I know I need to do some posts about the craft of writing, but I heard some laughing yesterday. My son and I were grocery shopping. Oddly enough, this is something that he and I enjoy doing together. We have continuous debates as we shop. This one was a question a friend had posed – does silence equal consent? But I’m not thinking serious debates at the moment; I’m thinking about that laughter.
As we came through the freezer section, I heard full-on, unrestrained belly laughter from a little boy. And I heard a man saying, in a thick Southern accent, ‘oh no, we’re gonna crash!’. Sure enough, here was a dad pushing a cart with a toddler in the seat. I had to laugh right along with them. I told the man that my son and I used to do the same thing, then pointed to my ‘little toddler’ who was hucking a heavy bag of dog food for me. The man said, in that lovely accent, ‘Big guy, helpin’ his mama’.
The brief episode, besides being fun, got me wondering when we lose that freedom to let loose with laughter out in public. Children seem so unrestrained in their joy. Do we laugh like that, even at home? Do we, as adults, find the same joy in little things?
Personally, my husband is the only one who can make me laugh until the tears come and the stomach muscles ache. Most people see the gruff, sometimes scruffy guy who doesn’t like being around people. But at home? He makes me laugh.
I’m sure part of this lack of unrestrained happiness is training. As we get older we absorb all those messages to be quiet, to sit still, to not be disruptive out in public. Another part is that as we age, life is no longer full of new discoveries. I get all that. But I miss the free-flowing laughter.
The episode at the store also got me thinking about laughter in writing. The ways to describe laughing until you ache and can’t breathe versus softer giggles, or the smile on the outside when you’re laughing on the inside. I do that, by the way, when online. Something will be funny but I’ll only laugh on the inside. I have a co-worker that has no shame – who’ll laugh out loud at something she sees on Facebook. Do I get annoyed, feel interrupted, think she’s being disruptive? No. I get up, go see what she’s laughing at, and then laugh, too. Maybe not the cut-loose and let the laugh rip, but I’m still having fun.
I want children to keep laughing and remind us to do the same. I want to remember how it was when everything was never-before-seen and still full of magic.
And by the way, my son laughed at the store, too. He told me he remembered those times in the shopping cart, and how his dad would make the cart wobble, or sometimes let the cart float free for a few seconds. So at least we keep the memories even when we have learned to be more restrained in public.
I couldn’t, though, get my son to agree to get back in the cart to see if he still fit.