The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.
~ Erma Bombeck
Back in the day, when that cruel taskmaster Time doled itself out in the intervals between diaper changes, snack times, stints at the office, and early-evening stroller rides around the neighborhood, when the house was a second-story loft apartment with one air conditioner in the master bedroom window, it was Will Smith as J, dressed in black and gettin’ jiggy with that slimy alien Mikey, that got the rumpus started.
Go ahead. Make your neck work. You know you want to . . .
Felt good, right? Damn straight it did. We’d jump on the bed, a tangled and bouncing mess of diapers and runny noses, a ganglion of giggles and squeals of delight. No pressure to get the moves right. Just wild abandon on a mattress that now, a decade and a mortgage later, sags in the middle.
As the years have passed, adding more and bigger kids to the mix, the rumpuses have moved from the bedroom into other arenas. There have been ball pits, parks with hunter-green plastic slides and cherry-red swings, fast food Playlands, bowling alleys with gutter bumpers and neon lights, glow-in-the-dark, indoor miniature golf courses, back yards cluttered with ruts, walnuts, and barbeque grills, and forest pathways lined with one-hundred-year-old oak trees, the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot. And water puddles, the kind that shimmer in the sun, their calm surfaces broken and sent skyward drop after drop by the intrusion of defrocked feet, leaving shins and calves sporting driblets of dried mud, the happy tears of a well-spent moment.
And movie theaters, for not all rumpuses need be raucous affairs. Not much beats the semiannual sharing of buttered and seasoned popcorn in buckets bigger than your head, sodas served by the gallon, chocolate covered raisins, and sticky red strands of Twizzlers. And then the refills, because that’s what The Wild Things would do, they would live it up while the living is easy.
Because, as Maurice Sendak reminded us a long time ago, and reminds us anew each day we are willing to remember, life is hard and rumpuses are rare and must be embraced with gusto, with hands weary from the toil and hearts weighed down and weakened by the strain of the stuff of life between the rumpuses. All of it is what makes us tick, and rumpuses lighten the load, each passing second a stone added to the lighter side of the scale. It’s a delicate balance, and it takes eyes and attitudes attuned to the deeper meaning of it all to keep things even.
So go ahead. Rediscover the bond. Unearth the thing that makes your neck work. Find the time to let your own rumpus start. Dinner will be warm and waiting . . .