I’ve always been intrigued by inside jokes. When everyone is laughing except for me, I want to know why. And when “my” people are laughing and others are left looking on, perplexed, I feel almost powerful. To me, inside jokes are a defining characteristic of “family” – whether it’s the traditional family, a football team, actors on a movie set, or colleagues at work, there’s something so intimate and personal, yet typically silly, about sharing in such secrets.
And needless to say, I’m on the inside on many an inside joke. So this morning, when I found myself singing to Eli, “Who’s got a big red ding-a-ling?” and then wanting to share how funny that was with the rest of the world, I realized, it would not be all that funny without a lot of explaining. So, here it is…
First, the ding-a ling, which surprisingly, has two parts.
Part One: The Ding
My wife, Sarah, and I are both teachers, so from the time our son was 6-months old, getting him up and ready for the day while getting ourselves up and ready for the day by 7:00 a.m. is quite the challenge. So, to meet the many needs, we had to establish several routines, one of which revolved around breakfast. Our son, Eli, is pretty easy going and easy to please, so pretty much every day, he has frozen waffles for breakfast. Typically, I wake him up, carry him downstairs, and deposit him in bed to snuggle with Sarah while I boil the water for his hot chocolate and toss two waffles in the toaster. And for about two years, the “ding” of the toaster indicating it was done was enough to have him come running into the kitchen to eat.
As he got older, I had to enhance the ding with my own voice to drag him out of bed, so when the waffles are done and cocoa is ready, I now holler “DING!” (or "Ding a ling ding DING!” – see below) and he comes running.
Part Two: The A-Ling
For the past few years, we’ve been doing lots of camping with our cousins. To keep the kids busy, and ourselves entertained by the locals, we tend to participate in lots of the campground activities. At one place, Heath, the BINGO caller, ended every game with his own personal catchphrase of “Ding a ling ding DING!” He had a raspy, somewhat tired (maybe slurry) voice, and after 10 rounds of Bingo, it had become a thing. So much so that we continue to use it years later anytime one of us (including the kids) wants to celebrate a success or indicate approval. In fact, we liked it so much, we actually returned to the same place last year (even though we prefer to try out new places) just to play Bingo with Heath!
Now that we established that members of my family are prone to shouting out "Ding a ling ding DING!” at seemingly random moments, let’s move on to the next part
Part Three: “Who’s got a big red…”
Eli LOVES to sing. And I love to hear him, so even though I am NOT a singer, while we’re in the car, or alone, we often play singing games. Our latest is a seasonally appropriate one based on the Mitch Miller version of “Must be Santa” – the song where Mitch sings, “Who’s got a big red cherry nose?” and a chorus of kids shouts back,” Santa’s got a big red cherry nose! Mitch: “Who laughs this way, ho ho ho?” Kids: “Santa laughs this way, ho ho ho!” and so on. Only, we’ve modified so that I’ll sing out things like, “Who’s got to go to school today?” And Eli responds with, “Eli’s got to go to school today!” Me: “Who likes beer on a special day?” Eli: “Daddy likes beer on a special day!” And so on.
So, now that we have all three parts, you might find it amusing to hear how this morning, when Eli came running into the kitchen JUST as the waffles were ready, negating my need to shout out “Ding!” Or “Ding a ling ding DING!” I heard myself sing out, “Who’s got a big red ding a ling?” And without missing a beat, he sang back, “Santa’s got a big red ding a ling!”
Or, you might not. In which case, yots of yuck on your yawn! Sorry, that’s an inside joke