Monday, July 07, 2014

Jim Gaffigan takes me back in time...

Here in England, I end up spending a lot of time on public transportation, opening up new opportunities for reading. I'm a big fan of non-fiction, and usually go for things in the realm of liturgy, history and, yes, liturgical history, but last week I received a review copy of Jim Gaffigan's "Dad is Fat" and indulged in pure fun. Gaffigan used to be identified with his "Hot Pockets" routine, but now I think he's more known as the funnyman with all those kids. He and comedy-writing-partner wife Jeannie have five so far (don't ask them if they're "done yet"; there's a whole chapter on that).

On Sunday, sitting alone in the back seat of the community car while we were stuck in London traffic, I kept laughing out loud as I read, provoking a lot of head-turning and quizzical looks. Finally, when I managed to keep from chortling, I read the zingers out loud. I think the sisters in the car were all from big families (one of them, I know, had ten siblings); they could all identify with the stories and that oddball sense of humor.

So Gaffigan writes about his wife; about his kids (by the end of the book, you know them all by name--though I can't figure out how to pronounce daughter Marre's name); about finding babysitters (like grandparents! "The problem is, when you are not paying someone to do a favor for you, they don't really need to listen to you. 'No candy' means 'Your heartless parents don't give you candy, so I will give you tons of candy..."); about being the kind of Catholic who goes to Mass each and every Sunday with five children ("Am I torturing my children, because church is the opposite of a video game?"). He writes about Catholic guilt--and how Parental Guilt "totally puts 'Catholic Guilt' to shame." He writes about life with five kids in a two-bedroom apartment (until the family's recent move, bedtime involved shifts and a "holding cell"), and he writes about "attachment parenting" ("Since Jeannie is a big believer...and I'm a spineless coward, we have instituted an open-door policy, meaning if one of our kids has a nightmare, they are welcome to come in our room and pee in our bed").

The whole experience of reading "Dad is Fat" reminded me very much of my early teen years, when Erma Bombeck's column was a regular feature of the daily paper. (Back then, New Orleans had a daily paper.) While Mom prepared something for the little kids, I would sit at the breakfast table with my bowl of grits (salt and butter, please), hunt down Bombeck's feature ("At Wit's End") and read it out loud, the narration only broken by my choking laughter (sometimes even to tears) and Mom coming to read it herself, one hand on my shoulder, shaking with laughter.

"Dad is Fat" is for real. And I'm recommending this one to all six of my siblings.

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