Flarp matters: A multiple-choice test

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What is “flarp”? See if you can guess the correct definition of the word based on 10 actual events in my recent past.

1. A flarp is having to cancel the last vacation of the summer, the morning of, due to the father of the household testing positive for COVID-19.

2. Instead of unpacking the roughly 300 items necessary to take three young children anywhere for 24 hours or more, a flarp is dumping the full suitcases in various places all over the house.

3. According to most medical opinions, including guidance from the CDC, people infected with COVID-19 can expect at least 90 days of virus-free protection. A flarp is when the virus fails to read the fine print of said guarantee.

4. A flarp refers to the specific kind of groan that an otherwise healthy, fully vaccinated and boosted 41-year-old white male makes when lying in bed unable to sleep due to dull body aches from COVID-19.

5. Actually, a flarp is the sound made by a reusable grocery bag stuffed with a fully prepared supper when carried up the steps to a sick person’s front door.

6. When dear family friends invite non-isolating children and spouse to their home for a scavenger hunt with clues that guide these participants from the front door to an inflatable swimming pool, then to the backyard playground, whereby Ring Pops are discovered to have been taped to the swings, a flarp is the noise of a joyous 4-year-old popping said Ring Pop from her mouth with gusto.

7. At the end of this scavenger hunt at the aforementioned home of dear friends, when the last clue leads to a gift-wrapped box that contains all manner of sweets and goodies, a flarp refers to the harmonized squeal of a 4-year-old with the shouts of exultation from older siblings, 6 and 9 years old, respectively.

8. Upon receiving texted images of beloved children during a scavenger hunt, a flarp is the sigh of wonder from the father infected with COVID-19 — a flarp in equal parts awe and gratitude to the aforementioned dear friends and to his loyal spouse, who surely has the verve of a saint!

9. Flarp is “noise putty” that was found in the gift-wrapped box at the end of the scavenger hunt. It looks like regular putty, but when compressed into its plastic container, the putty makes a noise that COVID-19-infected father’s Gran would hope he would refer to in print as “passing gas.”*

(*In truth, his Gran would not like for him to refer to “passing gas” in any sentence that likewise contains her name, but he’s pretty sure she wouldn’t mind just this once.)

10. A flarp is a weekly columnist’s effort to wield humor, patience and creativity at a difficult, disappointing situation in his life in hopes to bring a smile or perhaps a chuckle to his readers and possibly inspire their own grace under duress, which if said columnist was pressed to boil it down, is really why hope matters …

But in answer to the question — What is flarp? — see No. 9.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His newly-published book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”

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