Friday, October 22, 2010

The blessing of the belly laugh.

I've been thinking a lot about laughter today, and how different situations, with different company, evoke different laughs. That's a lot of 'differents' isn't it. That's okay. I'm not talking about grammar...I'm talking about laughter.

There's the polite chuckle at any public meeting when the speaker says something humorous and you can tell by the pause and the expectant look on his face that his notes say 'await laughter here'. You can also tell how many are paying attention by the length of the pause between his remark and the beginning of the chuckle. Suddenly you are part of the group...united by inattention, perhaps, but the sidelong glance of another listener in your proximity says 'he almost caught us dozing there, didn't he', and you bond for that brief moment. I love that!

How about the quickly stifled snicker when someone does something unexpected, like the little hop-skip step when they trip over nothing and then notice that you have observed them. You can't help it - it just slips out and then you are obliged to say something corny like 'gotta watch those speed bumps'. Those snickers are risky...especially when something really cracks you up and you try not to react. Occasionally you can cover it with a fake cough, but that's not reliable. there's an evocative one...especially if you're of the female persuasion. Remember giggling with girlfriends over a private joke? I remember overhearing two very proper school teachers giggling like ten-year-olds over someone who mispronounced a said to the other "Remember him? He's the one who used to pronounce Regina's name with a long I." I loved their delight in sharing this memory, and I love that I can recall that moment and giggle over it myself.

I've noticed over the years that my laughter is no longer as deep and satisfying as it was back when life was less complicated. It starts in my chest and travels up my throat terminating in a perfectly acceptable laugh, but it seldom triggers the endorphins that are so therapeutic. I don't know why. It just doesn't happen.

Last summer I had opportunity to visit old friends at home on their farm. Their property is just down the road from where mine was and we remain best friends. As I sat with them the years fell away. We recalled funny things about friends and neighbors, memories of our children growing up, moments we had shared...and the air sparkled with our shared mirth. For that one afternoon, laughter came from somewhere deep in my belly and erupted in gales...just like it used to. I wiped tears from my eyes and then laughed some more. That day was a gift from God, as are those dear friends. I realized that day that I hadn't lost my belly laugh...I'd just put it into storage beside memories of a gentler time. And that I need to pull it out more often and use it...actively seek the humor in simple everyday things. Share it with my 'newer' friends.

How very beautiful to find something you thought you had lost. May we never take for granted the blessing of the belly laugh.