Now That's Entertainment!

By local writer and Charlottesville mom, Laurel Johnson

Entertainment itself can be an elusive matter. For families, more often than not, one form of entertainment is fun for one member and boring to another. My father is in the entertainment business. Because my grandfather was a radio entertainer in Harrisonburg, he grew up in "show business," witnessing first-hand the birth of television along the way. He won Emmys early in his career as a producer/director and as a result we all lived in or around Beverly Hills for the better part of our lives.

But I've learned that entertainment is just as much a state of mind as it is something created outside of ourselves that we experience. My mother's family, who could make just about any situation entertaining, best illustrates this fact. They all have an active imagination and have a knack for finding humor in things.

My mother also grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, just outside of Harrisonburg, as one of four children. My grandparents were hardworking country people. My grandfather was a factory worker. My grandmother raised the children and sold the eggs and milk they harvested on their small property. They were both very simple old-world kind of people that lived mostly off their small means, the garden they worked at the corner of the field and their faith. Regardless of how little they had in material things, they always were an entertaining bunch. Sitting around the kitchen table, having a piece of fresh, homemade, blackberry pie, the family would often be crying with laughter over funny tales and silliness.

My uncle, Carl, is always the star of the show when it comes to hamming it up and telling stories. He often makes terrific exaggerated expressions when he relays a tale. A favorite tells of when he and the others were young, they were out in the yard playing cowboys and Indians, and Grand-Daddy came out of the house furious over something. Knowing how quiet and gentle my grandfather was, the very fact that he was visibly furious was in itself a story! Carl, I should tell you, was a rather wild child and had the likeness of Huckleberry Finn.

In the course of their cowboy and Indian play, Carl agreed to put on a dress to act as a character of some sort, and the girls had on Indian "war paint." As the story goes, my grandfather came out in a fury about the man who was apparently not living up to a promise he had made over building the back porch. Just as Grand-Daddy was jumping into the old green truck to go and give this man a piece of his mind, an act most of us can hardly imagine, Carl, Anna Lee and my mother, all dressed as wild as could be, jumped into the truck with him. Grand-Daddy at the time was seeing too much red to even notice them, and they were certainly not going to miss this rare opportunity to witness the excitement of such a commotion.

We all laugh with tears in our eyes at how they must have looked tearing down that dusty old road, Anna Lee and my mother's pig tails flying in the wind with "war paint" on their face and wild looking Carl with a dress on! Needless to say, they all made a memorable impression on the man who was supposed to build the back porch. The job was done within a week of their unexpected visit! Everyone laughs at how much credit was probably due to the wild-looking kids dressed in Indian "war paint," sitting in the truck looking wide-eyed as the whole drama unfolded.

Whether it be Halloween, blackberry picking or that ultimate vacation you planned to Europe, be sure to take along your sense of humor and your imagination, both of which will help you make any experience entertaining. The family memories and stories you'll create will be fuel for laughter in years to come. Now that's entertainment!

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