More than 20 years ago, my younger sister got married for the first time.  The marriage didn’t work out, and now she’s been married to a great guy for more than 15 years.  The one good thing that came out of that first marriage (for me, at least), was a source of comedy gold.  And possibly, at long last, wisdom.

My sister’s first husband was an only child whose father was a New York Jew and mother had been in the Hitler Youth (when you were young and living in Germany at that time, that’s what you did whether you embraced that philosophy or not).  Needless to say, they were an interesting couple.  I honestly don’t remember if the grooms mothers parents came to the wedding or not.  I *do*, however, remember that his fathers mother showed up with her husband, Harley.

She had, of course, been invited, but she hadn’t indicated whether she would come or not, and frankly nobody expected her to.  On Friday night, I was getting ready to leave my parents house to go to the church for the rehearsal when the phone rang.  I was the only one here, so I answered it.  I heard a very thick New York accent asking “Hello, is Teresa there?”  Now my sister had been living in her own home for a few years at that point, so I couldn’t figure out why anybody would be calling for her here.  I answered “no.”

The thickly accented voice informed me “This is Georgies Grandma – we’re here for the Rehearsal Dinner.”  I remember thinking “Oh, boy! Nobody knows she’s here, she wasn’t expected!”  Per her request, I gave her husband directions to the church, then left myself to get there as quickly as possible and let everybody know she was coming.

From the moment she walked into the building, she commanded everybody’s attention.  She was all of about 4’12” tall, and started grandly telling EVERYBODY to call her Bubby (Yiddish for grandmother), and calling everybody “Darling” (I presume it was easier than trying to remember every new persons name).  She also declared “I love you!” to everybody within earshot.  Multiple times.  And issued invitations to her home in Florida.  Well, not really invitations so much as commandments: “Darling, I LOVE you!  Come see me in Florida!  You’ll love our place.  Everybody loves our place.  Call us from the airport, Harley will drive…”

I found myself irresistibly drawn to imitating her through the course of the weekend.  I have a tendency (when I’m not paying attention to it) to acoustically mirror the people I’m speaking with (the groom in question at this wedding called me a Linguistic Chameleon).  I’m always afraid they’re going to be offended, or think I’m mocking them, but I really just can’t help it.  Bubby was a delight to imitate – her vocal inflections, her tonality, her phrasing.  She was just such a delicious character to immerse myself in.  I didn’t imitate her in her hearing, or in the hearing of her son.  Her grandson, the groom, though, thought it was wonderful, and asked me more than once to call his father and “do Bubby” on the phone.  I regaled people who didn’t come to the wedding with tales of Bubby.

Two girls in our office (my sister and I worked together at that time) regularly donned “old lady” clothes for Halloween and adopted the personas of their mothers, Doris and Shirley.  I was invited to join them and channel Bubby all day.  I just couldn’t bring myself to do it for an entire day.

I’ve gotten laughs over my impression of Bubby for *years*.  I was just sharing Bubby with my friend Erin Byrne the other day, and she said it was a great schtick that I could use in a comedy show.  My friend Dario told me years ago that I should do a comedy bit, and my coach, Dana Minney, has challenged me to get up on stage and do something (comedy, or music, or hypnosis, anything really, as long as I have fun doing it), and I was thinking last night of how I could incorporate the Bubby schtick into an act.

*WHAM*!  I was suddenly hit with inspiration.  All these years of laughing about Bubby, and she’s having the laugh on me for a change.  Yes, I want to be on a stage.  I can see myself very easily in a large arena with hundreds or thousands of people listening to what I have to say.  The problem (up until now) has been that I didn’t feel I had a grasp on a message.  I’ve got some good tools, and some good ideas.  Centered In Joy is a sort of an umbrella for me, and I feel like it will be a big part of my message.  And Bubby has just become part of my message – because I suddenly FELT, after more than 20 years, that she was being genuine when she was telling everybody “Darling, I LOVE you!”

Dana asked me at our first meeting how open I was to love – to loving and being loved and being touched and embraced by love.  Without conditions.  And I’ve been thinking about it off and on ever since.  In *theory* I’d like to believe that I’m completely open to unconditional love.  It’s a beautiful concept.  But I’m human, and there are so many filters in place that make it difficult, even nearly impossible, to REALLY open to unconditional love.  For every single person on the planet.

One of my all-time favorite authors is Robert A. Heinlein.  He has many quotes that I like, but this one comes to mind at the moment: “The more you love, the more you can love – and the more intensely you love.  Nor is there any limit on how many you can love.  If a person had enough time, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just.”  While I love this quote, it, too, provides limitations.  What about loving the people who are NOT decent and just?

Keep in mind that when I talk about loving someone, I don’t necessarily mean that you have to *like* them, or even to know them.  Nor do you have to love everything that they do.  And that’s where it gets sticky, in my mind.  The concept of love has always been intensely personal.  I can’t love someone unless I know them.  And chances are, if I don’t particularly like them, I won’t get past that to allow myself to love them.

But what if love didn’t have to be so personal, and therefore something so small?  What if it could be elevated to something larger, grander, more Divine?  What if it could become LOVE?  What if I could allow the Divine spark that resides within me to resonate with the Divine spark that resides within each and every single other person living on the face of this planet?  All 7 Billion of you?

This is the gift that Bubby gave me at 1:30 in the morning.  It startled me so much, I almost let myself forget all about it – it’s too big, it’s too important, it’s too earth-shattering, it’s too much for me.  But I didn’t forget it, and I don’t think I will.  Bubby won’t let me.  And now that I’ve written about it, Dana won’t let me.  Vicki Flaugher won’t let me – she recently dubbed me The Joy Diva, and I think I might have to steal that and make it my new Job Title!  Erin won’t let me, my new Twitter Twin with whom I am sharing a fascinating journey of discovery.

Most importantly, though, is the knowledge that LOVE itself won’t let me forget.  This is only the beginning of my message.  My heart is expanding as I think how it would feel to sweep into a room full of mostly strangers, arms wide open, loudly declaring to one and all…

“Darling!  I LOVE you!!!”