It was a lovely day outside- not too hot, not too cool, and the sun came through the 280 year old oak tree in my grandparents' front yard in such a way that can only be described as picturesque. I was four at the time, and I had on a shirt and a pair of shorts (which was a rarity since I loved to be naked even then). I was playing with a shovel- digging for buried treasure that I was convinced was in my grandparents' yard- when my mother came back from the store. She parked the long white Cadillac, and, being the ever-mindful child, I waited until she cut off the engine to run at her, excited by her return. She'd gone to the grocery store, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on the pimento cheese I knew was in one of those bags.
Eyes sparkling with pleasure, my mom opened up the back door, and, instead of handing me a grocery bag to carry in, she handed me.....a blue-and-white hula hoop. I squealed with delight, grabbed it, said a hurried thank-you-mama, and ran back into the yard to show my Granny and Granddaddy, who still were sitting in their lawn chairs. "Look! Look what I got!"
Mama came behind me. "We still have groceries, baby. We gotta put them up before they ruin."
I've never unloaded groceries so fast in my life, and then I hit the screen door going a hundred miles an hour. I couldn't wait to hula hoop like Joanie did on Happy Days. My mother and grandparents followed, and they waited for a demonstration of my awesome skills.
So, I put it at my waist, flung it around.....and while gyrating as furiously as a four-year-old can, I watched it fall to the ground. I looked at it, frustration mounting. And I tried again. Once again, there was a failure to launch into the amazingness of hulahooping. By this time, my mother and grandparents were practically rolling around on the ground laughing at my attempts.
I had enough. I flung it down, stomped into the house, and yelled at them: "You know, it's not nice to laugh at people's disabilities!" (That was the lesson the week before- I hadn't laughed at the person, but I had stared a lot. I'd never seen anyone that had a handicap before, in my defense.) This only caused them to howl louder. I went in the bathroom, humiliated, and cried.
My mother came and got me. "Do you know why we were laughing?"
"Because you're mean. It's not nice to laugh at people."
"But that was funny! Come, let me show you what you were doing, and you'll think it was funny too."
Reluctantly, I followed my mother outside, and watched as she proudly picked up the hulahoop. Then she flung it around, all askew, and then she began to move her butt around like the way I'd imagine someone would if their ass had been on fire. I couldn't help it- I smiled. And the more she did it, the more I found it impossible not to laugh, and pretty soon I was just as bad off as my grandparents were.
She stopped. "See? It was funny. It's okay to laugh at yourself, babycakes. It makes everything more fun. Now com'mere, and I'll show you how to do this."
I stood there for a moment, composing myself, and right there, it hit me: it was okay to not take everything so serious. In fact, it was fun to laugh. And, with this new divine revelation under my belt, I proceeded to go learn an equally important lesson: how to hulahoop like a pro.