I learned Silly from a woman who once affixed a gold-covered lampshade to her keister.
The lampshade came with matching gilt miniskirt, a bright red overcoat and bearded, tentacled forest green hat, all of which she fashioned or sewed herself. Lest you think the outfit thus far was nothing short of amazing, she also held a hidden switch in her left sleeve. Whenever she raised her arm to sing, the lightbulb at the end of the lampshade would magically turn on.
See, for example, Exhibit A, and the bright light emanating from the right side of the picture. That ain’t no 80’s camera mishap, y’all.
But it’s a real, live human firefly.
And it’s my mom.
Back then, for one memorable weekend of our lives, we let go of all mommy endearments, and we just called her Farley McFirefly. Because, you see, her outfit wasn’t merely for Halloween purposes, solely designed for the amusement of our neighbors (although she did, as pictured, go door to door with a most sparkly derriere, and they did, after all, let her in – I mean, wouldn’t you?)
Really, it wouldn’t have been right to keep it to ourselves, because this outfit was for Jesus.
My mother took center stage in the church sanctuary and glowed for God. She sang her heart as one of the adults cast in the kids’ musical, ass all aglow while insect tentacles reached heavenward.
“I cannot fly, ’cause of my brrrrrroken wing,” she sang in lilted Scottish accent, “but I can give the glory to God!”
At ten years old, my brother and sister and I stood on stage with her, back-up chorus to her most shiny, fearless self. We, too, were trying our hardest to glow. We, too, wanted to give the glory all to God. But we didn’t have the guts to do what she did, to parade around the stage belting and blinking in rhythm to the songs of Psalty’s Camping Adventure.
I remember the waves of mortification:
My mom is dressed as the largest, weirdest bug you’ve ever seen. My mother is parading around the stage with a huge lampshade on her butt. She is blinking, brightly, even violently, for crying out out loud. And they’re all laughing at her.
But I also remember the pride, the simultaneous delight that birthed from watching her most fearless self, the pleasure that overtook all feelings of doubt:
She’s the one making them laugh, on purpose, just because.
She could care less what anyone thinks about her.
This woman, my very own mother, is fearless.
Because that’s the thing: We call it silly. We tell the stories of lampshades on butts, and reading stories with funny voices, and embracing the jocular with our children and with each other, and we call it silly.
And embracing the silly, provoking the giggles, entering into the moment with wide-eyed wonder is most important.
But today I realize that silly is not merely silly. The type of silly my mother gifted to me – and to many of the lives that she’s touched along the way – was and is that much more than mere child’s play. Sometimes silly is just on the outside, a facade to the reality underneath.
And for her, and perhaps for you and for me someday too, to be truly silly also means to be Brave and Courageous and Strong.
Now that’s the kind of silly I want to be and do and embrace in this Thing Called Life.
How about you? How are you silly? Where did you learn silly? And did your mom ever dress up as a human lampshade with her blinking backside? Didn’t think so. I win. (And don’t worry, all permission was given for the posting of this picture and story). Join the #wholemama movement, and write about silly today!