Grateful for giggles

Sometimes I find myself engaged in silly conversations where miscommunication gives us the giggles. Usually there is a fair amount of misinformation or a lack of information to go with the miscommunication. Last night we found ourselves in stitches trying to discuss a silly topic. Susan and I both received wrapped packages earlier in the day. The packages contained books, chosen for our reading. We were comparing our books and the notes that came with them. I noted that Susan had kept the ribbon from her package while I had tossed the ribbon from my package out with the tissue paper wrapping. She noted that her ribbon was a cloth ribbon. I couldn’t remember for sure, but I don’t think my package was wrapped with a cloth ribbon. I said mine had a zip ribbon. I didn’t just say “zip” however. I made a sound effect like the sound made when curling ribbon with a scissor blade. That got a laugh from all of us and it took me a while to explain what I meant.

I confessed that I didn’t have the name for paper curling ribbon. Susan said that she thought that it was just called paper ribbon. That prompted us to pull out our phones to look it up on the Internet. It turns out that the ribbon isn’t fancy paper after all, but polypropylene, a synthetic fabric. On the other hand searching for “paper curling ribbon” brings up the product from dozens of vendors in an Internet search.

The silliness of the evening brought about memories of a thousand other “arguments” in which one of us has tried to convince the other of some bit of trivial information. Up until the time when we both became familiar with the use of our smartphones to explore the Internet, we always kept an unabridged dictionary near our dining table, handy for use in looking up a variety of different things. At one point we had two unabridged dictionaries, a Websters and a slightly more conservative American Heritage. The presence of a dictionary at the dining table was completely natural for me. I grew up in a household where the dictionary was always at hand. One of the treasures that I retained for most of my adult life was the dictionary stand on casters that my Uncle Ted made. It finally found a new home as we prepared for this move, but the unabridged dictionary is still in a box in our garage. I can’t quite give it up, even though I have access to the entire Oxford English Dictionary online.

Our daughter, however, was quick to point out, when she was a teenager, that other “normal” families didn’t keep a dictionary at the dining table and didn’t interrupt their dinners to look up the spelling of obscure terms or to settle a disagreement. Until she brought it up, I hadn’t thought about it much at all. Certainly I had shared many pleasant meals in the homes of friends where there was no dictionary present. I was definitely capable of carrying on pleasant mealtime conversation without looking up things in the dictionary. On the other hand, at our house, I liked to have the dictionary close at hand even if we frequently put it away on the bottom shelf of a table in the living room when we had guests for dinner.

During the times when we were hosting exchange students, we always kept Spanish-English or Japanese-English dictionaries close at hand for use in bridging language and culture.

So I admitted then, and I still confess that I am aware that our family is a bit unusual in our love of dictionaries and words. Our daughter, who is no longer a teenager, now joins right in with our discussions and conversations and often is the first to turn to her phone and the Internet to do a bit of research to back up a point in a conversation.

In my aging years I have the luxury of a son who is a librarian who will help me with research into any topic I choose. I have no idea how many of my journal entries were inspired or at least informed by conversations I’ve had with our son about topics that are obscure and probably not the stuff of everyday conversation. One of the things that I absolutely love about him is how he will explain the details of science or medicine to his children using a vocabulary that is well beyond their stage of development. Big vocabularies are valued in our family.

Having said that, I didn’t have the correct name for “Crimped Curling Ribbon” when I was trying to describe a simple package that I had unwrapped yesterday. I probably should have looked it up before I said anything. But if I had done that, we would have missed out on the laughter. And the laughter is a treasure that I don’t want to miss.

The other thing that got us to giggling last night was a trait that we all share. Our daughter announced that she was getting tired and was going to head for bed. I said I would do the same. In our family, our daughter and I are usually early to bed and early to rise while our son and his mother tend to stay up later at night and linger in bed in the morning for a few minutes longer than we do. Fifteen minutes later, I commented to our daughter, “It is a good thing that you went to bed a while ago so you can catch up on your sleep.” Of course she hadn’t gone to bed yet. We found other things to talk about for a while after I made the comment. And as for catching up on her sleep, she had a nineteen-month-old son. I frequently joke that she slept all the way through the night once when she was five years old. And she was still a fairly good excuse for my not sleeping when she was in her early twenties. I lost a lot of sleep over that girl, and it doesn’t seem to have injured me. If she loses a bit of sleep to her son, I feel like it is simple justice.

But it is good, perhaps especially so when you are tired, to go to bed with a smile on your face and a silly story to tell. Sometimes it even inspires an essay.