For years that is what I was known for, the ability to make people laugh. This trademark extends back in history over fifty years and I was able to get by on my wits for many years before that time. If there were two ways to look at something, I gravitated to the side of hilarity. It might even involve something quite serious and I seemed to have always found the spark of the comedic hovering over whatever it was.
I had a predisposition for clumsiness. That always makes for a good laugh. Just ask my family who called me by the name Grace for most of my life and likely always will. I was that girl who could not walk and chew gum at the same time.
In grade school, second or third grade, I was chosen to be the 3rd Good Fairy in the play about Sleeping Beauty or was that Snow White. It seems they both fell asleep and were rescued by a Prince. Whichever one had three fairies, that was the one…and I was number three. It seemed to go off pretty well until my solo…In concert with my sister fairies I did fine. My lines were very limited. The choral group announced, “ the third good fairy said…” and I was to twinkle toes it out to center stage with my wand and say, “ I bring her joy!” Somewhere near stage center I tripped over the light cord taped to the floor and went flitting to the floor. As this was the presentation for the rest of the school and not Parents, the Director ran to help me up and then made me repeat the performance again. Crimson faced, the third good fairy got an encore before the play was completed, in fact the dead Princess was still asleep far as I could tell, and I think she could have not cared less about the Joy I waved her way with my homemade close hanger white crepe paper wrapped wand, adorned with the gold star, fashioned from pipe cleaners on top. What I do remember is my oh so grown up older Sister retelling the story at home: the third good fairy said, ‘oops, I forgot my part’ to my family who nodded knowingly when she got to the part of my face plant on center stage. Later in life I was that cheerleader who always landed face first in the gymnasium with the rest of the team horrified, and as they picked me up, I was sputtering, red-faced but laughing. I went through life that way. There was always a laugh and it was usually on me.
Later that same year, our entire military base was being evacuated and we were part of the war games. Our dads all stayed at work and watched for incoming “Rusky”missiles, the wives and kids went on bivouac, off base in a long, long car caravan. All of our friends and our mom’s friends and kids were escorted a good distance from the base. This was to insure we were well away from the virtual carnage that would rob us all of our fathers. It was hot sitting in the car as it inched along behind the snake of every other family doing the same. When we arrived at our destination we learned it was nowhere. Where they told us to stop meant we were there. Moms had all prepared picnic lunches and brought Kool-ade and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and probably pickles and carrot sticks to munch on.
Beside the road, there was a nice big pasture and there were some cows wandering out of harm’s way. The kids, myself included, ran down into the pasture, so we could get some air from the three hour crawl away from danger. I chased after my sister and her friends, running and yelling into the sunny, hot afternoon. As to be expected, I eventually lost my footing. Down I slid, sideways into fresh cow patties. I was horrified and my sister and her friends laughed relentlessly, running to inform the mothers that I had fallen victim to disaster in the pasture. As best they could the mothers helped my mother clean the fresh, raw compost from my clothes. I do not remember having my orange Kool-Ade or peanut butter sandwich. What I remember is my sister’s sing song voice ” Nancy fell in the cow poo, Nancy fell in the cow poo!”. The scent accompanied us back on base when it was determined the Russians spared our lives and it was safe to return home. No one was amused. My siblings were not amused, mother was not amused…I bet my daddy was amused or at least not surprised.
Fishing trips always were something I looked forward to. Dad always had a pole and a hook and some lures and rubber worms in case we happened on a lake or stream-it was Alaska, the chances of that happening were decent. One particular spring, the wildflowers were blooming on a warm spring afternoon. Dad parked the car and advanced to the body of water; mother threw down the army blanket with picnic basket, to wait while dad fished. In this instance, it was a pond and stretched across the end of the pond, was a felled log looking clearly to be like a ballerina barre. Dad casted his line as the others looked for tadpoles or minnows, and I, feeling uncommonly graceful, approached my stage. The sun seemed to shine down on me as I mounted the Birch “Barre.” I began my toe pointe and pirouette…responding to Mozart of Beethoven in my head. I did not quite reach log central before I could sense disaster near. My hands waving at birds and clouds the limb shifted, rolling itself and dumping me into the pond, just as daddy was about to hook a magnificent trout. Instead he leaped to my rescue. This would prove to not be my last water rescue before learning to swim.
Later on would come the Russian River water rescue, the Crowning of the Blessed Virgin fiasco and the 3”heels grand trip from the Communion rail …all are stories worthy of my nickname.
I will reflect on those further and will share them as I can remember.