There I stood cowering in a dark corner, waiting for a wet puppet to be mercilessly rubbed on my face. And so ended my family Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving in Canada comes at the beginning of October, which is sensible when you consider it because the Canadian harvest is much earlier than that in the U.S. I had the glorious opportunity this year to celebrate it in Alberta with family. While the turkey baked, the grand kids played in the forest and took turns raking and anointing their siblings in leafy showers of gold. What a memory.
After dinner we turned out the lights and played our favourite game of crocodile man, which is a form of terrorising kids by chasing them from their dark hiding places, and smearing their faces with a very wet and cold crocodile hand puppet. Adults, if caught, can have their faces smeared too and then the smear-ee becomes the smear-er and sneaks around in the dark, scaring the kids. They love it. We love it. It is fun, and the joy that accompanies it lights the heart. Our family has been playing this game forever and that old crocodile is a hurting unit now, but we wouldn’t trade it for another.
There is perhaps a paucity of fun in these isolating days where cynicism and loneliness are some of our bedfellows. We cannot learn from what we fear. If we hunger for life, then we eat food from every dish, be it bitter or sweet. Maybe by accepting the bitterness that we sometimes feel – and for many there is more of it in these isolating days – perhaps with acceptance we can somehow stretch our hearts and thereby make room for its opposite, so that when the time comes, we are surprised by our expanded capacity for joy. But we have to keep alert, look for an opportunity for fun, and prepare to be surprised.
And so it was that our grandson discovered me hiding in my darkened corner. Sidling up beside me he asked if I knew who the crocodile man was. “Nope” was my reply. “Well, he said, slowly raising his arm and squishing a very wet and nasty puppet in my face, “Now you know”.
Did I yell? Nope. I swallowed the un-gramma-like words that came to mind and snuck out of my dark corner, on the hunt in the dark for the next victim, from feet to heart, buoyed by joy.