Sometimes I have to rack my brain about a topic for a column. But on rare occasions—call it divine intervention, the Circle of Life, or the Pythagorean Theorem—a column falls right into my lap.
Which is what is happening now. I am at a children’s choir concert with a friend. We are in a dark gymnasium, looking at a whimsical stage set crowded with small children.
The kids look like angels. Sort of. Not real angels, mind you. They are the kinds of angels who frequently shove their grubby little hands into the seats of their pants even though they are standing before an audience of three hundred spectators.
“Hands out of your pants,” the teachers keep saying.
But it’s no use.
Other children, however, spend the entire performance mumbling song lyrics halfheartedly. They are distracted because they are trying to locate their parents in the dark auditorium so they can wave to them.
Once a child has finished waving at his or her respective Mom, that child resumes digging in his or her underpants.
But one boy in particular steals the show. I don’t know what his official role is, but in this musical production he is Bethlehem’s Nose Picker. This kid picks his nose with such sincerity that he deserves his own television show.
This kid is so far into his nostrils that his elbow joint has disappeared. Now and then he removes his upper arm from his nasal cavity whereupon he thoughtfully evaluates each booger before he eats it.
During the performance, I leave my seat to use the bathroom. In the lobby, I see an old woman and her grandson. She is scolding him. The boy drops his head.
I overhear his grandmother say, “You can’t bring Bang Snaps to a Christmas concert, Dane! What were you thinking? You’re grounded!”
“Noooo, pleeeease, Grandma,” the kid says.
Now, I know that some of you are probably wondering what Bang Snaps are. But others of you—the ones who used to be nine-year-old boys—are nodding and saying, “Bang Snaps are small novelty noise making fireworks that make sounds like a cap gun from hell.”
And these things are sacred to little boys. Bang Snaps are a classic prank utility only to be outranked, in terms of prankster value, by the sacred whoopee cushion. Which is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
But anyway, there are many names for Bang Snaps. For example, among fifth-grade teachers they are commonly known as the “gateway firework.”
I’ve also heard them called “Devil Bangers,” “Lil’ Splodeys,” “throwdowns,” “snap-its,” “poppers,” “whack-pops,” “snappers,” “pop-goes-the-granny,” “Snap Dragons,” “Pippity-Poppity-Poos,” “whippersnappers,” “whiz-bangers,” or “Dale Earnhardt Specials.”
Basically, the way they work is like this: You throw them at a hard surface and they go “BANG!”
But don’t worry, they aren’t dangerous, and they can’t hurt anybody.
I know this because we once conducted a highly scientific experiment wherein we filled Johnny Watson’s trousers with hundreds of Bang Snaps and sent him sliding down a flight of stairs, thereby testing the limits of the human buttocks. Our conclusion was that Bang Snaps were one hundred percent safe because Johnny came through the ordeal fine, unless you counted his broken collarbone.
So after a lecture, Grandma confiscates the fireworks and tugs her grandson back into the auditorium. They rejoin the performance. And the little prankster that lives inside me dies a little.
I watch the rest of the concert from the lobby doorway with a few parents. Parents like Wendy. She points to a little girl who stands in the back row. “That’s my daughter,” she says. “Tallest in her class. I don’t know what we’re gonna do with her.”
And Jackson, whose son is on the front row. “See the kid with the red hair?” Jackson says. “He’s mine.”
They all seem so proud. Part of me wonders what it would be like to have a child. Part of me has always wondered this.
I meet Chelsea. She stands by the door and tells me she is anxious because her daughter is about to sing a solo tonight. Chelsea is so worked up that she is trembling.
“What’s wrong with me?” Chelsea says. “I didn’t even get this nervous at my own wedding.”
Her daughter takes the stage and holds a microphone. The room is quiet with anticipation. The choir sings softly. And all this cuteness is overwhelming. Maybe these kids really are angels.
The piano plays. The soloist closes her eyes. The girl’s microphone is quivering.
“C’mon, sweetie,” Chelsea whispers. “Don’t be nervous.”
There is a look of terror on the girl’s face which is immediately replaced by what can only be described as the glory of childhood. It is as though she knows her whole life is going to work out fine, even if she messes up along the way. And she will mess up. She will make all kinds of idiotic life decisions that make no earthly sense to those who love her. Just like I did. And she will survive.
The teacher smiles and conducts the choir. Time sort of slows down, the music pauses, the room goes silent, and Chelsea’s daughter opens her mouth to sing. And…
The sound of a whoopee cushion.
The boy in the audience is making this sound by blowing directly onto his palms. The crowd snickers. The music nearly crashes to a stop. The entire choir is doubled over and about to pee on themselves. And the boy is escorted out of the room by an angry grandmother.
Like I said, now and then heaven smiles on you and a column just falls into your lap.