Having been raised in a WASPy home that was typically on the reserved side, I have developed a silent laughter. When I find something really amusing you’ll see my mouth agape, eyes squinting and perhaps tearing up, but never emitting a single sound. It is an odd characteristic and one my wife teases me about from time to time.
Imaging her surprise when I told a story of my childhood that left me in uncontrollable laughter. I mean real belly laughter that resembled and asthma attack. I couldn’t even catch my breath as I wove my childhood story of the Jams.
For those of you who are not children of the 80s, Jams were a floral print pair of shorts. The brand had captured national attention and was strong enough to even make a foot hold in New Jersey. The colorful shorts were the “gotta have it” item for young boys who would proudly wear them on the beaches and boardwalks of the Jersey Shore. As my sister pined away for Cabbage Patch Kids, Jams were my equivalent.
I grew up in a comfortable middle class household and was fairly spoiled, but for some reason my Mom drew a line in the sand on Jams. They were expensive by standards and she felt that the cost was for the label and handed out a firm “no”.
I was disappointed. Like any good Mom she felt bad about depriving her son of something he really wanted, but she couldn’t pay those prices for a pair of shorts. But she had a plan!
I came home from school one day and she was beaming. When I asked her what was up she said “I know you really wanted some Jams but I just can’t spend that kind of money to buy them. SO here is a pair that I made for you!”
When she showed me the shorts I was horrified. They floral pattern looked like something from my grandmother’s curtains and the elastic waistband was nothing like the tied up look of the real board shorts. For those of you who have ever heard of Eddie Murphy’s routine about MacDonald’s Big Mac versus the Houseburger on white bread his mom made, I felt the same way. Of course I was disappointed but wore the shorts that summer, and was probably made fun of a lot. I say “probably” , because I think I blocked out that summer from my memory.
Fast forward 35 years.
I was telling my story of the Jams to my wife and could not control my laughter. I could barely get the story out. I then called my Mom to repeat the story to her and again could barely get the words out through the hysterical laughter. Oddly she also had no recollection of the home made Jams, but she also laughed as hard as I was because the absurdity of the story was contagious. We all had a good laugh and a fun time reminiscing.
On my 44th birthday, my Mom invited us over for a family dinner. She handed me a box, and she was beaming with anticipation. I knew something was up when my sister took out her camera to capture the moment forever. When I opened the box, the glowing colors of REAL JAMS reflected off my smiling face!!! It was one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. After 35 years of waiting, I am complete!