The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter. — Mark Twain
Mr. Twain was right about humor and laughter. We need it more than ever these days. As many readers know, 2022 has not been a good year for me. I lost my partner of 49 years, Steve, in February, and several weeks ago, my Dad passed. Having said that, we still need to laugh to keep our sanity. I thought I would share several stories that might lift our collective spirits a bit.
Back in 1971, I was finishing my student teaching at a middle school in Seattle. We had three classes that rotated together. So we had about 90 students in our block of kids. On the last day of class, they threw me a surprise going-away party. It was great. They gave me a shirt, tie, cufflinks, cards, cake and lots of hugs.
I was getting a little emotional when a sweet eighth-grade girl got up and said she had written a poem to tell me how my students really felt about me. She got up and read this poem: “God made the mountains, God made the lakes, God made Mr. Smythe, but we all make mistakes.” The kids roared with laughter and so did I. I have told that story to parents at Open House for years.
We always like to have people over for cocktails and appetizers. I like to have plenty of snacks on the table. One time I had left a bowl of dog treats on the table. They were those round, three-calorie liver treats. I was busy in the kitchen making drinks for everyone when our friend Barb said, “I just love these new appetizers. Did you make them or buy them at Trader Joe’s?“
Without skipping a beat, I said: “Pet Smart. You’re eating the dog treats!“ Well, she about fainted, but no harm done. It was funny.
I like to give out inspirational cards. This is sort of a scratch-your-head story or maybe it shows I am getting old.
A few months ago, I was in the grocery store. I gave the checker, who I thought was in her forties, a card featuring a quote by Katharine Hepburn. She read the card and looked at me with a quizzical expression. “Who is Katharine Hepburn?” I said she was an Oscar-winning actress who holds the record of winning four Academy Awards. I added that she would be in the same league as Meryl Streep.
You know what is coming next. She asked, “Who is Meryl Streep? “I didn’t know whether to laugh or throw myself under a moving Sunline bus! It is surprising how many younger people don’t know the significance of Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball or Dinah Shore to our valley history.
My last story is just sort of an amusing one. I was an exchange student in London in 1969. I lived with an English couple who were teachers but who knew a lot of people in the London theater. Roger and Jocelyn were my parents. Jocelyn loved to talk on the phone at night. One night, she was on the phone for three hours. She got on the phone at 7 p.m. and didn’t hang up until 10 p.m.
I was getting ready for bed when suddenly, she let out a blood-curdling scream. We all raced down to her room to see what was happening. Jocelyn said that after she ended her long-winded phone call, she got another call from one of her theater friends. They were having a party and had invited all four of The Beatles, Paul, John, Ringo and George. She had been trying for three hours to call Jocelyn to invite the three of us to her party to meet them. They had all left by 10 p.m. By now Jocelyn was in tears as she thought I would never forgive her for missing the opportunity of a lifetime to meet the famous Beatles. I wasn’t upset, but it has been an entertaining story to tell friends through the years.
Hopefully, you enjoyed a column absent of politics, problems and catastrophes. Laughing is healthy for all of us. Betty White said it best: “If one has no sense of humor, one is in trouble.”
Ray Matlock Smythe is an author and retired teacher. He just published “Coping With Grief – My Journey of Learning to Overcome Sorrow.” He can be reached at Rayme49@aol.com