Today’s featured child is my youngest, Camille. The world does not know Camille. She reserves her true self for her family and closest friends. And that makes us feel lucky. In public or in front of strangers, she’s the quiet one, hiding behind her protective parents and the natural grace and charm of her older sister. But at home it’s a different story. From the time she first issued a smile that covered what seemed like half her face, she’s cracked us all up on a daily basis.
It wasn’t until she was seven that I discovered she actually had a desire to be funny. We were on our annual family trip, a gathering of the Cozzens’ cousins. This is currently a group of 18 and every year as the table grows in size, it’s harder and harder to get in a word. There’s a lot of natural wit, acquired education, and no place-setting for the easily intimidated. Quietly listening to the banter and seeing how one of her uncles, aunts or cousins could at any moment make the entire group roar with laughter, Camille tapped me on the arm.
“Mom,” she whispered in my ear, “what can I say to make everyone laugh?”
I wish I’d recorded every funny thing she’s said since that day, but I’m making an effort to do so now—hence this series.
We were on our way to volleyball practice. I was in the driver’s seat and Camille, who is still light enough to deactivate the front passenger airbag, was typically mute. I was listening to NPR assessments of the economic stimulus package, navigating my way through the unlit back roads of rural Pima County.
Camille didn’t ask me to change the station to the channel playing the same three songs (“Let it Rock,” “Just Dance” and “Womanizer-Womanizer-Womanizer-You’re-a-Womanizer . . .”), and I knew she wasn’t listening to the latest report of partisan politics.
Feeling a little guilty about not taking the time to have some one-on-one communication with my child—communication that didn’t involve helping her with homework or telling her to wash the dishes—I turned down the radio and squeezed her knee. “Anything interesting happen at school today?”
“Well,” she said without the slightest hesitation, “a girl ripped her pants when she did the splits on the playground.”
With a simple visual in my head, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. We both did. And so what if there was a little touch of schedenfraude?
“Did everyone laugh when it happened?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said, “but then we all helped her by giving her our sweatshirts to wrap around her legs.”
“Poor kid! I bet she was humiliated.”
“She was, but we got her to laugh at herself and she was okay.”
I turned the corner, heading into a busier section of town, and knew that Camille had definitely learned how to make everyone laugh. She can make them laugh not only at her, but also at themselves. That’s a gift.