Days and Preschool Days, Too:
A treasury of anecdotes culled from my work
and play as a preschool worker and an elementary school after- school
"IS EVERYBODY HAPPY?"
eleven when my family visited New York City. In a restaurant my
parents pointed out a celebrity named Ted Lewis,
the night club performer who made famous the phrase, "Is Everybody Happy?"
I knew the phrase, having seen it lampooned in TV cartoons.
A couple years ago I was sitting on my
chair adjacent to our preschool sandbox. Children all around earnestly
dug in the sand, enacted pretend tea parties with plastic dishes and
cups, and hung on the nearby climbing structure. It appeared such a
Some little imp inside me said, "This
is the perfect time to ask Ted Lewis' question!" Into that atmosphere
of earnest play, I shouted out, as much in the voice I'd heard
on the old cartoons, too, "IS EVERYBODY HAPPY?"
I'd sort of guessed beforehand the likely
response to such a lead question, but still found the whole situation
hilarious when the answer came, a mighty chorus of "Noooooo!" shouted
by many young voices.
I generally ask the question about once
a day now. It's another little, repetitive ritual the children and I
have come to enjoy. Sometimes when a preponderantly
negative reply comes back, I'll follow up with, "Is ANYBODY happy?"
Theres' usually an undercurrent of children replying in the affirmative
to the first question, and to the second the only response is usually
a couple "yesses".
I'm sort of asking for the playful answer
I usually get to question number one. Yet I wonder. The children really
could just as easily chorus a playful "Yessss!"
Under the little game/drama, what are
they really saying? Just that it's fun to play and sort of contradict
a grown-up? Or does some of the energy come from an experience of divorce
and the otherwise difficult life of 2 to 4 year-olds who may spend up
to 11 hours a day in school and daycare while harried parents try to
earn enough money to house, feed, and clothe them?
It's all so ambiguous. I'll always wonder,
as we go on having our fun. And I'll probably never know the answer.
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