Baby boomers and every other generation all have had to face the same issue: who’s the face behind the mask? And is that face happy or sad? Jerry Zezima, humor columnist for the Tribune News Service of Chicago, decided to face the issue down and now, for the first time in a long time, two granddaughters have gotten to see his face, complete with his mustachioed mug.
The problem with wearing a mask — aside from the lamentable fact that you can’t breathe, talk, or make funny faces — is that no one can see you smile.
Not that there has been much to smile about over the past year because the pandemic has forced everyone to wear a mask, the result being that I couldn’t see people smile at my frustrating inability to make funny faces or tell stupid jokes.
But I recently dropped the mug rug when, after receiving my second coronavirus vaccine and for the first time in months, I saw my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly without having to wear a mask.
“Poppie!” they squealed in unison when I walked in the front door of their house to watch them while my daughter Lauren ran errands.
They still recognized me. I think the mustache was a giveaway because my wife, Sue, known to our five grandchildren as Nini, doesn’t have one.
Sue and I had seen Chloe and Lilly the previous day for an afternoon of outdoor fun and frolic, the first time we had done so, maskless, in I can’t remember how long. (I can’t remember because wearing a mask every day has cut off the air supply to what little remains of my brain.)
At any rate, the only way our grandchildren could see us since this whole viral business began is on FaceTime, which has given me a chance to show my Face one silly session at a Time.
But now, I was finally resuming my cherished role as The Manny, a big-baby babysitter whose grandkids are more mature than I am.
“Where’s your mask, Poppie?” asked Chloe, who just turned 8.
“In the car,” I replied.
“You look better without it,” said Lilly, who’s 4.
Then, announcing she was the Tooth Fairy, Lilly handed me a small mesh candy bag with 40 cents in it.
“You deserve it, Poppie,” Lilly said. “You lost your buck teef when you were little. I didn’t lose my buck teef,” which she couldn’t pronounce without, of course, her “buck teef.”
As the three of us used all of our teeth to eat lunch — mac and cheese — it dawned on me that Chloe and Lilly may be the only people on earth happy to see my full visage again.
Afterward, we went outside to the girls’ picnic table, which served as Lilly’s Restaurant, where I was served a dessert of freshly picked flowers.
“Yummy!” I exclaimed as I pretended to munch on the delicious dandelions, which I pretended to wash down with dandelion wine.
“You don’t have to wear your mask in my restaurant,” Lilly informed me.
After running around the yard and playing on the swings, we went back inside, where Lilly changed into her Princess Aurora costume from “Sleeping Beauty.”
“Would you like me to change into a costume?” I asked, which prompted Lilly’s resounding response: “No!”
Chloe got on her FreeTime to show me “Hello Kitty Discovering the World.”
“Let’s go to Australia!” she said.
“Do I need a passport?” I wondered.
“Of course not, silly Poppie!” Chloe answered.
After visiting all the continents, I made a mental note to put in for mileage on my tax returns.
Then the girls climbed into my lap so I could read “Paulette: The Pinkest Puppy in the World.”
“She’s having a ruff day!” Chloe joked.
It was a wonderful visit, especially since we could actually hear each other.
“Do you know what you sound like with a mask on?” Chloe asked.
“What?” I replied.
“Um, um, um!” Chloe said.
“Ugh, ugh, ugh!” Lilly joined in.
We all laughed. When Lauren got back, it was time to leave.
Without a mask on, it was easy to show the girls I had a great time. They could see it from a smile away.
Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima
Jerry’s fifth book to make you laugh is “Every Day Is Saturday: Sleeping Late, Playing with the Grandchildren, Surviving the Quarantine, and Other Joys of Retirement.”