Posted by: pendrops | January 11, 2007

laughing with dad


“My dad loved to laugh.”
Mike Myers

Jason and I recently watched an old family video, one from the vault, one that holds the footage of a 20-year-old Hendryx legend: the Pogo-Ball Incident. Children of the 80s may remember these ridiculous devices: a glow-in-the-dark ball filled with air under a platform where you put your feet and go about your day happily bouncing around.

Mom and dad got me one when I was eight and, being the perfectionist I was (even then), I threw a nasty tantrum at not being able to pogo on my first try.

As we watched my hysterics, Jason pointed out something I’d never noticed before. “You’re dad is cracking up. Just listen to him.” I’d always been so captivated, and humiliated, by my behavior, the way I chucked the Pogo-Ball at the front porch, tears streaking my face, that I’d never paid much attention to the hysterics behind the camera.

I rewound to the beginning of my Pogo-tantrum and listened this time for my dad. “Stop laughing,” I cried, staring into the lens, to which my dad zoomed in on my face and replied with more laughter.

He could have done any number of things in that moment. Stood stoic and silent behind the camera, waiting till I had given up. Discouraged me, telling me it’s too difficult, that we’d take it back and get another toy. Or sent me to my room with a spanking so I’d think about not acting so ugly again.

But instead he laughed. Not with cruelty or wickedness. Not to exasperate or taunt. But to show me something.

The video played and I sat, mouth gapping open at the genius of my young dad. Somehow in that flurry of childish rage, dad’s laughter showed me it’s good to laugh at myself. Don’t take Pogo-balling, yourself, or anything else, too seriously. I don’t think he knew he was saying that, he was just doing his thing. But in it was wisdom, even a lesson for a little girl who already took everything too much to heart.

It’s a humbling thing to laugh at yourself, to admit you can’t do something, to acknowledge that you’ve made a fool of yourself. And it’s freeing to have a perspective on the world that gives yourself and others room to mess up and then laugh about it.

I never made it on the Pogo-Ball that day, but, by the end of my fit, dad cracked my smile open and had me laughing. I didn’t exactly want to, but I couldn’t help it. Even there, in the moment itself, I sensed it just begging for a giggle. Dad showed me that.

He showed me a lot of other things about living, too. Thanks, dad. Thanks for laughter.


Happy Birthday, with love.


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