The Fabulous Decomposing Ball

Sooner or later there are things we all notice in life.

We note, for example, that our senses don’t quite work the way they once did.

That, and the fact that time is speeding past.

And that we rush way too much in our lives.

But if we are paying attention there are other things we notice too, like the fact that diminishing physical powers are more than made up for by a less judging disposition. Lots of folks just get nicer as we age.

I myself have noticed that life is full of invitations to have a good laugh.

I think of the day my then-Sixth Grade boy was waiting for me to finish checking out at the supermarket.

He dropped a quarter into those little vending machines there by the door and fished out a sort of tiny plastic jigsaw ball which, we gathered, you were meant to pull apart then try putting together again.

On the basis of what they chose to name this strange little gizmo, we guessed that its makers were new to the English language.

“The Fabulous Decomposing Ball” it was called and the instructions that came with it, encircled by a forest of exclamation points, read this way:

  • (1)   Hold in Hand
  • (2) Drop to Floor
  • (3) Have Fun Decomposing.

This three-line ‘poem’ had all of us – four shoppers and the checkout person – laughing our heads off there by the cash register.

And for sure that was something I didn’t expect to see happen when I set out that day to follow my same old path to my same old supermarket.

But that’s my point:  ‘unexpectedly’ is exactly the way most laughter comes; unannounced and as a gift, often from a stranger.

I believe life offers us regular helpings of such opportunities for laughter.

The trick is staying awake enough to notice when you’re being offered such gifts.

What helps me stay that awake is jotting down what I see and hear in a week or a day or even just an hour.

You can call that keeping a journal but really it’s not as formal as that.

In fact you don’t have to write things down at all to be such a chronicler.

You just have to stay alert and notice what you’re noticing, like the kindness, and the courage and the simple joy fountaining out all around us every day.

I can attest to the fact that witnessing such things will act as an antidote to the blues every time. Noticing what happens around you, remembering the exchanges you have with people and the exchanges you see them having with each other will help you fully inhabit every minute of your waking day.

There’s a poem by Robert Frost that I have always loved in which he talks about savoring autumn’s beauty.

In it he is addressing Nature, the architect of all this glory. “Release one leaf at break of day; at noon release another leaf,” he implores Her..

“Retard the sun with gentle mist; enchant the land with amethyst” And how I love that last line with the evocation of amethyst’s royal tones!

Maybe we actually CAN slow down the all-too-quick progression of our days, just by savoring them.

And what wise soul said that the journey was the destination? That person was right. The journey IS the destination.

So let’s raise a toast to the change of seasons, and laugh, and – why not? – have fun decomposing just like those quirky instructions advised.

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Flatten Your Underwear For You?

Yesterday’s Times had funny signs from all over in a kind of English we find laughable (as if we could speak a single word of Mandarin, say. ) They remind me of my favorite sign from a hotel in Yugoslavia: “The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.”

I know I still savor the memory of a Thai restaurant  menu I saw once, with entrées of a most exotic kind: ‘Hearty Sweethearts’ (for when your girlfriend starts to really get on your nerves?) or ‘Spicy Friend’ (for when a former pal does something unforgivable and you have to put him in the wood-chipper like in that movie Fargo?) They had a  dish called ‘Excited Chicken’ and one called ‘Dancing Duck’ along with the cheerleading favorite ‘Pacific All the Way!’ (exclamation point right there on the menu.)  We laugh but could we do better?

Even I can’t get the English right, when it comes to texting. My thumbs get pretty excited themselves and land on the wrong keys. Add in predictive spelling and I’m  in real trouble.  I was texting a young person the other day who I was supposed to bring to the doctor; hoping he might be waiting outside for me, I thought I’d quick punched in “I’m coming” – only what I ended up sending thanks to the help of Blackberry’s Predictive Spelling feature  was “I’m vomiting.” (“Are you all right?” came his reply.)

When my last child still lived at home, his two older sisters having left the nest, I guess you could say the IQ level  in the house kind of dropped in the sense that the two of us seemed to find everything  funny. He was in middle school when we saw The Fabulous Decomposing Ball which you could buy for a quarter from one of these little vending machines at the front of the supermarket. We bought one and unfolded the instructions that came with it: (1) Hold in Hand,  it said. (2) Drop to Floor. (3) Have Fun Decomposing…. And I don’t know about my age-immune young pup of a son but I’ve been doing just that ever since.