I thought I was funny.
Many times I projected a thought for others’ enjoyment. They’d laugh. Thus, I figured I was funny. When someone didn’t laugh, I simply surmised my tongue-in-check dry wit didn’t translate.
That is until recently. Husband Bill had read a book about enneagram personalities. Upon more research on the trusty internet, I pointed to a phrase that was supposed to describe me—caring, kind and funny.
With my finger on funny, I say, “I’m funny.”
“No you’re not,” Bill replies.
I’m in shock. I respond with more emphasis, “Yes, I am funny!”
With the same vigor, he returns, “NO, you’re not!”
Becoming wounded at this point, I counter, “But you laugh at me all the time!”
“Yes, but that’s because you’re funny in a different way,” he says as though he believes he speaks the only truth.
So I call my best friend Nina.
“Bill says I’m not funny.”
“What???” Nina replies, already laughing. “You’re hilarious!”
“As are you!”
With that assurance, we schedule to meet for her birthday at Trios the next week.
As soon as Nina, Steve, Bill and I are seated, Nina looks at Bill and says, “So you don’t think Ann’s funny?”
“Well, she says and does funny things,” he explains.
Once we order, our conversation shifts to one about Steve growing up in California.
Describing his school years, he remarks, “My principal in elementary school was Jerry Mather’s dad. You know, Beaver from Leave it to Beaver?”
“What?” I chime in. “Ward Cleaver was your principal?” I imagine Ward in his fine suit returning home from work each day to June Cleaver in her perfectly coiffed hair. June also had a perfectly pressed apron and dress with matching heels. I digress. This man, Ward Cleaver, was an actor and a school principal.
“No,” Steve said, laughing, “Jerry Mather’s real dad.”
“I also went to school with Freddy Krueger,” he adds.
“He had to be creepy,” I blurt out, picturing a ten-year-old wearing goth back in the 60s, wielding a roaring chainsaw.
“No,” Steve says, reflecting, “he was just a normal looking kid.”
“That’s why they call it acting,” my smart aleck husband adds. He then looks at Nina and mouths, “See what I mean by funny,” while doing the off-kilter hand movement thing.
So, I ask, Who doesn’t love to laugh?
Laughter is eating a warm homemade cinnamon roll the size of your hand with melting cream cheese icing. Laughter not only sweetens the occasion, it is the occasion.
It can also remedy most anything—like adding any kind of cheese to melt and mingle through overcooked broccoli and tasteless rice.
It’s when I’m with Nina. I can’t help it, I immediately get into my airhead self, as does she. No alcohol or drugs needed.
For decades now, Nina and I have laughed through many a trial. When both of our daughters were in high school, we’d start our afternoon walks with tension tying up our shoulders, neck, cheeks. By the end of the hour, we were no longer grinding our teeth, both loosened by laughter.
“So, ______ (insert teenager’s name) tells you you’re the only parent who’s that strict? I get that from mine, too!”
For one crazy-thinking week, we decided to get up at 5:30 in the morning and wander up and down hills through subdivisions, thinking we were starting our day out right. Neighbors sipping coffee at their windows must have thought we were drunk as we stumbled through the dark, screaming when we thought we saw a snake.
It was a paper bag.
Squashed paper bags on roads still make me laugh, even though sacks don’t resemble snakes. Nor do snakes resemble sacks. What were we thinking? Oh, that’s right, we weren’t thinking, just laughing.
Laughing blocks the worry wart from plaguing our days, if even for a time.
And in the midst of tough stuff, I could count on Nina to help me see the brighter side of our lives, tipping me over the edge into sunshine-y days.
Here’s another question:
Can we point out being funny and still be funny?
After Nina’s birthday lunch, every time I’d say something funny and Bill laughed, I’d tap my index finger on his shoulder and remind him, “See, I am funny.”
Happily I think Bill’s funny, too, and we laugh a lot at our house, spotlighting things in each other in a fun way that keeps us from strangling the other. Almost weekly, maybe daily, he catches me stumbling into something only my airhead-self would say or do. He remembers most of them, whereas I can’t clutter my brain, keeping me tabula rosa in thought (meaning–a clean slate).
Many times it’s memories of laughing that get me chuckling, like the nights Bill and I go to bed exhausted. In the dark of night, moon rays slipping through the plantation shutters, something gets us tickled. We laugh with shoulders rising and falling, like a crazy dance that shakes out all the tension from our day.
Laughter is healing and connects us through time and space.
I don’t have memories growing up when my mother and I laughed together. When I was twelve and Mother became the only parent present to rear and financially support three children, she stayed stressed. I suppose it was only after I was grown and no longer in her care she was granted the freedom to lighten up.
It was usually during the holidays after preparing a large meal and cleaning up that Mother, daughter Ari (from her young years through her early twenties before Mother died ) and I would stretch out on her bed, tell some rambling story and laugh until we cried. Our shoulders shook, our squeals of laughter escalated, and tears flowed in their freeing power, exhaustion whirling away from our reverie.
Today I was reminded of a time that still makes me laugh in its fullness. Background info—I had a friend who taught aerobics classes I attended at a health club. She went to OBU and was a PE major. At the same health club when Ari was 7ish, Ari’s dad and I were involved with other couples from our church on round robin teams in which we played wallyball—that’s playing volleyball in a racketball court. On those evenings Ari and friends watched through the glass walls or over the second floor walkway.
One afternoon Mother picked up Ari to spend the night with her. As they drove to her house, Mother tossed out a question, “So what do you think you’ll want to do when you grow up?”
“When I go to college,” Ari said decisively, “I’m going to OBU and majoring in wallyball.”
Mother got so tickled, she started crying.
“I had to pull off and park on the shoulder of the highway,” she said, “because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t see the road.”
I wasn’t there, but I imagine Mother’s version entangled with Ari’s animated one. Her head was bent over the steering wheel, possibly guffawing, then followed with the high squeal that rises from a deep place. Ari, of course, is oblivious to why this is so funny, but she has to laugh at her Nana laughing.
Those memories follow us on days we reach for them.
I do have one rule about making jokes and laughing: We never laugh at someone else’s expense—in their presence or not. We can certainly laugh with them though—when it’s truly humorous to them.
Like the time Ari, Mother and I were at the lake. Mother had just come from the beauty shop for her weekly do. Once in the water, she was at war with the swim raft, wrestling with its airy obstinance. It was meant to be her awaiting throne to keep her hair safe, only it flipped her completely over. A blob of hair emerged from the water with lake water dripping down her face.
“I meant to do that,” she said with the greatest of dignity.
For years now, “I meant to do that” has a deeper meaning for Ari and me. Mother always joins us in spirit.
I end with a heartfelt thank you. Had I not written this blogpost I wouldn’t have had a fitting ending.
Just now standing at the microwave, heating a snack, I tell Bill, “I’m writing a blogpost about how I’m not funny.”
“You’re funny,” he says, striding by.
“Well, yeah, that kind of funny, or so you think.”
“No, no,” he says, pausing now, “I’ve started paying attention, and you really are funny. It’s just you make it seem so easy. While some people work at it, being animated and exaggerating details for laughs, you just slip it in easy-like.”
I can end now. My work here is done.
A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing,