Toxic Mom Toolkit: You Can Laugh or You Can Cry

24 Mar

As part of the Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project the next question is:

When you were little what did you think was the funniest thing? What made you laugh until your stomach hurt?

My dad, the beatnik printer, used to always say with a gleam in his eye,

“You can laugh or you can cry.”

When I would take a hard fall on skates and run to him weeping and showing off a fresh scrape he had this act, this routine, that would always leave me dissolved in giggles.

“You FELL? Where? Show me where you’re hurt!” he’d say breathlessly.

He’d scan my arms and legs with his huge hands, squeezing and waving my little limbs, asking me if this or that was broken; could I still feel it?  After he determined that I wasn’t actually broken he’d demand that I take him back outside to the sidewalk in front of our house and show him the precise, exact inch of sidewalk where I landed. He was worried that if I hit it that hard I might have left a crack and the Crack Police would come and write him a ticket – which cost money.

We’d get down on our hands and knees and touching the concrete with our fingers, feel around for fissures.

My dad would point to a little normal city street crack and demand to know if I had broken the sidewalk, right there.  Maybe we could ‘pin it’ on the little neighbor kid down the block.

“His dad’s a car mechanic. He can afford to pay the Crack Police fines. Not me! Not this week!” my dad would exclaim dramatically.

The routine went on and on until our giggles attracted a little knot of neighborhood kids to help us study the cracks in the sidewalk in front of our house. My father wasn’t worried about little hairline cracks, but big divots that collected dirt and allowed weeds to grow – that would be trouble.

My father had a knack for turning childhood upsets into funny adventures. When the gold fish died we held a New Orleans funeral for it, opening umbrellas in the house and parading down the hall behind him holding the fish bowl up high then pouring it dramatically into a flushing toilet. Then we’d all applaud poor dead Leon on his way to Ocean Heaven.

My dad and I wondered aloud what flowers said to each other and why birds liked to steal penny nails. We gave inanimate objects names in order to talk about them more. We talked and giggled and used our imaginations. Kids cry. But when my dad was involved, tears quickly turned into laughter.  We learned that bad things happen, but if you let the bad go, it’s natural to find something funny about it. Laughing is a choice, a habit. It’s a gift from my father for which I am eternally grateful.

When you were little what did you think was the funniest thing? What made you laugh until your stomach hurt?

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2 Responses to “Toxic Mom Toolkit: You Can Laugh or You Can Cry”

  1. dianmarie March 24, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    What a nice memory to treasure about your dad! My dad and I shared the same sense of humor: Listening to those old Bill Cosby records, Monty Python, Don Rickles… Though he’s been gone over 15 years, I still will watch an old movie and remember that he laughed particularly hard at certain scenes. We saw “What About Bob?” in the theatre and to this day I remember him dabbing at his eyes with a handkerchief because he laughed so hard.

    Mother didn’t have as much of a sense of humor. Mostly I remember her interfering and giving us a job to do if there was too much laughter and she wasn’t included. As a very young child I remember spinning myself around with arms outstretched like a helicopter, then plopping myself upside down on a rocking chair. The room would spin, my stomach would flip-flop and I’d giggle like a fool. Mother hated that and made me stop. It was that old-school thinking, if it made you feel good, it’s got to be bad!

    Anyway, though I had my issues with Dad (the booze), I do treasure the shared laughter we had together.

    P.S. You refer to your “beatnik” printer dad… My dad was the Accountant. Both my parents were the button-down, ultra-conservative, middle-class, suburban types.

    P.P.S. I enjoy your posts on FB, but hesitate to comment or even “like” the posts because of the privacy issue (family members, friends, etc. just wouldn’t understand even if I did try to explain). But I do see and enjoy them.

    • collectingjourneys March 24, 2012 at 9:21 am #

      Dear heart, don’t worry about commenting on Facebook. I totally understand. Thank you for sharing your story about laughing with your dad. These memories sustain us. – Rayne

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