On the Lighter Side
March has a pretty serious tone to it sometimes. Here in Buffalo, it can be a roller coaster of weather, as we await some consistent and steady signs of spring. (Although we Buffalonians have no complaints this year, with our very mild winter.)
Winter’s confinement sometimes brings those colds and flu bugs that we have to deal with. Then there are the Lenten practices in which we are engaged, which are oh-so-healthy for us, but can be difficult as well.
It is during times like these that my thoughts turn to the things that have made me smile or laugh out loud over the years. When it comes to marriage and raising children, the value of a sense of humor cannot be underestimated. And in the course of raising our “fabulous five” (or at times called the “fearsome five”), there have been a lot of occasions for laughter.
Laugher was highly valued in the household in which I was raised. It has been my observation that people with the best senses of humor are often those who have known great difficulty or hardship in their lives.
My mother was a prime example of this. Becoming the breadwinner of our family after my dad became disabled, she struggled to put us all through Catholic schools while dealing with significant health problems herself.
In the last years of her life, she was in and out of the hospital regularly.
Once, while waiting…and waiting…and waiting for discharge in the emergency room hallway of the local hospital in Rochester with my brother, she broke into a raucously loud and clear rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Please Release Me.” (Needless to say, swift action followed and she was home soon after!)
I chuckle to myself whenever I think of this, or of how my mother would love to hear of the antics of her grandchildren. There was no clear winner in the “funniest child” category, but there sure were some golden moments. Here’s a couple:
Peter, of course, has many stories that surround his adjustment to a normal American family life after three and a half years of neglect in a Russian orphanage. I remember once being at the eye doctor’s office with him (which routinely was full of enough hilarity as it was), when he was around 8 years old. Peter was longing to have glasses like his sisters, and sure enough, glasses were prescribed.
Then came the long-awaited moment for him to pick out frames. Barely able to contain his excitement, he carefully studied the rack of children’s frames, and selected his favorite to try on. As I placed them over his ears, he turned to look in the mirror…and his face registered a disbelief bordering on angered incredulity at some conspiracy. He announced in a voice loud enough for all the office to hear, “HEY! THERE’S NO GLASS IN THEM!”
Yes, that one always makes me laugh to remember…but then I remember four-year-old Jessie and her cute blonde curls bouncing as she skipped into the kitchen to ask, “Hey, Mom, what’s for dinner?”
She replied, “Is it lasagna in the highest?” (What a good little Catholic girl!)
That is the same girl who used to confuse song lyrics and stubbornly insist that she was correct. For a while, she had Old McDonald riding in a one horse open sleigh with Fanny Bright!
Our Saints knew that a sense of humor helps us to restore proper perspective and balance. St. Philip Neri once said, “A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.” And St. Teresa of Avila said, “Lord, save us from sour-faced saints!”
In the course of teaching our children to become saints, and striving to become one ourselves, let’s remember to cultivate a joyful heart, perhaps by pondering and retelling those stories from the times when we have smiled and laughed together in this funny community we call “family.”