Terrence, my five year-old grandson, came to spend the night. When it was time for bed, I read a story; that’s our ritual. I usually read one of the Berenstain Bears books because that’s what he’s been liking lately. Instead, I reached for The Adventures of Bobby Coon by Thornton W Burgess. On the first page is an inscription: Jack Brandon, Christmas 1924. My father-in-law who passed away a few years before I married his son Douglas, received the book when he was about the age of our grandson.
Bobby Coon, nesting in a hollow tree for the winter, had a bad dream. The dream turned into a nightmare. A giant was beating Bobby’s log with a stick. Bobby rubbed his sleepy eyes. The dreadful pounding continued. The half-awake coon didn’t know if he was dreaming or awake. He decided to bite his tail. That would let him know if he was awake or asleep. At this point in the story Terrence began to giggle.
“So Bobby took the tip of his tail in his mouth and bit it gently. Then he wondered if he really did feel it or just seemed to feel it. So he bit it again, and this time he bit harder. ‘Ouch!’ cried Bobby.”
Terrence lost control of his giggle. He rolled back and forth on the bed struggling for breath.
At this exact moment I discovered an awful truth. Terrence has inherited my gift of visualizing a scene into absurdity. It’s a helpful ability when used in writing but one that’s also caused me embarrassment. Once when I was fifteen, sitting in a church pew at a youth meeting, the teenage zealous speaker, his face red from exertion, preached to us about our sinful tendency to criticize others.
He cited Jesus’ story about the man who tried to remove a speck from another man’s eye and couldn’t do it because he had a massive beam stuck in his own eye. A vivid picture settled in my brain. A man strode through the small downtown section of our town, a plank protruding from his eye. I saw him linger at the Sears window. Shoppers gazed at him, horrified.
As this movie played out in my mind, I started to giggle. My face turned crimson. I clamped my hand over my mouth and lowered my head below the pew in front of me. Nothing worked. The movie continued. The man in my mind strolled through town oblivious to the two by four in his eye. I laughed through the entire sermon. And the sermon was no laughing matter. My cousin seated beside me giggled too, not because of her own vivid visions but because my giggle set her off.
Now my affliction has been visited upon my poor grandson. He is doomed to visualize scenes that will undo him at the most inappropriate moments – in the middle of a wedding speech, during a Christmas song warbled to a courteous audience by an untalented singer or perhaps at a PTA meeting when a worried parent over-dramatizes an altercation between children.
For now, Terrence and I share an out of control laughter moment. Our Father created us with the ability to laugh . . . there has to be a good reason for that. One? When we laugh with people we build relationships with them. And forming warm life-long connections is a wonderful thing.
And so off they went to Antioch. On arrival, they gathered the church and read the letter. The people were greatly relieved and pleased. Judas and Silas, good preachers both of them, strengthened their new friends with many words of courage and hope. Then it was time to go home. They were sent off by their new friends with laughter and embraces all around to report back to those who had sent them. Acts 15:30-33