(My kids “snailing” in unison when it was time for family prayer)
Some of my best memories from childhood consist of sitting at the table for hours after Sunday lunch, talking and laughing with my family. I come from a funny family. Humour is our life-line. It is who we are. So many times when I was growing up, I would be doubled over, with tears running down my cheeks and I would gasp, “we should be a sit-com!” I just found my family, and the ridiculous situations we often found ourselves in, endlessly hilarious (when I wasn’t finding it utterly exasperating). While my dad was never at a loss for clever, dry wit, my family was presided over in the humour department by my wickedly irreverent, spontaneous, endlessly energetic mom. Life surrounding my mom is one big colourful party. Born of a Greek father and an Italian mother she was made to entertain.
My funny family in South Africa-2009 (laughing ) Shona across from me, Thalia beside me, Luke, Dad, Mom and Marc, my brother in law.
with my hilarious brother Seth to my right (who was missing in above photo), Luke and Thalia
Goofing in a public restroom at 1am with my hysterically funny sisters-2009
Shopping with Thalia. 2009 (I was the baby who wanted the beautiful pink polyester nighty. She was the mommy who said I could not have it)
When I created my own family, things were, by design, a lot more staid than they were in the home of my birth. I am not a natural entertainer. I need my space and I crave solitude more than I crave social interaction. Let’s call a spade a spade, I am a heck of a lot more boring and less social than my mom. But I do love to laugh. Life in my home is more predictable, and in some ways less chaotic (although let me be clear- my mom is much better at house-keeping than I).
And it works for me. I value the predictability, the slower pace, the regular pockets of quiet time. But I have long feared that it would mean that I was also going to lose the colour…and most importantly, the laughter.
Deep in my heart, I feared that my kids would not be funny. That we would not enjoy the same hilarity as we had when I was growing up. Although I find my husband quite hilarious, and I pride myself that I have brought out the funny in him, my husband’s family, Idahoan, salt of the earth types, have a vastly different sense of humour to mine, one I don’t really relate to, and frankly, I worried that my children would inherit it. I worried that we would not find each other funny. What would we do on Sunday afternoons? How would we deal with family crises? Would I even be able to tolerate the teenage version of my children if I could not laugh with them? The more I thought about it, the more concerned I became. I communicate through humour and irony. I really don’t know how to interact without it. If I had one sense of humour and they had another…or heaven forbid, no sense of humour at all…it would be like living in an international exchange program. IN MY OWN HOME.
But as they grew, my fears died down a little. You know how I love and adore a baby, but I have to say, for all their squishy adorability, their humour doesn’t go much beyond slapstick. Babies have their limits.
Older kids though…they start to get it. And when they do…it is magic. Benjamin seems to have inherited my brother Luke’s ability to tease me mercilessly while I laugh hysterically at him. He is dry and wry. He is a master of irony. He can mock me without insulting me. Which is something of a gift. (I am fairly easily insulted).
Gabe has inherited my brother Seth’s gift of imitation…accents and impersonations…he nails them effortlessly and frequently has me rolling. Gabe also has the cutest, most contagious laugh. It is impossible not to smile when you hear Gabe laughing.
Gracie has the slow, deliberate delivery that I find so intensely hilarious in my sister Thalia. But her sarcastic and quick wit is also reminiscent of my sister Shona who has made me breathlessly beg for mercy on countless occasions.
Finny is still funny without meaning to be. He is so wide eyed with wonder and amazement at everything. He also finds pretty much everything funny and laughs all the time. It is most endearing. On the way to the dentist today he told me with much righteous indignation, “Mommy! Did you know! At Dairy Queen they have this POSTER. And it says, ‘It’s not heaven-It’s Dairy Queen’. Pause for effect. WELL…..DUH!!!! Heaven is MUCH CLEANER than Dairy Queen!”
Last night, we were trying to squeeze in the Family Home Evening that we’d missed on Monday. It was late. We were tired. I was beyond burned out from Ella’s antics all day. Finny conducted the meeting. He welcomed everyone, I mouthed to him to especially welcome Ella. Just because she was being so extremely shall we say…challenging at that moment. A small joke. He burst out laughing and could barely complete his sentence, “welcome everyone to family home evening….esp…especi….especially ELLA”. Ella sat staring at him, unblinking, teething, chubby and irritable. This obviously struck him as even funnier. His blue eyes flashed and twinkled, he chortled, practically doubled over but managed to invite Benjamin to choose the opening song.
“How about we sing along to my new piano piece”. This too was a little self-deprecating humour, since he has been playing Pachebel’s Canon pretty much non-stop lately. “Sure, let’s do that” I said and then went on to ad-lib church lingo as he played. You could tell he wanted to laugh but that’s part of what makes Benj so funny. You can see a hint of a laugh around his lips and eyes but he plays along….stoically pounding out the canon while I trilled along slowly to the funeral cadence, with Chooooooooose Thhhhhhheeeeee Riiiiii-ghhhhhhhhht, Endureeee it We-ell…..Chooose the Riiiighhhhht…..sooooo youuuuu don’t goooo to he…….(and things of that nature.)
My other kids chuckled appreciatively at some of the more irreverent moments in my lyrical stylings, and suddenly I had a flash of joy in the realization that it was just as I had always hoped and dreamed. I will never be the life of the party that my mom is, but I will do almost anything to make my family laugh. They appreciate my whacky humour and I appreciate theirs. We will, without a doubt have our problems, our conflicts, our worries and our stressors. But we will also have laughter. And laughter makes just about anything doable.
I love the expression on Benj and Gabe’s face here. They were not expecting this development.
In my mind I echoed a sentiment my mom once expressed. It was during a very trying period for our family, one that might have destroyed a family with less humour.
One night some of us were literally rolling on the floor crying with laughter. I can’t remember about what. When we were all spent in that cleansing wonderful cathartic way that only a good cry or a great laugh can bring, She sat up, wiped her tears and half exclaimed, half sighed…..seemingly at random (but I knew exactly what she meant)
“Ohhhhh……..we are going to be OK”.
Yup. So long as we have laughter. Everything is always going to be OK.
PS: I forgot. Ella totally made me laugh yesterday. She was so enchanted by the fact that she had managed to balance this travel bottle of lotion on the end of her finger by sticking it into the neck of the bottle. She waved it around frantically and got my attention by doing her “baboon call” “uh-uh-uh-uh”. I’m pretty sure she wanted me to take this photo to acknowledge her great accomplishment, because once I did she went back to the very serious business of destroying the bathroom.