But, it’s history!

Have you ever tried to sort through all of those boxes of stuff that you packed away for some arbitrary day?  I’ve been ensnared in this task on and off for the past several weeks as I’ve helped my mom sort through and downsize her belongings.  It’s a time-consuming process for me because I investigate almost every item.

To understand my penchant for history and all things in the past, one must understand my predilection for reading.  Reading is as essential to my life as breathing.  I’ve been a voracious reader since I first learned to read.  Not only do I love to read, I am also driven to “know stuff.”  This means, for me, that if I come across an unfamiliar term I look it up.  Looking something up usually leads to the discovery of another interesting tidbit and it goes on and on.

My schooling was assisted by our 1963 World Book Encyclopedia.  We were lucky to have it.  It was bought piecemeal until the set was complete.  Each year we received a volume that summarized the important events of that year.  I loved that encyclopedia.  Many an hour was spent browsing its contents.  Of course, it is long obsolete and will soon be heading for a recycling bin.  Time marches on.  It was the gateway drug to a world of reference materials.  But, it’s history (literally and figuratively).

Also found during searches of various boxes was a set of military medals belonging to my first cousin, twice removed.  I never met him as he died before I was born.  He served in WWII and in Korea.  While in Korea he contracted a blood disease and died.  He earned those medals and I hate to see them sit in a box.  There really isn’t any other family to share them with, so what does one do with something like that?  I’m not sure yet.   It’s history.

Our sorting also turned up a 1918 Senior Book for New Haven (Hillhouse) High School in New Haven, CT.  It’s 101 years old.  How cool is that?  It’s a wonderful storehouse of culture.  As I looked through it, I pondered how many of those students achieved their stated goals.  The tiny senior pictures hint at the hairstyles and fashions of the time.  What an extraordinary look at the past.  Various student signatures hint at the wonderful penmanship back then.  The book belonged to another cousin, the sister of the aforementioned military veteran.  I called the school and they are thrilled to receive the book as a donation.  I was cheered by that reaction.  Some people might have thrown it out.  But, it’s history!

History is important in understanding our past and predicting our future.  America is such a great amalgamation of different cultures.  It’s our responsibility to preserve the memories of what provided the foundation for this great nation, or, at the very least, to sustain the ancestral fragments that constitute our identities.  History.  Ain’t it grand?



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Gardening fantasies…

I love the thought of gardening.  I love experiencing a beautiful oasis.  I love working the soil with my hands.  My reality…I’m garden poor.  My fantasies are writing checks that my truth can’t cash.  Yes, I live in a condo but do have areas where I could garden.  Yes, it is mostly shade but there are shade-tolerant plants.  Yes, I have knees that don’t bend so well but there are ways around that.

One household chore I never minded was mowing the lawn.  I was a champion mower and loved making designs in the lawn.  Once I graduated from grass clippers to a weed eater, doing the trimming was a breeze.  This is a right-handed world and back in the day the grass clippers were made for right-handed folks.  As with scissors, I struggled mightily and my efforts always yielded a mangled-looking and sore left hand.  I digress as is my custom.

What would my gardens look like?  In my mind is an old farmhouse-type cottage in New Hampshire.  I visited there a few times when I was a kid, maybe 10 years old.  It was a wonderful place to visit.  The beds seemed high off the ground and even in the summer we needed lots of blankets.  Rag rugs were scattered over the wide plank wood floors.  There was a back porch that looked out to a yard that turned into a field.  Crickets chirped madly and, in the evening, the air sparkled with lightning bugs.  For me it was magical.

If I lived in that farmhouse I would create a long hedge of bridal wreath spirea running down the long edge of the property to the left of the house.  That would create a nice natural break that would help stem any direct wind flow into the back yard area.  Toward the very back of the yard, as it morphs into field, I would expect to have some bee hives.  Ideally, they would be tended by someone else who needed a spot to place some bees.

Adjacent to the back porch area, I would plant groups of lilacs.  Lots of lilacs in order to cut them and bring bunches of them into the house.  One of my favorite poems is “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Walt Whitman’s epic ode to Lincoln.  And lilacs remind me of my childhood.  I love them.  That’s enough for now.  In my mind I’m creating different beds of flowers that pay homage to an earlier time.  I will let you know what I come up with.

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The alone girl…

The spirited tomboy maintained a brisk pace as she made her way to the store at the crossroads.  She grumbled under her breath about having to go for some groceries because it cost her precious reading time.  If she didn’t have plans to play after school, and she often did, she loved nothing more than to curl up with their small dog and read.  It was a peaceful time of day before the clamor of her brother’s arrival from whatever he did after school.  Her mother wouldn’t be home until after 9:00 p.m., due to her night school class.

The best part of going to the store was being at the store.  The older couple who ran the store, Gabe and Sarah, treated her like a precious commodity.  The girl drank it in like a magical nectar.

“Hey, Little Al.  How was school?”  The couple was cheerful to a fault.  The girl grinned at the use of the nickname.  When her family began shopping at the store, Gabe had designated them Al Sr., Mrs. Al, Al Jr., and Little Al.  It didn’t matter that only her father’s name was correct.  He was gone from the picture anyhow, well over a year now.  His penchant for drinking threatened to destroy the family literally and figuratively.  The girl’s mother and brother bore the brunt of her father’s alcohol-induced rage.  Little Al remained untouched by the father but she bore witness to it night after night.

“School was good.  Here’s what I need, Gabe,” Little Al said as she slid a scrap of paper containing a short list across the counter to the stocky man, a butcher by trade.  Sarah beamed at the girl and listened as Little Al regaled her with stories from her day in the 7th grade.

Gabe bustled about the small store.  He called to the girl, “Little Al, grab a package of stuffed shells out of the freezer.”  The girl complied and laid them on the counter.

“Your brother must be cooking tonight.”  Sarah was observant.  When her mother was home, they usually ate sensible meals of meat, potatoes and vegetables.  Her brother liked to be creative and made a jazzed up tomato sauce to put on the stuffed shells.  The head of iceberg lettuce would play a large role in the making of a salad.  And the girl smiled as she knew she would make “Russian” dressing for ketchup and mayonnaise for the salad.  It was one of her favorite salad dressings.

Little Al’s smile dimmed as she remembered if he cooked, she had to clean up.  He always got to cook, being four years her senior.  If she even tried to cook, he would berate her efforts and then smack her a few times to make sure she didn’t do it again.  His beatings went undetected.  The girl never said anything to her mother, for fear of retribution, and her brother never hit her where bruises would show.  Gabe tallied her purchases with his stub of a pencil, the girl was always amazed at how fast he could add in his head, and handed the paper bag of goods to his Little Al.

The girl glanced at the large wall clock with its sweeping second hand.  She realized if she hustled home she would still have almost an hour to read.  It would take her twelve minutes to walk home.  She wished her bike wasn’t broken today.  Every once in a great while her brother flattened one of her bike’s tires just to remind her who was in control.  She could patch the tires in her sleep but was currently in need of a new tire patch kit.  And so, she was on foot.

“See you tomorrow,” the girl said aloud as more customers entered the small store.  Gabe and Sarah waved to their Little Al, smiles in place.  The girl didn’t mind the walk home.  It gave her a chance to think about her favorite books and tv shows.  It was best to think of anything else instead of having to think about spending the evening with her brother.  A quick shudder passed through her as she said a quick prayer that she wouldn’t do or say anything to set him off.  Even if banished to her room, the girl had her imagination for entertainment.  Though she spent a great deal of time alone, she was never lonely.

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Spring means lilacs…

While winter in the Northeast may be dreary and frigid, Spring is a different experience entirely.   Each season has its own smells.  For me, Spring is full of earthy aromas.  Whether it’s the woodsy, rich smell of freshly turned garden soil or the damp smell after a spring rain that makes me think of worms, the heady fragrances of spring-blooming trees and shrubs take precedence.

I do enjoy seeing the bulbs grow and bloom but I have to say hyacinths, though pretty, are far too pungent for my sensitive nose.  I prefer subtle scents and lilacs fit that bill for me.  Lilacs have woven themselves into various parts of my life beginning when I was just a tyke.  Picture a vacant field, maybe the size of a large back yard.  An eight foot barrier of arborvitae protect the field from the dead-end street.  Beyond the hedge is a magical play land.

It even has a name.  It’s called the “lot.”  Not very original but it had enchanting properties.  Many a game was enjoyed there:  kickball, baseball, football.  The field of my youthful athletic pursuits was covered unevenly with grass, weeds, dirt patches, and was bordered by patches of rhubarb and lilac bushes.  A memory emerges of a warm spring afternoon full of that strong, new spring sun. Kids sit around spent after vigorous play, quietly picking apart sprigs of lilac.  I was told if I sucked on the small end of the individual flower, I might get some nectar.  It was true.  It was a satisfying activity.

Lilacs smell like spring, slightly floral with an underlying sweetness.  I grew up seeing the traditional violet and white but they do come in other colors, all beautiful.  One of the first poems I learned in grade school was “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” by Walt Whitman.  “—and from this bush in the dooryard,/With delicate-color’d blossoms…”  In my mind I’m able to picture this expanse of lilac bush protecting the doorway of this old farmhouse.  I didn’t know until I was in high school, and studied the poem again, that it was written in response to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.  It is indeed a beautiful elegy, filled with emotion and grief.

When I was teaching, a house near the school had some lilac bushes in the front yard.  As lost as I could become in the end of school year frenzy, it never failed to cheer me on those cool sunny spring mornings to drive by when the lilacs were in bloom.  Waves of their scent washed over me as I drove by and I was transported back to the lot and then to class recitations of Whitman’s poems.  Lilacs represent the best of what spring offers; the offer of lengthening days and and the bounty of summer to come.  Lilacs represent hope and rebirth.  Lilacs represent the baseball season and the promise of football season.

In the words of the Beatles:  “Here comes the sun, and I say/It’s all right.”  Play some classic tunes or turn on a ball game.  Step outside and breathe in the richness of the spring air.  Listen to a little CCR:  “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today.”  Embrace the season.

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In the movie Finding Forrester, teenage Jamal is surprised to discover that famed writer William Forrester reads The National Enquirer.  Forrester says he reads the New York Times as his main course but the Enquirer is dessert.  I understand that thinking.  I’ve studied and taught classics for decades but I also enjoy reading fluff in addition to lots of different genres.  there are fluffy films as well as fluffy books.  We can learn from fluff.

Fluff relates to today’s blog post title.  It’s a term from the film Dazed and Confused.  The film is set on the last day of school in 1976, the time I graduated from high school.  It’s fun to look at the cars and fashions.  Though many characters smoke weed throughout the film, I was oblivious to that back then.  However, I was well acquainted with kegs and beer drinking.  Loved keg parties.  “You gotta do what Randall Pink Floyd wants to do man,” says Wooderson in the movie.  It’s advice for being true to one’s own desires.

Even though I taught at my alma mater for 25 years, I’m certain that I progressed emotionally and intellectually from being in high school.  My high school experience doesn’t define me.  Actually, I’m disappointed that I hung out with some people who turned out not to be nice people.  It’s all part of a learning experience.  One chooses to learn or does not choose to learn.  Plenty of folks remain stuck in that high school mentality, still riddled with angst and mired in their snobbish nastiness.  The joke’s on them, though.  They’re very impressed with themselves.  Most people are able to see through it.

My high school was full of cliques, it still is.  Cliques were exemplified in The Breakfast Club, one of John Hughes’ epic coming-of-age films.  Stereotyping and cliques are an integral part of all high school experiences.  Let’s face it, we don’t know what is going on in anyone’s life at any given time.  We also don’t know how our attitudes and beliefs are affecting others, especially if those beliefs have been determined through use of misinformation.

Think about those stereotypes and then think of how those folks have turned out.  There are plenty of kids who were on the outside looking in who are now very successful.  Some of the popular kids have turned out well, but not all.  And just because one is a success, judged by today’s standards of wealth, etc., doesn’t mean he or she is a nice person.  I know I spent four years trying to “fit in.”  Yes, I made good grades, I played sports, I had friends.  Ultimately the friends I worked so hard to “cultivate” ended up rejecting me at the last.  And I rejected some people who tried to be my friend.

What I didn’t understand…wait, that’s not true.  I did understand but was not yet emotionally equipped to be my own person and not to be what I was expected to be.  It was okay to be smart and to be athletic.  It was okay to be friendly with people outside of the accepted clique.  It was okay to have a strong body and to be proud of it despite those who called you a burly or a dyke.

Thankfully a few of my friends exemplify the definition of “friend” and we remain friends to this day.   One of them spent the day with me yesterday while my boyfriend underwent bypass surgery.  That’s what friends do.  And they don’t give a hoot if I’m sporting a tennis bracelet, a large diamond ring, driving a luxury car and living in a McMansion.  They don’t mind if I’m dressed in jeans and knock-off boat shoes, don’t wear makeup or if my Fossil handbag is five years old.  They know what’s on the inside (not of my handbag).

Jamal, the Breakfast Club kids, and those from Dazed and Confused navigated their teen years ducking and confronting stereotypes.  Just keep livin’.  It’s a choice.  Be true to yourself and be what you are.  Live life on your terms and stop living out your teen fantasies.

See the source image

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A feast of memories…

imageI’ve been visiting the happy memory bank in my head a great deal lately.  It’s a combination of real memories and memories I’d like to achieve.  They may never happen but they might.  Picnicking was a popular pastime when I was a kid.  My family and I enjoyed spending time outdoors and eating al fresco was something we did fairly often.

Living in Vermont provided many opportunities for outdoor activities.  Therefore, circumstances were favorable for picnicking.  We had a traditional wicker picnic basket with the flat wood top and large handles.  Many picnics occurred at lunch time so those were pretty straightforward.  Most of the time we were swimming at North Beach or some other spot on Lake Champlain.  We had sandwiches, wrapped in wax paper, and my mother always packed lots of fruit.  Plums were easy to transport as were slices of watermelon.  On occasion one might find small pretzel sticks, celery sticks, carrot sticks, small gherkins, olives, deviled eggs and/or quartered radishes.  Never did we find chips or soda.  But there were usually some homemade cookies.

I am definitely an eater who likes to graze.  Once, when I was in my late 20’s, I prepared a picnic feast meant to impress.  While the food was good, it was a tremendous pain to transport.  I also discovered I wasn’t a big fan of cold fried chicken.  Add some potato salad and pie and we were ready to nap for hours.  Tasty, but far too heavy.  Grazing is more fun, items are easier to pack and transport, and a wide variety of foods can be provided.  Some things I like to pack now:  cheese cubes or Babybel cheeses, small crackers, grapes, gherkins, hummus, carrot and celery sticks, rolled slices of ham and cheese, plums, watermelon cubes, nuts, etc.  If space allows I might make some macaroni salad with tuna.  I pack that into 12 oz. plastic cups and cover with plastic wrap.

I am definitely not a gourmet picknicker, nor am I a foodie.  One could easily transport a baguette, various cheeses and some wine for a picnic.  I don’t care to grill during a picnic.  I save that for eating at home.  Also, I prefer the use of a picnic table as opposed to sitting on the ground.  The periodic car picnic is sometimes necessary and can be fun.  It works well when one is traveling and the weather is inclement or scorching hot.

Many fond memories of mine have their roots in picnicking.  Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of eating outdoors anymore because of heat and insects.  But in a perfect world, the one that exists in my head, a picnic is a lovely thing.


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I thought I had no words…

As it turns out, I was wrong.  Shock and disbelief robbed me of them for at least 24 hours but, at last, the machinery in my head is clanking again.  During my 25 year career as a teacher, I figure that 3200 to 3500 students passed through my classroom.  There were kids of all types.  I think the best part of teaching was meeting kids of different ability levels, personalities, life experiences, challenges, etc.  No two were alike.  The students who were seniors when I began teaching high school English are in their mid-40’s now.

During my career, I taught all four grade levels of high school and all ability levels.  I was fortunate to teach a wide variety of courses.  Many students have gone on to live productive lives, to create careers and families.  A few have made bad decisions and are incarcerated.  Others have dealt with different demons.  In my mind, these students remain teenagers in my head; they are perennially full of youthful exuberance and hope, no matter what has happened.

The other evening I was texting with a former colleague.  During the course of our texting, we exchanged some of the local “news.”  Since we both live in the same community where we taught, we often pass along the latest info on former students.  To paraphrase a text that appeared on my phone screen, “So and so OD’ed the other night.”  I asked if the individual had died from the OD.  He had.  A sour liquid traveled into my throat and I briefly thought I might vomit.

I remember this young man well.  Almost every day he entered the classroom with a grin.  It’s not every day kids actually seem happy to enter English class, so it’s easy to recall the happy faces.  This particular young man was quick to laugh and we conducted endless discussions of sports.  He was a nice, normal, all-American kid.  More the fool was I.  I never saw in him the quiet desperation displayed by some students, I never saw that the good cheer may have been a facade, I never saw any inkling of the battle that was to come in this young man’s life.

I really didn’t have any words.  In fact I kept seeing the same sentence imprinted in my head.  I.Have.No.Words.

I feel I don’t have any of the “right” words, whatever they may be.  What could possibly have caused this young man to die from a drug overdose?  There are no definitive answers.  Genetic imprints would cause a pre-disposition.  Many will wonder what they could have done.  The sad answer is they most likely could not have stopped this.  I received this news on the night of a day when I had attended the funeral of a 97 year old woman.  The whole circle of life thing ran through my head.  Life isn’t supposed to end at 33.  I’d participated in celebrating that woman’s life and so I will celebrate Marcus’ life, despite his leaving so soon.  My heartache is deep but I will continue to focus on my memory of his smiling face.

In his obituary, his family shared he’d battled for 10 years with addiction.  To quote from his beautiful tribute, “Addiction is not a moral shortcoming and does not define you.”  Only the ignorant would think otherwise.  In another paragraph it says, “All Marcus wanted was a normal life, free from the chains of addiction.”  I applaud his grieving family for sharing these thoughts with us in an attempt to help others who battle in the same manner.

And now my words fail me.  I.Have.No.Words.

“Now cracks a noble heart./Good-night, sweet prince;/And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”  William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

In memory of Marcus Kaplan, 1986-2019.  Sweet dreams, kiddo, you’re free from those chains.

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Spring, love, and heartache…

Admittedly I am not the best at remembering quotes, much less entire poems; however, as the season struggles to morph from winter to spring one particular line flits through my subconscious…”In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”  We have Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his poem “Locksley Hall,” to thank for that bit of observation.  Actually, I think I recall it more from a song that my brother forced me to dance to as a kid more than from my study of it during my college years.

At any rate, immersed as I am in writing the history of our local school district, I’ve spent a great deal of time recently reviewing my notes of various interviews I’ve conducted with former students.  One area of commonality discussed is the experiences of crushes, dating, and young love.  Most recently an alumnus from a class in the 1950’s shared some excerpts from his autobiography (written for his family).  Among the interesting details ran a thread of female admiration and worship from afar.  Here was a young man locked in the world of his shyness, yet conducting his idea of courting certain lasses purely in his imagination.  Admit it, most of us have been there.

Many of us are able to recall pining over certain individuals who had no idea of our existence.  I certainly did.  But I was hamstrung by my rather strict upbringing and my adherence to the propriety that was drummed into my head from an early age.  For the most part I have no complaints as it taught me pride in displaying exemplary manners and that treating any person with kindness and respect is part of one’s daily life.  However, I was clueless about boys, dating, flirting, and courtship in general.  Add to that my painful shyness and you have a recipe for disaster, especially when I discovered I liked that boy/girl thing.

There is always hope, though.  Back in the 1970’s it was not proper etiquette for a girl to ask a boy on a date.  So, many of us withered on the vine waiting for that one important invitation.  Thankfully we had the occasional Sadie Hawkins dance where it was acceptable for a girl to ask a boy.  Somehow I managed to dial the phone and stammer an invitation.  Elation ensued when the invitation was accepted!  The dance was a success and I was smitten.

Knowing what I know now, I should have known it wouldn’t last.  To quote Ponyboy Curtis, via Robert Frost, “Then leaf subsides to leaf./So Eden sank to grief,/So Dawn goes down to day./Nothing gold can stay.”  It was good while it lasted but the experience of first “love” leaves it mark.

Courtship was a confusing time.  I was taught not to let boys take “liberties,” so my conscience was perennially at war, locked in the classic angel vs. devil debate.  The angel won that battle and the boy I was so crazy about moved on to another girl, maybe because her internal devil was stronger.  Who knows?  What I do know is that I was shattered.  I just didn’t get it.  I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t good enough.  Teenagers are simply not developed enough intellectually to understand that it’s just part of our development and we shouldn’t take it personally.  But I did, and held on to that rejection for an unhealthy period of time.  Listen, it didn’t affect any future relationships or anything like that.  It was just a part of my memory that was always sad.  Still is.  It’s part of life.  I think parts of us still pine for what was and what might have been.  This one thing is my particular Achilles heel.  It’s fine.  And such a sweet, sweet memory.

N.B. — if “you probably think this song is about you” it is!  (homage to Carly Simon)

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The sun is shining…

and, for me, that’s a wonderful thing.  I can deal with most anything if the sun is shining.  I’m definitely one of those people who needs lots of natural light.  Despite my love of the sunshine, I’ve never thought of myself as a sunbather.  In my mind, sunbathers were those individuals who roasted and basted themselves for hours in the sun.  I’ve never been able to do that because I get too antsy.  I just can’t sit that long, especially if there is a body of water nearby.

After looking at the definition of the word ‘sunbathe,’ it does appear I may just be one of those.  The definition mentions sitting or lying in the sun, especially to darken the skin.  I guess I don’t think of it that way.  My body and psyche just feels a whole lot better when I absorb some rays.  Do I enjoy being tan?  Well, yes I do.  Am I going to end up paying for my affinity for the sun?  Yes, I will.  Will I be able to restrict my time in the sun if need be?  I don’t think so.  I’ve spent the last 20 or so Summers frolicking in the water.  I love to swim and be in the water.  It’s my jam.

I grew up playing outside in all seasons.  I had a great deal of sun exposure.  Being a fair-skinned individual, I often experienced a mild sunburn before tanning took place.  Over the years I’ve had a few horrific sunburns.  I taught tennis for many summers, always outdoors.  There was no sunscreen back then.  We burned.  Teaching tennis was a great way to get sun because I was always moving and never thought of it as sunbathing.  The only time I intentionally set out to get some color was for the Senior Ball in high school when I sat in the backyard with aluminum foil on my Beach Boys “Endless Summer” album cover.  It was a double album so maximum exposure.  I ended up a deep shade of red, go figure.

In fact, the neighborhood pool opens on May 19th and unless it’s raining I will be over there with my bathing suit on and will get in the water despite it being a brisk 60 degrees on average.  This is on my mind because tomorrow is my visit to the dermatologist.  I’m sure he is going to recommend I lighten up on the sun.  And I’m fairly certain he will be “zapping” a few spots.  Don’t you love it when they say, “you’ll feel a little pinch.”  Are you kidding me?  I’ve been pinched by the best (my brother comes to mind) and I’ve never felt a pinch like that.  Certainly I take precautions by using sunscreen, and have for years, but I know the damage was done long ago.  I’m willing to continue to be cautious but I don’t want to stay out of the sun.  As Sheryl Crow sings, “I’m gonna soak up the sun.”  I have to.  It’s part of my soul.

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Laugh often and laugh hard

“Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.”  Lucy Maud Montgomery

At the age of five, I first experienced the wonder of Mary Poppins on film.  It was sunshine and lollipops on the big screen.  And, for me, the pinnacle was Ed Wynn floating and singing “I Love to Laugh.”  Even now when I think of it I can’t help smile.

Humor is an important part of my life, always has been.  According to my mom, I was a funny kid.  I didn’t always mean to be, but I was.  I did silly things, said silly things, performed spontaneous silly acts.  As a toddler I walked about the house with a box on my head and talked a blue streak to myself.  In pre-toddler years, it was said that when I performed a funny little dance that meant it was time to change my diaper.  If it feels good, do it.

My mind finds most everything funny, or ironic.  Quips escape my lips faster than water from a broken hydrant.  At times, I marvel at my own thoughts, at times I don’t understand why others don’t see the humor in things, at times I wish I’d kept my mouth shut.  C’est la vie.

I’ve experienced many forms of laughter:  the spontaneous blurt; the screaming laughter; the titter (yes, I just chuckled as I typed that word); the mirth-filled snort; the ‘lol’; the uncontrollable that produces tears and excess mucous (and perhaps various and sundry other bodily fluids); the inappropriate laugh that you have to swallow; and any other that exists.

My friends all like to laugh, that’s part of why they’re my friends.  And with some longtime friends, the laughter is as powerful now as it was decades ago.  Maybe there is a more mature tone to it.  Nah.  What’s the fun in that?  As a high school teacher, I tried to avoid certain words in the classroom.  Believe it or not, the word “duty” takes on a whole new meaning to adolescents.  I always included a specific Sherlock Holmes short story because when Watson has to awaken Holmes he says, “Sorry to have knocked you up, Holmes.”  Minutes would pass as the students laughed deliriously.  This episode was always followed by a few specific questions:  “Are they gay?,” “Why are they living together?,” and my favorite, “Is Holmes really a woman?”  Believe me, at times like this it was hard to remain in adult mode given my own state of foolish mind.  But there are teachable moments in every situation and I would turn the discussion to differences in language and time periods.

Given my non-married status a student once asked if I was queer.  My instantaneous response, “I’ve been known to be considered odd from time to time,” at which point I burst into laughter.  Then I would have to explain my response because they didn’t get it and thought I’d gone off the deep end.  It was an honest answer.  The question was rude.  Thankfully my reaction distracted us from the question’s original intent.

There are times when I crack myself up and I’ve been known to start laughing for no apparent reason.  In my own head there’s a reason.  Things and words just strike me as funny.  Through the miracle of the Internet, I can feed this habit at any time by watching videos.  And some I can watch over and over and over, like the iconic dance greats dancing to “Uptown Funk.”  A laughable favorite is “Mafia Babies,” part of the Brock’s Dub series on YouTube.  If there are sight gags along with silly language, I’m just a mess.  I like the thinking dogs who say “heckin'” and express their thoughts in ways that I’ve actually thought on my own.  I like any of the Bad Lip Reading series.  Honestly, I don’t always need the outside visual because I’m pretty entertaining on my own (at least in my own head I am).

Laughter has saved me and I mean that in the most literal sense.  Let yourself be silly, let yourself laugh randomly, let yourself be amused.  It’s marvelously restorative.  Haha.

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