This Summer’s Tom Foolery

This Summer’s Tom Foolery

Overdosed on political chicanery?  Too many pundits?  Too many tweets?   Too many seventy-year-olds acting like pre-schoolers?  Need to give it a rest, step away from all of the intrigue, drama and confusion?  Okay, I agree.  Breath slowly: in-out, in-out.  Think differently, perhaps like a child again.  What to do in this circumstance?  PLAY, I think.  It’s recess time!
We are with our grandchildren, Gus and Eleanor, in Oakland, California.  They offer us sanity-baths every day.  Yesterday, after a game of hide-and-seek, I said “Okay, it is time for a little Tom Foolery!”  They looked back with blank, puzzled expressions.  “Tom who?”
Our playmates: Gus & Eleanor Amerson
“It’s tomfoolery,” I said.  “You don’t know Tom?”  I didn’t explain the derivation of the word from “Tom Fole” in the Middle Ages.  I didn’t say it was the name given to ones who majored in silliness or buffoonery.   Eventually, Tom Fool became the identifier of the clown, the joker, the mischief-maker in a parade, play or pageant. 
So, I said “tomfoolery is when we joke, play games and tell silly stories.”
“Like what?” I heard them ask.  And before I realized it, I was seven years old again and I heard myself reciting that doggerel from childhood:
Ladies and Jellyspoons, hobos and tramps,
cross-eyed mosquitos and bow-legged ants,
I stand before you and not behind you
to tell you something I know nothing about.
“Go on, papaw,” I heard them say and I remembered the next lines:
Next Thursday which is Good Friday,
there’s a Mother’s Day meeting for fathers only,
wear your best clothes if you haven’t any.
Please come if you can’t; if you can stay at home.
Admission is free, pay at the door;
pull up a chair and sit on the floor.
“MORE, papaw,” the cries rang out.  Fortunately, thankfully, it was all I could remember.  Later I did a web search and found that there were many versions of the silly poem.  It is said to be anonymous — and there are many, many versions.  An indication of the breadth of human imagination.  One version that is close to what I remember continues with this:
It makes no difference where you sit,
the man in the gallery’s sure to spit.
The show is over, but before you go,
let me tell you a story I don’t really know.
One bright day in the middle of the night,
two dead boys got up to fight.
(The blind man went to see fair play;
the mute man went to shout “hooray!”)
Back to back they faced each other,
drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise,
and came and killed the two dead boys.
A paralysed donkey passing by
kicked the blind man in the eye;
knocked him through a nine-inch wall,
into a dry ditch and drowned them all.
If you don’t believe this lie is true,
ask the blind man; he saw it too,
through a knothole in a wooden brick wall.
And the man with no legs walked away.
So, with the summer solstice behind us and the Fourth of July weekend just ahead, it is a time for play, for riddles and silly poems.  All the while I am aware that this play, this rest, is much-needed.  And that such silly poems make more sense than the shenanigans of many of our political, cultural and religious leaders.
It’s time to go to the ZOO!  And, together we can recite the poem: “Ladies and Jellyspoons, hobos and tramps…”
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Eleanor and Papaw at the Zoo

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