all of the selves we Have ever been
Mirth is God’s medicine. –Henry Ward Beecher
After I posted my last blog, Grease on Earth, a friend wrote to share her memory of the family-owned gas station in the neighborhood of her youth. She reminded me that we once called those places “filling stations.”
I remember my dad pulling our well-traveled Rambler station wagon up to the pump of our filling station, cranking the window down, and saying to the attendant, “Fill ‘er up with Ethyl.”
As a young child, I found that confusing. The only Ethel I knew was Ethel Mertz, Lucille Ball’s partner in crime and at least 50% of the reason that we all loved Lucy. I can recall my still-developing mind turning over that word “ethyl,” and trying to dispel the confusion. It did not compute. Concrete operations of thought made homophones a problem, one that can still bewilder me even at my advanced age. By the time I figured out the distinction between ethyl and Ethel, I was pumping my own gas, and it was unleaded.
But once upon a time, I was willing to accept that at the filling station we got gas and filled our car with Ethel, or at least her hilarious qualities. Mirth was much needed for the long drives to my grandmother’s house or across the country when my father deployed. Filling up with good humor can take you a long way and keep you from being tossed out of the car in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
Today, I pump my own gas at the local BP station, but it is inside where I fill up. And I am not talking convenience store junk food. When I walk inside my local BP station, I feel like I have entered Cheers, that famous Boston bar operated by Sam Malone and frequented by Cliff and Norm. My mind wanders to the episode in which Norm enters the bar and Cliff calls out, “Hey, there Nahmy, what’s shakin’?” Norm replies, “Four cheeks and a couple of chins.” My heart fills with mirth. In this urban BP station, everybody knows my name. And I know what's shakin'--their long-distance girlfriends, health issues, roommates, and staff holiday parties. We exchange more than money. I know their names, too.
In our increasingly individualistic, technology-obsessed world, we still need places where everybody knows our names and something about us, places where we can share a laugh. Mirth is another kind of grease that keeps the wheels of life turning and the valves of our hearts pumping. Friendship has always been my filling station. Some friendships are new or casual. Others reflect a lifetime of loyalty and shenanigans. In every case, they are lead-free, but high octane still.
Alloftheselves.com became my filling station during the COVID pandemic when the doors to the world closed. You, my dear readers, filled me up during that long dry spell. I take you with me now on my new journey through breast cancer. I hope you find on these pages some mirth that fills you up, too!