Cheer Up, Charlie

Originally published on Tents, Tarps, and Tears on Sept. 28, 2015         original post

I found myself in need of the “Cheer Up, Charlie” song today.

The tradition started years ago when my children were small. An avid Willy Wonka fan (the Gene Wilder version) as a kid,  the songs from the movie were ingrained in me and popped out randomly.

“Don’t care how..I want it N-O-O-O-W-W-W,” Veruca sang as she fell down the “bad egg” chute. I’d attempt to thwart temper tantrums by belting this song. No, I wasn’t the one worried about being embarrassed in the grocery store checkout lane when my kids were small. They were.

Especially the time we were at IHOP.

Kelsey was ten and upset about something only ten year olds could be devastated over. My words of comfort were anything but so I slid a napkin to her side of the table. When she opened it, she found the words CHEER UP, CHARLIE.

I’m not sure exactly what happened next- there are differing stories from her brother and sisters- but I think the napkin somehow ended up on the floor under the table.

Two minutes later, Kelsey joined it.

Because what else could I do? If reading the words didn’t help her, there was no other choice.

I had to sing it. And with flair. (I did have a theatrical background.)

“Cheer up, Charlie..Give me a smile…What happened to that smile I used to know
Don’t you know your grin has always been my sunshine….Let that sunshine show”

Nearby diners were laughing; my other kids were acting like they’d accidentally sat at the wrong table and Kelsey was nowhere to be found.

When she re-emerged she had a smile the size of Texas (forced, of course) but for these last thirteen years she has been a lovely dinner companion.

So over the years it became a song of love, a source of comfort to my kids in their time of need. Whether they were eight with skinned knees or eighteen with a bad day, I’d sing the song.

Just last week, I sang it to my adult son, a former Marine-turned-police officer. Even big boys need their mommies.

But today, this mommy needed to hear it herself.

It was a coveted rainy day Monday so I should have been as content as a fat cat with a bowl of milk. But I wasn’t.

It had been a hectic three weeks without a single day off. At times fraught with tension and at others, just super busy. I’ve been trying to get a few days together in a row that I could leave town and visit my grandmother, who doctors say won’t be with us much longer. It hasn’t worked out and to make matters worse, my husband and I have had to pick up the slack from those who have bailed on commitments made to the church. It has been exhausting and I’ve struggled with becoming discouraged.

I also learned that husbands don’t take too kindly to being penciled in.

So I decided to slow down. I didn’t have any scheduled appointments today so I decided to not address any “pop-ups” either. There was only one phone call, but I politely declined. Most times I’m only one in a Rolodex of resources anyway.

The problem is, I don’t do SLOW very well.

I operate at two speeds, full-steam ahead and standstill.

And so when I slowed down, I came to a complete halt.

At first it scared me. But then I realized that all my be-bopping on mountaintops is going to make me weary every time.

We grow in the valley. We get rest in the cleft of the rock.

Maybe one day I’ll learn to walk to these places of rest instead of hurling myself off a spiritual cliff.

But for now, I’ll hang in this valley and rest.

UPDATE: Husband still not a fan of being penciled in, but I’m working from home mostly now so it’s been better and we are no longer seeing each other in passing. We are doing more of our ministry together which is how I’m sure the Lord wanted it before I took off in my own direction.

I have definitely learned to slow down and to enjoy life at a more leisurely pace. That required saying NO a lot more and setting some firm boundaries for myself. No longer a “taxi service” I’m available for REAL needs, not just for convenience.

We lost my grandmother about a year ago. I was able to go spend some time with her before she died. I’m grateful for that. I was also able to go back to Kansas for her funeral and connect with family members I hadn’t seen in years. It was a time of mourning but also a celebration.

I still have my Cheer Up, Charlie moments. Just today, as a matter of fact, I came home from a wonderful church service expecting a relaxing Sunday afternoon only to find my slippers chewed up into a million pieces and every dog toy in the house “marked” by the aptly-named Rascal. I was furious and as I stomped around cleaning everything up, I told my husband that I was done spending half my days cleaning up after dogs and he better find somewhere for them to go. As he got on the phone to find new owners, I broke down into hysterical sobs and insisted that I’d never forgive him if he give my babies away. Poor guy, he looked absolutely lost at what he was supposed to do next.

“You really are an emotional wreck over this,” he said as he held me close.

I’m starting to think maybe I’m actually at a C-minus on this progress report!

report card