05 June 2007

Too Much Joy

This past weekend, the kids attended a birthday party for one of their pals at the Paragon Carousel at Nantasket Beach. Thumbs up to Gwennie: This was an all-around great idea for a children’s b-day party – even from an adult perspective. Being outdoors, by the ocean, instead of holed up in some crappy Chuck E. Cheese incarnation was reason enough to celebrate.

Not to mention, faced with the prospect of unlimited rides on the carousel, all of the kids were practically convulsing with glee, running in circles, rejoicing, jumping up and down, becoming unglued with excitement -- and this was way before the birthday cake and subsequent frosting conniption.

(Unbridled enthusiasm: You can power a city with this.)

The kids lined up and parents snapped pictures of their respective offspring on the flying horses, offering up the mandatory geeky commentary: "Woo hoo, hold on, here we go!" But by the fourth go-round, it was anything but merry. Parents, increasingly squeamish, looked at their kids in horror as they jumped back in line for a fifth go-round. “Oh my freakin’ God…Again? Seriously?” We had to flip the“suck it up” switch that most parents of young children have --- the same switch that allows you play Candyland for the 20th time or watch Heat Miser every night straight into June without becoming suicidal.

Faces draining of color, we got back in line for the carousel because we knew it brought the kids joy. It’s joy by proxy. (euphemism for "what a bunch of f-ing sucka-chumps").

The whole sentiment reminded me of something I read in the reviews for the movie “Knocked Up” last week. Apparently, there is a scene where Paul Rudd’s character – the father of two rambunctious little girls – speaks wistfully about how juiced his kids get over little things like bubbles. However, their joy brings forth a covert melancholy in him that is exclusive to grown-ups: "Their smiling faces just point out your inability to enjoy anything," he says.

(I’d attach an addendum: “an inability to enjoy anything that doesn’t include wine and snacks” but that's irrelevant here.)

There is something slightly depressing, I guess, about how mesmerized Caroline and Paulie are by the fish tank at the pediatricians office -- or by an ant -- because I know I will never feel that kind of wonder about such things again. But you get over it pretty quickly, say, when one of them tries to lick the fishtank or eat said ant.

And it's not that you're incapable of experiencing joy after a certain age, it's just not as pure as it is for a young child. It's basically the same reason we don't eat Fun Dip anymore. But while fewer things inspire a physical manifestation of joy these days, they still exist: I assume winning the lottery would be one such occasion.

My recent "literally jumping for joy" memories: U2 unexpectedly returning to the stage to play a stripped down version of Original of the Species at the Garden 2005 * the Red Sox beating the Yankees in 2004 (this not only brought joy but also the adrenaline to pick up Vito and march in a victory circle) * Learning of new additions -- human or canine * We practically have a parade every time Paulie uses the toilet so I guess we're doing ok on the joy front.

So, this past Saturday, we and other ministering mommas and poppas tried to harness some of the joyful feelings of yore and get back into the game. We mounted these so-called flying horses of the storied Paragon Park and rode side saddle with the kids.

The result: A bunch of green-faced adults dry-heaving on the Nantasket boardwalk. Perhaps there IS such a thing as too much joy.


Anonymous said...

The last time I felt PURE joy was when I was about 10 years old. I remember the moment vividly. It was a hot summer afternoon. I had been playing with friends all day and was sitting on a hammock in my parents back yard eating an orange -- it was quite possibly the sweetest, juiciest orange I ever ate. Looking back, I'm sure it was a regular orange, but I was so serenely happy at that moment that it made everything around me taste sweet. It's funny how the most simple, obvious things in life -- like ants and carosels -- can bring you the most joy in life.

KJ said...

Now I want an orange. That is the picture of joy in its purest form.

10 is a good age for these moments as you're aware of joy in a way you can't be when you're 3,4,5, etc. I remember feeling completely at peace sitting on the seawall with friends, digging into an italian ice with a tiny wooden spoon on the last day of 4th grade. Good stuff.

mike said...

I had an italian ice on the Common this week. It was good but not as good as it tasted at age 10.

KJ said...

Double true.

Last night, my daughter (4) discovered the two boxes of Freeze Pops I was hiding in the laundry room and almost passed out. You just can't conjure that brand of enthusiam anymore.

Anonymous said...

"Spring and Fall to a Young Child"

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you, with your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Ah! As the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
by and by, not spare a sigh,
though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrows springs are all the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind expressed,
What heart heard of, spirit guessed:

It is this blight that man was born for,
It is Margaret that you mourn for.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1880 on nostalgia, innonence and joy.

KJ said...

What a fantastic ode to our cold dead hearts! So sad, so true. Thanks for posting. I suspect you could have said it just as well as GMH.

james said...

Great Post Kate! Joy as a kid - Playing pick up football on a side field at my brothers highschool games when I was 10. Joy later - Fishing with my Dad in the Mugwomp.

Anonymous said...

Please watch "Zorba The Greek" with Anthony Quinn.
Zorba says "They say when you get old you lay down...I FIGHT!" And he gets up to dance.
Kazantzakis said: "Live life so passionately and fully that when the after-world comes for you, all it gets is a burnt-out castle."

EPB said...

I look forward to reading the Pointy Universe every day and I read it with a biased admiration towards KJ but today is one of those blogs that doesn't do itself justice without being read by the masses in a publication! Great blog KJ!

Hmmmmmm....pure joy?! Puerto Vallarta on the beach this past January with 10+ close friends being surrounded by 'buckets of Corona and limes'.

james said...

There are alot of readers out there and far to few post. LET SEE SOME POST> This ones a layup.

KJ said...

James-I too, remember joy in the Mugwomp...that is, until the hook-in-eye incident of 2002! Maybe it's time to get back out there this summer. Or back in the kayaks at the very least.

Anonymous said...

Hopping into my car on the drive home; Some driver pauses and waves me safely into traffic, I return the favor a half mile down the road ( Alle Menschen Werder Bruders!). A great, nearly forgotten tune comes on the radio. I take my morning ice coffee from the console, the skimp remains are a perfect consistency of french vanilla, ice and sun.

KJ said...

Anon: I haven’t seen Zorba in years -- definitely a classic.
That is actually my core philosophy of life -- I’m just prone to melodrama (in case you haven't noticed). One of my biggest pet peeves is people who sort fold in on themselves after age 30. Whether it's no longer going to see live music or not keeping up with friends because they've gotten married or had kids -- it infuriates me. Do you suddenly stop hearing new music at a certain age? Do you abandon all your interests (and all sense of fashion as it goes) simply because you got married? I've heard this time and again: "We're married" or "We have kids" = "We can't do such things anymore." Why not? You're not dead! Sure it's more of an effort once you have more responsibilities but isn't it worth it? It is to me. I try to live as large as possible. To those who believe this philosophy is immature or just plain crazy, I offer a quote from a woman standing outside of Starbucks with a Dunkin Donuts iced coffee: "You don't know nuthin."

KJ said...

James/EPB:Thanks for the rallying cry. I've gotten emails from people today saying they liked the post but I'd prefer they put their business in the comment box, damnit.

KJ said...

Anon-good stuff as usual.I guess joy can be found in the every day routine if you learn to look for it. Be sure to send an autographed copy of your book/screenplay/whatever it is you're working on once you're famous.

EPB said...

This is pure joy! Eat your heart out James..... LOL!


Anonymous said...

Auntie Lynnie,

Love the blog on the B-Day party Saturday.. Nothing like being a kid again, and looking through their eyes for freeze pops, etc. Savor the moments cuz pretty soon you will be fighting with Caroline to put her little tiny training bra on, and with Paulie to pull up his pants so his boxers aren't showing..

Anonymous said...

I will, and one better: I will pay for your next "suppah club".

KJ said...

Now you're talking! If you can make it happen by 6/14..just let me know where to send the check. :)

sb said...

Pure joy at ages 10 - 12: Having Uncle Bob at the beach to take us waterskiing every weekend (before Dave/Barb bought a boat, Dave would throw $20 in gas $$ to UB to take us skiing).

Pure joy at a young adult age (18 - 21): The annual outdoor kegger on the Friday afternoon of Spring Weekend at Westfield. Miraculously, this Friday was always 75/80 and sunny every year.

Pure joy as middle-aged man: Finding $20 in a pocket, preferably mine.

sb said...

By the way, great pictures of you and the kids.

jal said...

Last utter joy for me was making it to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris two years ago. A life long dream come true! Literally and figuratively on top of the world.

I truly believe it is so important never to lose that sense of wonder. I find it most in nature. Call me nature boy but it's the truth.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. This makes me joyful. Kisses!

KJ said...

BG-"Bobbing for Nips" at BG birthdays every July = joy.

JAL-Garden parties on Coleridge St. = joy.

jal said...

Thanks KJ - you're sweet!
The garden is looking it's best ever this year and we have a new blender. You'll have to stop by soon! We need our al fresco after work cocktails too. Let me know Mama.

LPD said...

Joy as a kid: Swimming out to the diving raft on Newfound Lake with Dad just before dinnertime, when all the other families had gone home to their BBQs, the lake was peaceful and the orange sun hung over the White Mountains... Swinging as high as the playground swing could take you... Riding a bike downhill while belting out anything from the Annie soundtrack... Driving alone in your very own car for the first time after getting your license...

Joy as an adult: seeing U2 for the second night in a row just for the chance to hear "Bad"... Surfside Beach or backyard at Smugglers Luck with Coronas, iPod shuffles and best friends... Dancing at your wedding and seeing all the smiling faces of those you love surround you.

There is great joy in this world. Thanks for causing us to take a moment to remember it, KJ.

Anonymous said...

Backyard baseball at 10 years old. Using a wiffle ball bat and tennis ball (which, by the way, is the greatest game ever; it gives the solid feel of bat and ball, and allows for fielding with a glove, while less likely to cause collateral damage). All day, every day of summer.

KJ said...

LPD-I teared up reading that. A mess.

KJ said...

Anon-So funny. I thought we invented that wiffle ball bat-tennis ball game in E.Boston. Just played it a few weeks ago with the kids so a whole new generation will know the joy.

MLXC said...

kj - this post was great. it has inspired me to achieve more joy!

Anonymous said...


I totally agree with all of the comments about pure joy, there is no better feeling than actually laughing out loud! Whether it is at the kids or just at myself.....what a great feeling! It is amazing what little things can bring me overwhelming happiness these days!! One of which is your blog!

See you soon, Katie N.