Thursday, January 14, 2010
Of All the Blogs I've Ever Written, This Is The Most Recent!
Every family has a phrase, sometimes a series of phrases that become part of the family lore. A young child mispronounces a word and the family finds it charming or hilarious and from that moment on "interesting" becomes "instering". My niece, Ali, was the originator of that phrase when she was 3 and she has just turned 30 but we all still say things are "instering". Once, when my boys were in high school, we visited their grandparents at a time share in Palm Desert. We were at the pool and a volleyball net had been strung across. A very boisterous, dare I say, obnoxious family was playing a super competitive game of water volleyball. The dad was especially loud and bellicose and, every time his teenage son made a mistake with the volleyball, he would slap him upside the back of his head and say, "Way to go, Smoothie". Now, we don't even know those people, never saw them again after that one afternoon at the pool but to this day when one of the boys muffs something, especially an athletic endeavor (like badminton or ping pong), someone in the family will invariable utter those immortal words, "Way to go, Smoothie".
It's part of who we are. It's those private, quirky words and phrases, the "inside jokes" of a family that make us feel special and inclusive. An entire family can be mad at each other, sitting around the table in silence, almost daring someone to break the tension when one of them whispers the "magic" words like..... "ooops, my fart sneaked out" and WHAM! The explosion of laughter that follows along with the obligatory milk/nose squirt, the choking on a piece of potato and the "laugh tears" dripping uncontained down someone's cheeks completely wipes the memory of "mad" away. The phrase becomes part of the tapestry of the family and is whipped out whenever we need a good laugh or, unwittingly, when it's the appropriate thing to say (like in a packed car after a visit to say, Miguel Jr.'s for lunch).
This Christmas my son, Andrew, introduced our newest favorite family phrase. My dad, "Pa" , likes it so much he is using it for nearly every situation he encounters. We were sitting around the table after an incredible Christmas dinner. It was, I do believe, the best ever (or at least, at that moment it seemed like that but, in retrospect, I probably say that every year). Andrew, looking content beyond words, pushed himself back from the table (no small effort) and announced, "Of all the Christmas dinners I have ever had, THIS was the most recent". There was a beat of maybe 2 counts then a barrage of laughter that took some minutes to die down. Andrew gave credit where credit is due - his Musical Theater teacher at Azusa Pacific University, Bart McHenry used the phrase when the kids would perform for him ("Of all the songs I have heard performed this year, THAT was the most recent..."). Nevertheless, we thought Andrew to be the funniest, most clever boy and we laughed and laughed then used the phrase tirelessly the rest of the day:"Of all the gifts I have ever gotten for Christmas... ok, you get it, I know.
The worst thing is I get such a kick out of things like that... more than my family, certainly more normal, well-adjusted people. My family often look at me as I am laughing uncontrollably at something they don't even find mildly amusing, saying things like, "There she goes again. Let's just leave her alone until she gets over it." I had one of those moments last night. A friend of mine was doing me a great favor and we were in a time crunch to get this small project completed. He got a phone call and, while I was not trying to eavesdrop, the person on the other end of the line was agitated and talking quite loudly. I could hear both sides of the conversation clearly. My friend remained completely calm while the person on the other end was recounting a small calamity which she felt needed his immediate attention. While he explained that he was in the middle of something and couldn't help at just that moment, the other person proclaimed what I am sure she thought was the piece de resistance as far as an explanation, "The woman has a pacemaker!!"
Now, you, a perfectly nice, normal person do not think that is funny. You shouldn't. It's not really funny. But, the not normal me, found it so funny that I had to bite the inside of my cheeks and slap my hand over my mouth so I would not guffaw all over the place and insult the sincerely concerned person on the end of the line. There was something so funny to me about that phrase being the culmination of her argument when the conversation had never been about a woman but rather a young adult man who was involved in a minor fender bender.
I keep thinking that is the perfect thing so say in conversations that aren't going well. The ones where I find myself frustrated beyond words and need some levity to straighten things out, I will henceforth say, 'The woman has a pacemaker!!" It's just another phrase to add to my family's lore. And because we are told that laughter is good medicine, I'm praying that using phrases that make me laugh long and loud will keep me from being that woman who has a pacemaker for a long, long time!