I’m watching TV with my elderly mother-in-law “Mother Mary.” I’m writing this column during a commercial break. So I don’t have long.
But I just wanted to pass along an important message Mother Mary wants America to know. Here it is:
“People should have more fun.”
Currently, Mother Mary is drinking a vodka gimlet to prove what a dedicated fun lover she is. This is a woman who looks like a Methodist granny, sipping a drink powerful enough to make a dog go bald. She is a fun expert.
Mother Mary raises her glass during the commercial break and speaks words of wisdom: “F-U-N. I want you to tell people I said FUN is the point of life.” Then she giggles and adds, “Put that in your column and smoke it.”
Now, let me be clear, Mary is NOT suggesting that alcohol is the source of fun. I can already envision the emails I will get tomorrow. So please do not misunderstand, we in this household do not believe libation is necessary for genuine fun unless of course a national championship is involved.
No, the kind of fun Mary is hinting at is much more elusive.
The sad thing is, the older we get, the more we are discouraged from fun. If you’re a young person, this unspoken message will hit you from every angle. “Quit horsing around!” people will say. Your shift supervisor is only one example.
And so far this has been the basic motto of our modern culture. “Don’t have fun!”
Maybe this is why today you see elementary-school kids on their way to class dragging heavy rolling airline suitcases that are roughly the size of the Jefferson Memorial.
Last week I asked one such kid what made his case so heavy. He shrugged and said, “I have a lot of homework.”
Homework is not fun. Homework sucks. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t do homework. They should. But did you know that some American kids do 4 to 5 hours of homework every evening?
Since the pandemic, some children are doing so much virtual school they are suffering eye strain and back problems from sitting.
Too much work. Not enough fun. Mother Mary is not a fan.
But our society wasn’t always this backward. Kids from my generation, for instance, didn’t have much homework. We horsed around all day until our fundamentalist mothers lost their tempers and openly cussed. We had shiploads of fun.
Fun comes easily to kids. Kids are programmed for fun. Children are certified fun scientists. They love to laugh, shriek, eat, wrestle, and run hard. Even the things kids hate are things they LOVE to hate.
Trees are fun. Dogs are fun. Jumping is fun. Coloring books are fun. Pureed figs are fun. Even babies have fun when learning to potty. Potty time is such a big thrill that several adults will clap for their infant and say, “YAY, WASN’T THAT FUN?!”
But then comes adulthood.
(Cue post-war classical music in a minor key.)
Fun is a total waste of time to many grown-ups. You need to “get serious.” “Make a plan.” And so eventually you do. You start doing serious things. You act solemn. Your airline suitcases get bigger.
Over time, things you once enjoyed don’t seem fun anymore.
Take baseball. When was the last time you saw anyone over age 30 playing a game of softball? It used to happen all the time, but it’s happening less these days.
Yesterday I read an article that said softball among adults is going to be nonexistent soon. The reason, according to the article, is because many millennials just aren’t into getting together and hanging out in person.
I realize I’m generalizing here, but I’m not far off the bag. The fact is, when you become an adult your capacity for fun diminishes. Suddenly, nobody claps for you when you use the potty.
And now even the fun-centric millennials are forgetting how to have fun.
I wish that when I was a kid someone would have told me how many non-fun changes my life would undergo. I wish someone would have told me that to be alive is to struggle. Sometimes each day feels like walking uphill. Most times, NOT having fun comes way easier than the reverse.
Work, work, work. Never quit. That’s what modern society encourages. And that’s how most of us rational adults live our lives. Mother Mary says enough already. Live a little. Lighten up.
And I for one will never forget this elderly woman before me, cradling her sweaty glass. She is a woman who has every excuse not to have fun. Her legs don’t work, and she has to be carried from place to place by someone strong.
But guess what. She’s still a fun gal. She’s still watching sitcoms and laughing hysterically.
Occasionally, she hands me her empty glass and in a weakened but fun voice, says: “I know you’re typing a column thingy, but how about you get me a refill before the commercials are over?”
To which I say, sounds like fun.
Christina - April 2, 2021 6:13 am
Love Mother Mary. I want to be like her when I grow up!
Nan - April 2, 2021 7:46 am
Ditto what Christina said….oh wait – I may already be there! Have fun Mother Mary!!!!
Leigh R Amiot - April 2, 2021 8:46 am
My late mother-in-law agreed with Mother Mary about fun in her lifetime, she made it to 91! A woman who worked at the assisted living home where she lived the last four years of her life told me that my mother-in-law encouraged her to play big band and other vintage era music at the home, which she did to the enjoyment of the residents. At my mother-in-law’s visitation, this worker said through tears that she didn’t know if she could play her music now, but I encouraged her to continue doing that and I hope she did.
Raising my mug of decaf to Mother Mary, cheers, and have fun today! My body now says no to caffeinated fun, so decaf it is!
Anne Stokes Haas - April 2, 2021 9:14 am
I LOVE 💕 Miss Mary! She was my preschool teacher at St Stephen’s Episcopal in Brewton in the early 60’s. The only thing I remember is going out on the play ground and getting two Ritz crackers and some juice for a snack – the FUN part 😂. Tell Miss Mary “hello” from Anne Stokes Haas.
stephen e acree - April 2, 2021 9:37 am
Yes, fun is one of the most important things we can have. And children understand it with a mind uncluttered by aging and “learning”. I had fun in school. I loved school. I never left. After 12 years of public and then 6 at public colleges I went back to where I began and taught PE for 40 years. Little kids. They “by God know how to have fun” and I had fun right along with them. If you made something fun the ones that would rather read a 1950s civics book rather than run a lap would run most of the class if it was “fun”. Steal the flag. Jump rope to music. If you made it “fun”. After the fun of reading your story each day I go outside soon to find something fun. I play baksetball with the neighbor kid, throw a football with my 16 yr old, go fishing, do yard work. Wkout in my garage or just read, Oh yeah, I do have a drink on some weekends like Mother Mary. Keep bringing the fun, Sean.
Phil (Brown Marlin) - April 2, 2021 12:16 pm
That old Beach Boys song was written for Mother Mary: “She’ll have fun, fun, fun til her daddy takes the T-bird awa-a-a-y1”
A Good Friday toast to Mother Mary. You are a fine son-in-law, Sean. Keep up the good bartending and being Mother Mary’s buddy.
Teresa Blankenship - April 2, 2021 12:16 pm
Well said 🙂
KAY JENKINS - April 2, 2021 1:05 pm
I agree! For too many folks, the “f” word that is scandalous and almost forbidden is FUN!!! I am trying to change that – wanna join me????
Bob E - April 2, 2021 1:24 pm
Since retiring eight years ago my fun consists of volunteering at the local elementary schools. It’s fun to spend time with young students (I think of them and call them ‘little rascals’) helping them with reading, writing and ’rithmetic.
I try to impress on them the undeniable importance of reading. You absolutely need reading to understand and succeed in any and all subjects.
The most fun is sharing in the students’ progress.
P.S. Our mixed drinks are H2O.
nebraskannie - April 2, 2021 1:36 pm
I’m glad you’re listening. I agree with her. I try to find something each day that’s fun, even though I’m in a wheelchair, alone, and things could look blue. They aren’t. Fun is a great cure!
Amy - April 2, 2021 2:15 pm
God bless your sweet Mother Mary! ❤️ You be sure and keep her glass full at all times. She deserves it.
Richard Owen - April 2, 2021 3:09 pm
It was not until I turned 50 that I found a job that was fun. I had been a very good submarine sonarman, a good engineer, a decent program manager but in 1998 I quit those to become a news photographer for the Walton Sun. You may even remember some of my images from 1998-2008. I routinely worked 60-70 hours a week (most of it undocumented) because it was so much fun! I got to know so many people both locals and tourists that visit that area. Loved attending games in all sports at Freeport HS and later at South Walton HS. Spent 16 years covering the Seabreeze Jazz Festival that started out in Seaside. This was a job that was never boring, that introduced me to new people every day, and, as I told people, “I get to go play every day!”
oldandblessed - April 2, 2021 3:33 pm
Great piece! I had to force myself to read the whole thing; it was too much fun. 🤣
Jannie Bryant - April 2, 2021 3:51 pm
You are so right Sean. Fun is good for you. Fun is healthy for you. Fun will help you live longer and happier. Thank you for the very important reminder.
Patricia Gibson - April 2, 2021 3:53 pm
So true, Sean. Many studies have been done proving homework provides no benefit and yet teachers and schools still do this. Young people of all ages are stressed out for many reasons and yet we wonder why suicide rates are up. I hope people will wake up and have some fun Hello to Mother Mary💜
Bob Brenner - April 2, 2021 5:01 pm
Mother Mary is blessed to have you! Now get her a drink 🥃 and let her enjoy life and have some FUN 🤩!
Nill - April 2, 2021 6:00 pm
Somewhere not too long ago, This millennial, Gen X, Gen Z, and Gen whatever took over society. We had to label everything and everybody. We had to classify everyone when they are all the same …people. So what is the big deal. And then to top it off., we had to make some of them victims because they couldn’t think for themselves. What is worse , Hollywood picked upon on this to make more money. Before that, however, politicians went full steam into catering to all these groups It’s no wonder the world is all messed up and confusing. So here I am ranting about what I feel is going on and I probably have it wrong.
L J Borgaard - April 2, 2021 6:32 pm
Mother Mary and I would get along well. I am 87 and I believe that we lost our sense of humor somewhere along the way. Our ability to laugh at ourselves, or even at “knock,knock” jokes from our grandchildren seems to have disappeared. When a person’s idea of humor is Jimmy Kimmel ragging on a politician, it shows a lack kindness, civility, and maybe even intelligence (the ability to think for oneself) I could cite more examples; this is the first one that came to my mind. Wish I lived close to Mary and we could share a drink. I’m a teetotaler but oh well, we could still have fun!
Linda Moon - April 2, 2021 10:27 pm
I needed Mother Mary’s advice today. It was NOT a fun day. Yes, I know that some American kids are assigned too much homework…..but I tried to never assign too much for my students. Hey, Mother Mary, let’s find a way to get together and have some fun!!
Dawnie B - April 3, 2021 12:28 am
God emphasizes laughter in His Word! It is very healthy & is necessary to release certain endorphins that make us feel good, content, and relaxed. In fact, if you watch a couple of hours of knee-slapping comedy where you have gut-wrenching laughter, you will sleep like a baby. Read funny books, comics, meet up a friend & go out…just have fun!
It will do you a world of good!
Cynthia Russell - April 3, 2021 5:10 pm
ROCK ON MOTHER MARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Robert L Chiles - April 3, 2021 5:17 pm
I was a preacher for 29 years (still occasionally). The best sermons were when i made them fun.
Janet Mary Lee - April 3, 2021 5:54 pm
What a beautiful column. What a beautiful soul is your Mother Mary. Blessings to Jamie and all of you! I should have had more time for fun, not just Joy. But I overcame much!!
Barb - April 25, 2021 10:19 pm
It’s not the years in your life that count~it’s the life in your years