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It Was a Wonderful Thing

April 19, 2004

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was the Joke Show, so I was all set to laugh out loud for a good stretch of time, and I wasn’t disappointed. Vince Giordano got me going with a Jelly Roll Morton tune on the saxophone, "Hyena" something, and there was this running-wild laughter through the whole song. Laughing is like yawning that way -- someone else does it, and before you know it or can help it, you're doing it, too. We had this thing in my family when I was growing up where, when someone yawned and got to the point where their eyes closed, you'd stick your finger in their mouth and wreck the yawn. It was annoying, but boy, was it funny, and we did it for years until we kids moved out and my parents grew older and it became disrespectful to push your finger in your parent's mouth in the middle of a big old yawn.

There was the "Inner Thigh Pinch" which my mother started when I was about six or seven. When any of us was going up the stairs ahead of her, she would reach up and firmly pinch between her thumb and forefinger the skin just above the knee to the inside of the thigh. It was particularly painful, and designed to get us moving faster up the steps, or to crack the silent treatment one of us was giving her for an unfair punishment. Sometimes it seemed an affectionate expression of a carefree mood, and it was silly, and we often stumbled and always laughed. Mr. Sundberg doesn't much appreciate being on the receiving end of the Pinch, though he's gotten used to it and seems to tolerate it, mainly because it makes ME laugh and stumble and I think he married me partly because I can laugh at just about anything -- which has been a problem in both church and at job interviews.

I imagine one reason my mother married my father was that he has one of those laughs both glorious and painful to witness. I remember staying up late with him watching Johnny Carson and he'd start laughing and his face would turn red and he'd have a hard time breathing and kick his legs up in the air. Sometimes he'd roll off the couch onto the rust carpet and lay there curled up, gasping, holding his belly with both hands. It was a wonderful thing, to see him laugh that way, and it made me feel like life was unfolding the way it ought to. During the commercial, when he could breathe again, he'd jump up and make popcorn and be back in time for the show, and sure enough he'd start up again and I'd have to take the popcorn away so he wouldn't spill it.

It's hard to get a solid laugh going when you're alone. It comes out as a more of a chuckle, and a sigh, and feels disappointing, mainly because you don't have someone next to you to laugh with. Now yawning is another matter. Yawning when you're alone is a wonderful thing because you can open your mouth as wide as you want and make all sorts of noise and even a song of it, and drag it out, and no one is around to think you're insane or suggest you get some REM sleep or stick their finger in your mouth just as you close your eyes.

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