Heavy Heavy Hangover
“What do you want for your birthday?” a friend asked.
“Oh, I don’t deserve a present. Just give me a lump of coal in a brown paper sack. That will make it easier for you to hit me in the head with it.”
My friend gave me a blank stare which he accented with thoughtful blinking. Finally he asked, “What the hell are you talking about?”
“You know. That game you play when you’re a kid? ‘Heavy heavy hangover… thy poor head…’?”
More blank staring and thoughtful blinking.
So I explained the game. The birthday boy or girl would have to sit in a chair and everyone who brought a gift to the party would, one by one, go stand behind the child and say the whole rhyme. Which went, “Heavy heavy hangover, thy poor head. What would you wish with a BUMP on your head?” And when you say “bump,” you would wallop the birthday kid over the head with your gift. And you could smash them as hard as you want and they couldn’t get mad. And then, as you would hand them the gift to unwrap, they would wish for something specifically for you. Usually it was for something completely outlandish and impossible. Like a pony, or a trip to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
“That’s… completely… odd,” said my friend as diplomatically as possible.
“You really didn’t play that game growing up?” I asked. “Seriously? I always assumed that everyone played that at birthday parties.”
I asked about twenty people over the next couple of days if they had ever heard of this game, and no one had. I called my parents to ask them where it came from, but it turns out that neither of them ever played it as kids. In fact, they hadn’t heard of it until my sisters and I learned it from the neighbors.
I brought it up again at my birthday party. “Have any of you ever heard of ‘Heavy Heavy Hangover?’”
This time, my friend Gina (who was also raised in Utah) immediately started chanting the rhyme in a funny put-on kid voice.
“Yes!” I said. “Finally! I thought I was going insane!”
“Mormons are so weird,” someone else said, after we explained the game to the room.
“That’s just it!” I said. “It can’t be a Mormon thing; it has the word ‘hangover’ in it! Right?”
“Maybe that’s what Mormons think hangovers are,” Gina offered.
“Maybe…” I wondered.
I Googled it but didn’t solve the mystery. I found some references and it definitely seems to be Utah and even Mormon centric. But I didn’t find an origin story.
Then, sometime later, I was re-reading The Great Brain, a children’s book by Utah writer, John D. Fitzgerald and he referenced the game (and he didn’t explain it, so apparently he thought it was ‘a thing’ too), proving they were playing it in Utah as early as the 1910s. Wherever it came from, it’s probably a good thing it never caught on in any global sense. Sure, it was fun for us to brain each other when we were kids. But kids can handle that sort of thing because – as everyone knows – children are made of galvanized rubber and polyurethane. If everyone carried a connection with birthday gifts and head injuries into adulthood, as I have done, this world would be a much scarier place. Especially when you consider that more than one of my lovely friends bought me wine for my birthday. One well placed thwack with that and I’d be permanently lobotomized. I’d wander around for the rest of my life drooling on people while wishing them ponies.
And Mormons think that alcohol is bad for you if you drink it. Can you imagine?
Its so hard to believe it isn’t a thing.
Back in the mid 1950’s, I lived in Ogden, Utah. I remember a version of the Heavy, Heavy rhyme. We stood behind the birthday child, held our gift above his/her head, and said, “Heavy, Heavy hang over, thy poor dome. Whom do you wish be the receiver?” I never understood it, but I certainly remember it.