It is happiness applauding itself and then taking flight to embrace everyone and everything in this worldHafiz

I wouldn’t have thought of my laughter as happiness, I would have named it joy.  But that’s semantics.  And regardless of it’s name, laughter is a gift; from a titter, to a bark, to giggles that spills out and can’t be stopped.

What is more blessed than the moment of sharing a look or a word that creates a bubbling joy.  When any attempt to curtail mirth causes it to leak through the cracks of responsible behavior and become infectious.  Ahh…the epidemic of laughter…precious memories.

Church used to be our favorite place to burst into laughter.

I see myself, my sister and a friend whose image won’t quite come into focus.  I feel our self-importance standing in front of the congregation; clearing our throats and waiting for cue from the piano.  Benevolent smiles shine from the congregation of older people happy to see their young people taking leadership, stepping up in praise.  My father sits behind on the podium us as we glance down at our sheet music on the pulpit and begin.

Those who didn’t know the song settled back for the harmony.  My mother, who also sang in trios with her sisters, (see below) winced.  I sensed my father shifting in his wooden chair.  After three bars we stopped, looked at each other in panic.  We had begun the gospel song with the melody of the verse but the words to the chorus.  It was irrevocable.  There was no next word to fit the music.  And we collapsed in giggles.  Spontaneously.  In chorus.  I don’t remember who finally led us to our seats.

Maybe it was my mother.  The situation would have resonated with her.

When I think of my mother and her sisters I think of music and laughter.  They embraced silliness and were always amused by each other.  And they loved to sing.  Their low voices blended beautifully making them  a popular trio in our small church when Mom’s sisters visited from the midwest.

I have an imprinted memory of them standing by the pulpit.  Mother’s hand covered her eyes as she tried to contain herself.  The serious oldest sister clamped her jaws but didn’t succeed in squelching her smirk.  My other aunt’s belly bobbed up and down in rhythm to her guffaws.

Weddings?  In churches?  Double whammy!

At the wedding of an older nephew in a grand church in a neighboring city, my father, my sister and I attended with our children .  The kids had asked for food on the way  but we were rushing in the way of families who gather a gaggle of children who must be dressed in their finery and presented on time.  “There’ll be food at the reception,” my sister told her son.

Sometime during the ritual which seemed endless to the squirming children, he looked up at her and whispered, “When do we eat.”

My laughter rose up, threatening to escape.  Next to me my sister’s shoulders began to shake and I saw my father…the patriarch of the family…cover his mouth and close his eyes.  In the front row sat the important sister, mother of the groom, dressed like a beautiful bird in teal blue with a matching feather in her chic hat.  I saw that feather tremble and it was over for me.

It took some time to live down the shame.  After all, the oldest and the youngest of the family had slightly disrupted the beautiful ceremony by engaging at least two rows of strangers in laughter at what was to have been a solemn occasion.

Our next church performance was at our own first wedding when my older son was married.  The ceremony was proceeding beautifully.  The bride and her attendants joined our son on the altar.  As they began their vows, some slip of the tongue caused them to smile.  Then snicker.

Of course, in my family we cannot watch one person begin laughing without sharing the joy.  Soon we were all shaking and trying not to snort our laughter aloud.

We had a smart minister that day.  He relieved the tension by his announcement, “Well, it’s better than crying,” and the entire congregation hooted with laughter.  One of my favorite visuals  is of my lovely daughter-in-law in white dress and veil, bent over with laughter and my son leaning backward (looking for guidance on the ceiling, I guess) , grinning broadly, regaining control.  I still smile with the thought of such irrepressible joy.

I treasure all of the laughter in my life.

I love memories of friends at tables.  With inappropriate subjects discussed quietly and punctuated with loud gasps and giggles.  With outlandish behavior missed by someone at the table, instigating huge enjoyment of harmless discomfiture.  With the spark of humor and wit passed like a torch around a table of dear friends  until it is impossible to eat or drink with cheeks sore from smiling so widely and heads tight with containing wild bursts of loud laughter in crowded restaurants.

What changes mild amusement to absolute craziness? I think it’s a virus.

And I hope I’m exposed to it again soon.



  1. I don’t remember my father ever laughing out loud, not even now that he is here with me the last three and a half years. He may smile and occasionally grin but that is that. My late mother on the other hand would go into peals of laughter at the slightest provocation and all her four children have inherited that trait from her. She had a great sense of humour and that too has been passed down to the four of us.

    I am often blamed for being too flippant for seeing the funny side of things.


  2. I’m happy you associate church services with laughter so much! Over here it’s all serious business … 😛

    I very much believe in the freeing and healing power of laughter. For some reason, I often get very silly and foolish when I’ve worked a lot. I call it “evening craziness”. I just giggle all the time. It gets more intense the more I’ve worked. During the past days, I’ve worked *a lot* on a study I’ve set up with two friends, and with one of them, I’ve spent the nights on Skype while we were finishing the materials and preparing the launch of the study. Oh my, I laughed so much I almost fell off my chair. It did me so good!


    • I think it’s so much easier to laugh when one should not. I’ve had my share of nervous titters even in funerals. But LAUGHTER, that’s the best.

      Does this mean you’re really enjoying your work or really enjoying your friends and co-workers? Either way, it’s good.


      • I’m really enjoying my work, mostly because it feels like play to me. (I must admit that otherwise I couldn’t do it, or not so much. I believe that people aren’t made for working as much as many do nowadays, but rather for spending their time playing and being with each other.) Anyway, sometimes, if there are a lot of things which have to be done, it really feels like work. Then it particularly is when laughter breaks through, and that is *so good*. 😀


  3. Oh I know the kind of LAUGHTER you’re talking about! I don’t know why but the minute I hear my mom, dad or brother’s voices even over the phone, we get into the wildest kind of laughter. I hope I catch it soon too! A very lovely post indeed. Hugs xx Sharon


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