“Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” -Proverbs 27:17
Some families have a dynastic culture of sports, or travel, or movie quotations. If I were trying to pinpoint our family culture, I’d put at the top of the list (excluding eating, which is a given: potlucks, feasts, and ice cream socials are a staple of family reunions) that we tend to play games, laugh, and talk.
Now, I don’t think we ever set out to cultivate a family dynamic that prized witticisms, word play, and a willingness to be silly. We just talk a lot; the wordiness and silliness is a natural byproduct of good-hearted conversation on a prolific scale.
A recent road trip with my brother, wherein we catalogued various family memories, brought to mind many fond recollections and family traditions from years past. We reminisced about a previous road trip with other siblings from years ago, featuring the memorable “head count” conversation. Somehow we got onto the topic of taking a roll call to ensure we were all there. Someone suggested a head count, but that was dismissed as being insufficiently complicated. “I know! We could count hands, and divide by two. Or legs, or eyeballs.” A prior conversation had introduced the topic of piracy, which was quickly referenced to squelch any creative counting methods. “What if Captain Hook, Peg Leg, and Eyepatch were all in the car? They’d throw off the count, and then you’d have to go into fractions.” Our family is staffed mainly with mathematical whizzes (I am not one of them), so the idea of determining a quorum from fractional percentages wasn’t any kind of a wet blanket on the conversation.
A recurring family joke erupted pretty constantly through my childhood whenever a camera made an appearance. The picture-taker would announce, “Say something humorous.” Without fail, a chorus of voices would ring out: “Aqueous!” “Radius!” “Ulna!”
Actually, taking pictures and documenting Important Events is another deeply held tradition for my family. When my father recently landed in the hospital, I posted the following on social media to update friends and family alike:
Here we are at the hospital on Saturday. The conversation (roughly paraphrased) went like this:
Mom: [gets out camera]
J [rolls eyes]: Mom! Seriously?
Mom: I’m sorry! I’m just being me! You know I have to take a picture!
Me: Shall we all stare at Dad as if he’s on his deathbed, or shall we smile for the camera?
M: Look natural, everyone!
L: D, close the blinds! Or else just move in front of the window to block the light.
Yup, that’s us, rallying around the (non) deathbed with appropriate gallows humor.
In all seriousness, I’m very glad that my dad recovered from his short stent (ha, ha!) in the hospital, and is now home safe recovering.
Families are great.
A propensity for nonsense as well as sense has always rated high in my estimation, with friends and acquaintances alike. One conversation in particular stands out in my memory:
“Let me give a word to the wise—“
“Oh, I expect I’ll hear a lot more than one word.”
“Well, perhaps if you were a bit wiser, one word would do.”
“Ah. So next time you want to bring up a delicate topic, you should probably premise it by saying, ‘A few words to a somewhat wise person.’”
“I see your point, but that’s not the way the saying goes.”
“And yet, if you said it, then it would be your saying. And you do tend to pride yourself on originality.”
Reader, I married him.
Photo Credit: All images taken by Rose Focht.