Humor strikes from anywhere, like a tornado that reassembles the spirit, re-aligns the heart, and restores a smile in darkness.
It was just another southern night. Routine. The little Yankee turned Tennessee Transplant Branch of the Boggs family was enjoying an evening at home. Jon was busy putting in some overtime keyboard-pounding at home for his new editing job. Torrie was catching up with friends on Facebook. And little four-year old Jared was biding his time, pretending to be engrossed in a Power Rangers rerun. To the uninitiated, Jared looks like any other four year old boy. To all of us, he is a consistent top contender for the Boggs Family Funniest Moment Award, a junior jokester extraordinaire, a master minor of myrth. 2013 was to be no different.
At just the right moment, Jared leaped up onto the couch near his mother, moved closer, and out of the clear blue sky, licked her across her forehead, then just as quickly, re-seated himself without missing a Power Ranger plot line. Torrie, of course surprised, no, shocked, was beginning to recover when Jared casually looked up and remarked matter-of-factly, “There. That ought to cool you off.” So much for hot Knoxville nights.
This moment was but one in a year chock full of funny. Throughout 2013, each of my eight grandkiddos brought joy and out-loud laughs on a regular basis. From Josiah’s hilarious routine with the Parmesan cheese at the pizza place to Brook’s insistence on impersonating my many facial expressions in two of my plays she saw, it was hard to narrow the field.
Laughter is vital to me. I love to experience it and to produce it in others. I admire it. I prize it. It snaps the shackles of the common and forces me to see a bigger world, and see it and myself less seriously. As Proverbs says, “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” Indeed it does. So every year at Christmastime, I recognize and award a prize to the funniest moment. This year was tough. I even almost gave myself an “honorable mention” for Elvis the Buffalo. That’s another story.
Jared has managed to get his funny on nearly every year in the five years of the competition. He’s hard to beat. Cousin Grace Cressman, age seven, always seems to be in the running too. A few weeks ago, I was visiting Grace and her family in Canada. I was on a ride-along with my daughter Valerie, taking grandson Bryce to a friend’s house. On the way, Grace asked if she could play games on her Mom’s iPhone. Valerie was interested in getting Grace to calm down so she said “not now.” Five minutes later, Valerie was walking with Bryce up to his friend’s door, leaving me in the car alone with Grace. No sooner had the door closed, Grace asked, “Grandad, can I play games on your iPhone?” Now please understand, normally, I would not hesitate to hand over my phone to Grace. It’s what grandads are supposed to do. Yet with my daughter nearby, and since Grace had just been told “no,” I was stuck in a horrible spot for a fun-loving Grandad. I said “Sorry, Grace, your mom just said no.”
She missed not one beat. “Grandad, Mom said no to my twin sister, not to me.” The speed in which this story spilled forth, the detail, and the straight face behind it had me rolling with laughter and exploring the concept. Turns out there is a Grace and a Gracie. This was a contender. Or two as it were. I never did figure out just where Gracie sleeps.
There was more. In years past, there have been many classically funny comedy duos. Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, and Yogi and Boo-Boo. Add to that list Boggs and Cressman (listed alphabetically). I had the side-splitting honor of going on tour with these two budding comedy stars from Chicago to Orlando and back. These two characters, ages nine and ten, had me laughing from start to finish. Austin had a unending brainful of comedy for us, from learning and singing “Folsom Prison Blues” to impersonating his cousins to screaming literally like a girl at all the wrong places on an assortment of Disney rides. Slapstick his forte, with a solid stand-up routine featuring Brayden as the perfect straight man, Austin has the ability to squeeze a laugh from any situation. These two cousins and best friends have a future in silliness and also have memorized my lines as “Dr. Chumley” in the play “Harvey” as we drove. Like I said. Talent.
So this year, since I make the rules of this competition, I decided it was a four-way tie. Thanks to each of these deserving winners. The prize this year was a genuine Laughing Bag, now digital, of course. Each squeeze of the bag produces raucous laughing, so the winners are never without an audience. These kiddos each brought so much joy into their grandfather’s heart this year. Joy, and most welcome laughter. So did the other four. I love being a grandad. Yes, “a merry heart does good like a medicine.”