Saturday, November 7, 2009

Laughter, The Best Medicine

Along with several nasty ailments, my family shares the chronic condition of inappropriate laughter. It seems to manifest itself most strongly in the under 50 crowd, dissipating after you've received enough harsh glances and tongue lashings. We laugh at bad news, at sad situations, at funerals. It is an awful problem to have.

I was eighteen when my paternal grandmother died. There we were, sitting shell shocked in the church (we were not so much shell shocked over my grandmother dying, as she'd been sick for a long time. We were shocked over the appearance of a new, eleven year old cousin no one knew existed but my uncle. Who had *not* been divorced for eleven years yet. 'Nother post).

My grandmother was a member of the Eastern Star sorority (Eastern Star is a sister organization to the more well known Masons). Her Eastern Star sisters got up to perform the traditional Eastern Star rites of passage, which is to say they stood at the front of the church for nearly an hour and a half saying stuff no one understood and putting strange flowers into and onto the casket. My cousin, just shy of forty at the time, passed me a note in the middle of it:

"Please help me. I feel a BIG belly laugh coming on."

This was a crisis. This meant I had to distract my cousin somehow without looking at her. It didn't help that my nephew, who was four or five at the time, chose that moment to announce he was hungry. "Auntie MzMannerz, when can we have a sandwich?"

Look - an hour of Eastern Star dramatics, the note and my nephew would have done anyone in. Now *I* was suppressing a big belly laugh. I slumped forward and immediately felt hands on my shoulders. Comforting me. My cousin was now fighting a full on scream.

We both got the look from my mother that day.

My mother believes in being appropriately calm and serious. If there is ever a time for appropriate calmness and seriousness, a funeral is it. She has been known to chastise flailing relatives at other funerals and relay that there is too a such thing as too much crying. But the hysterics of mourning she more readily forgives. The laughter, not so much.

Today, The Washington Post's Gene Weingarten, who has certainly contributed to multiple occurrences of belly laughs, wrote about the importance of laughter for The Post's weekly magazine. I enjoyed it, it hit home, I thought I'd share.

Mr. Weingarten doesn't read my blog (very few people do), but if he were to stumble across my slice of cyberspace, I'd want him to know - I really needed that today.


1 comment:

Two Shorten the Road said...

I once almost busted a gut at my roommate's Phi Beta Kappa induction. I was sitting with her family, and her dad is hard of hearing, and I happened to look over in the middle of the ceremony just as her dad put his hand to his ear (as if he had a big ol' hearing-aid horn in his hand) and leaned forward in a really conspicuous way. I accidentally caught my roommate's brother's eye, and it was all over. The quiet sobbing/laughter began. Then her mom started. Then her brother had to leave the auditorium to go have his hysterics. I was crying by the end.

It was awesome.