There’s a moment when you look up, with all your family around you, your parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and the kids and you catch them in the middle of their busyness. Just an ordinary day. You look up while everyone’s bustling, everything’s clicking along, moving together, and in the middle of all that life chatter, you stop. You freeze frame it all. You realize it’s not always going to be that way. And you know, deep in your heart, you cannot stop it. You cannot stop the journey. You cannot stop time.
It seems like a lifetime ago I wrote this poem. I’d had that freeze frame moment as I watched my family around me. Now understand, the Hannah family has a long and rich legacy. Dry humor is an earmark and requirement. It’s born into us as much as we breathe. So, during that day, typical of him, my father landed this jewel of a remark about a movie he’d seen, how funny it was. He said, “It’s so funny you’ll laugh your ass off.” To me that was the perfect title. Things have changed since then. I could not stop time. I could not keep them with me forever, but I can tell you what it was like.
You’ll Laugh Your Ass Off
I don’t know.
I sit there and I’m overwhelmed.
They start these true, wonderful stories that just
come rollin’ out and get so wide.
And every word or so, a twist,
then a trickle and finally,
a side-swipe of the driest, funniest humor you ever heard.
That passes the twinkle in their eyes to your eyes
and draws up the corners of your mouth to a smirk,
a giggle and then into a breath-catching howl.
Close? Are they close?
Hell, how could you have a family
that kids each other like that, that hugs
and questions and fusses and cries
and not be close?
You don’t know close. You don’t know sitting
on a floor watchin’ em dance, being so little
you can only see shoes. You don’t know close
if you can’t remember family baseball games when you
were snatched up out of the way of the ball
in the same way you grab up the little ones now.
And the noise. I can’t hear if everyone doesn’t
talk at once. Three, four conversations simultaneously.
Some never finished. Every one important,
most of ‘em fast.
If you can’t keep up, you’re really gonna miss something.
It’s what prepared me for the world.
And those faces. Kind, loving faces. Character. Every one.
The old ones, character lines stretch for miles.
Warm and worn. Never a loss for words.
Some gone, wrapped in our memories and stories, and
not entirely let go. There’s a bunch of them.
And in the little ones, every one of ‘em pretty,
you can see those faces before my father and after.
I want to reach out and hold them,
stop time and keep them forever.
Layers of life, howls of joy,
builders of the walls of my heart.
God sure put in a hand-full of cravin’ for life
when he made them. And gave them
a salve for the struggle.
I’m tellin’ you,
you’ll laugh your ass off. And you’ll swear
you never had such a good time.
–By Martha Hannah