team roper doesn’t work out, he can fall back on standup comedy. He’s certainly built up his tolerance for groaning.
The rest of my immediate and extended family derives huge satisfaction by weaving quotes from beloved movies into our everyday speech. We seldom even realize it until a non-family member who is both unfamiliar with this practice and the movie itself, asks for clarification.
Are we alone in this communication style? Don’t most families rely on “The Princess Bride,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “A Christmas Story,” “The Penguins of Madagascar,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “Young Frankenstein” (this is a very small sampling of our sources) for witty rejoinders and descriptive phrases? I certainly recognize that every family has their own inside jokes and shared experiences. Our film quotes are clearly not that. Obviously, if you had seen any of the referenced movies a minimum of ten times, you would immediately recognize our wittiness and laugh along. We’re very inclusive that way.
I find that my own humor tends to be self-deprecating. Sometimes (mostly), unintentionally self-deprecating. I leave you with my latest incident.
At a 5 a.m. YMCA class yesterday, we had to grab a jump rope for the cardio portion. There were probably six different colors of ropes hanging from pegs on the wall. I turned to a friend and asked her, “Which color is the easiest?” She kindly pointed out that the colors referred to length, not level of difficulty.
In my defense, no coffee was on board yet and I was temporarily confusing the jump ropes with those horrific, colored rubber bands that make every muscle in my body scream. Those are color coded by pain level. Turns out, not so much the jump ropes.
See how holy I am? I even provide the carbonation, free of charge.
Amy Albrecht is the executive director of the Center for a Vital Community.