Ramona Quimby had it right. "Yeep" is a perfectly joyful noise. I was reminded of that fact last week when I learned children's book author Beverly Cleary had turned 100. Given that she was in her late 60s and I was about 7 when I read her books, I suppose I can be forgiven for thinking she was always elderly and must already have turned 100. As one might imagine, "late 60s" seems significantly less elderly now than it did then, however.
In any case, I've long had etched into my mind the scene from Ramona and Her Father in which Ramona is making her Christmas list full of exotic birds, while yeep-ing and contemplating the likelihood that her father's payday will lead to a trip to the local hamburger joint for perfect burgers and fries. When her mother asks why she's yeep-ing, Ramona says she's "making a joyful noise until the Lord," as instructed in Sunday school, and had made up her own noise since one wasn't specified.
Even at a young age, I caught the until/unto switch. But, skimming over that as a characterization device, which I can now call what it is (thank you, MFA), my focus was on the description of the french fries, the events that happened on payday, and the yeep-ing.
I didn't develop a taste for fries until several years after I read the book. My family didn't eat out frequently, and when we did, I usually chose a burrito or an open-faced turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy. I still remember eating an acceptable-quality burrito at the A&W in Laramie, Wyoming, on one of our cross-country treks. Yes, Virginia, A&W sold foods other than burgers and chicken once upon a time. Still, the description of the perfect fries made an impression. Whenever I come across one now, I think of Ramona.
In my family, too, Dad's payday meant treats. Living in western Nevada, we had limited shopping choices for a while. It took some time for a "real" grocery store to set up shop in our farm town. So every two weeks, Mom, Dad, and I (often with Bingo, who was an excellent traveling pup) would load up in the car and drive the hour and a half into Reno. A chiropractor appointment with a great family friend and fellow Bahá’í. Carefully rationed extra-crispy KFC for dinner. And then the trek through the grocery store before we drove home. Later, when groceries came to our corner of the desert, payday might mean pizza or a chocolate Italian ice with Gummi Bears.
Then, of course, there was the yeep-ing. I can't say I ever made that particular noise until I read about Ramona's use of it. I've held onto the sound ever since, though. It works for me. In my own head, when things go well and cheerfulness is in order, I absolutely yeep a little.
In fact, this past weekend was definitely yeep-worthy. For the first time in quite a while, some Bahá’í friends from my area got together to study and compare notes about life and service. We were gathered in the home where many of us had taken part in study circles through the years, as commemorated in staged photos with artfully Photoshopped heads inserted to include people who weren't present for whatever we were celebrating. The hostess has always blended American and Ghanaian traditions with ease, charming her guests at every turn. And music often kicked off our study sessions a decade ago.
So it was that Saturday afternoon, after quiet, reverent prayers in English and German and Spanish had filled the breezy, light room with a peaceful calm, we found ourselves following our hostess as she taught the simple words to a call-and-response song shared by English-speaking Bahá’ís all over Africa. We stood, shoulders rubbing against one another in the living room, learning the motions that accompanied the words. Stepping and stomping, bending low to the floor and reaching high above our heads, we sang the easy lyrics in full voice, faces flushed with happiness at the joyful noise and the company of friends.
Yeep! I thought to myself. Yeep! Yeep!