Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sassypants

When I was younger, my mother loved to tell a story about my older sister's kindergarten woes.  An older boy waited for her at the bus stop and teased her mercilessly.  Sometimes she would come home crying; on other days, my sister refused to ride the bus to school.  I gave her suggestions about how to get him to stop, but with no success.  Even though I was only four, one day I asked Mom if I could go to the bus stop and show my sister how to take care of the problem. 
"Don't worry, Mommy," I said.  "I'll make him stop."
When I came back home, I told my mother that the boy would never bother my sister again. 
"What happened?" she asked.  "What did you do?"
"I told him to stop teasing people," I bluntly replied.  "Then I kicked him in the shins."
Sure enough, from then on, my sister could ride the bus, free from the taunts of the little boy who must have been terrified I would do worse than kick him if he ever dared to bother my sister again. 
Yes, I was sassy and I was naughty...and even though I no longer kick anyone in the shins, I often find myself standing up for the underdog, speaking up when I'm tempted to remain silent, and using laughter to bring honesty to a situation.

I thank God for my sense of humor.   William James very eloquently stated:  "Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing."  Born with an innate sense of verbal timing, I honed my comic ability by entertaining my mother, my grandparents, and my little sister, all of whom were a captive audience. 
Pa-pal, my maternal grandfather, used to bounce my sisters and me on his knee while babbling in an imaginary language, dropping in our names every so often to keep us curious.  The cadence and tenor of his voice was fascinating, and we giggled with delight every time he spoke his special "Pa-pal language."  I imagine this is one of the reasons I loved to read to my students and use a wide variety of accents and inflection. 
Once I was reading Miss Nelson is Missing with a great deal of expression.  The kids in Miss Nelson's classroom didn't show respect for their good-natured teacher, but when a nasty substitute named Miss Viola Swamp took her place, they quickly learned the error of their ways.  I was using a wicked voice for Miss Swamp when I noticed one of my first graders leaning over to the child sitting next to him.  "Oh my gosh...Miss Ingersoll's crazy!" he whispered.
I paused, bouncing my eyebrows for effect.  "Better crazy than boring."
Jon's eyes widened and he gave me a squeamish look, but on the last day of the school year when I asked what was the best thing he had learned in first grade, he eagerly replied, "I learned it's way better to be crazy than boring!"
 I have been both crazy and boring, often simultaneously.   There were years in my late twenties when, deep in the process of working through emotional garbage from the past, I thought I would never smile again.  But I've survived years of challenging life experiences due to the fact that I'm tenacious enough to dig deeper in the hopes of finding even a kernel of absurdity in my life's circumstances.      
I went from falling in love with a man named Terry who broke my heart, to working with a teaching partner named Mary who deliberately betrayed my trust by slandering my reputation in our school system.  She was soon followed by a teacher named Harry who manipulated circumstances so that I (and many other students) no longer felt welcome in his classes.  Then along came Jerry, a psychologist who blatantly said to me, "If you weren't my client, we'd be dating."  (I terminated therapy the following week...and no, we never dated either.)  Years later, a man named Barry was a hypocritical roadblock in my pathway to a workplace I dearly loved.  This all culminated in 2009, when I was providing undercover information to a narcotics officer named Detective Terry in the hopes that an imminent drug bust would rid my neighborhood of the heroin dealers who lived five feet from my home.  Naturally, he was of no real help.
Looking at the bigger picture, I can now laugh at the common thread that weaves them all together.  From Terry to Mary to Harry to Jerry to Barry and back to Terry again....round and round the circle of fire. 
And I swear, even though all the names have been changed, they still rhyme.
Seriously.
I can't make this stuff up.

I've long since let go of all that drama and have learned that to be sassy is to be resilient...and I'm not alone. 
Last Friday I had the pleasure of spending time with my pals, Satish and Danta.  While helping fix lunch I noticed a homemade tally board on the refrigerator that said something like "Satish's Sassy Chart."  It seems Satish's sister and cousin had created it to reveal just how many times my pal could come up with a good one liner in a day.  I laughed out loud when I saw how many marks he received in less than an hour.  Even though we were born thirty-odd years apart, the sassy apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  I've heard Satish repeat silly phrases I've said over the years and use them in hilarious context.  Verbally quick as lightening and with a razor sharp wit, Satish knows how to infuse any conversation with unpredictable, yet incredible humor.
"What's sassy mean to you?" I asked him, nodding toward the chart.
Satish gave me a little grin.  "Oh, you know...to be a little sarcastic."
I nodded.  "And funny, too."
"Yeah...that, too."
"So how come you got so many on this day?"
Satish shrugged. "I don't know...guess I was being really sassy then."
"Too bad I missed it," I chuckled.
          After lunch we drove to the bookstore, and I listened intently for some sassyspeak from my Satish, but to no avail.  Yet later while playing The Game of Life with Danta, Satish and I marveled at how many pink pegs (representing daughters) he had acquired to put in his little plastic car.
"Wow!  Those are a lot of girls you've got in that thing, Danta," I smiled.
He dramatically rolled his eyes as he's not quite into the stage where girls are kinda fun.
"Yeah...that's 'cause he's a real ladies' man," Satish chortled.
Snap!
"Go put a tally on your sassy chart," I laughed.  "That was a good one!"
But Danta didn't think so, and after a short wrestling session between the two of them, he quickly landed on a square that granted him a son.
"Whew!" Danta grinned.  "But still, all those kids are going to pay off at the end."
Ironically enough, neither Satish nor I had kids in the game, but I still won, having garnered the most money with my salary as a movie star...which I told them would be that last thing I'd want to be in this lifetime.  Still, after losing to both of them at chess earlier in the day, it was a nice way to balance our game-playing karma.  While it's no longer a kick in the pants (or the shins) to have an eight and ten-year-old smoke me at a game I've been playing for decades, I still enjoy being the top dog every six months or so...and they were both gracious in congratulating my win.
As I was leaving, I gave Satish a hug and a kiss, saying, "Can't wait for our next play date."  For it's great fun to hang out with a little fella who's just as much of a sassypants as I am.
 

Four-year-old Kate "a.k.a. Sassypants"