Posted by: pendrops | March 21, 2007

limp with laughter


I spent this past weekend in Peoria, visiting with friends and family. While every trip for the past seven years has consisted solely of wedding planning, funeral planning, or holiday cheering, this visit found me stretching out a bit, released from such demands.

As a result of this freedom, it was one of my favorite trips to Peoria. I spent leisurely time reconnecting with two aunts, chatting with two uncles, sipping tea with a dear family friend, catching up with my old hairdresser, and carving out a few hours for a showing of To Kill a Mockingbird at Peoria’s oldest picture house. I even made it to the cemetery to stand in front of a speckled granite stone and remember Junebug and Arlie.

Later that night, my Auntie laid out some old pictures and we remembered some more. Black and white, tattered, crinkled, ruffle-edged pictures sprawled across the table. They were few (Grandma June didn’t save things, especially pictures), but I had never seen these before and I soaked up the new story each one told.

As I drove back to Nashville a couple days later, past lush plots of soybean and corn fields, one of those faded and colorless snapshots lingered in my mind, haunting me in a way.

Grandma stood on the right, bookending some old friend. Her arm linked with the friend in the middle. In her other hand she held a clutch purse, which I imagine was a navy shade of blue. Behind the three women, a pond rippled with tiny waves, and a Rambler and a Chevy Bel Air parked at the water’s perimeter.

The person taking the picture had obviously just said something funny because the women with Grandma were giggling. Still, they stood upright, vertical, proper and posed. But Grandma had transcended. I mean, the woman was utterly limp with laughter.

The arm linked with her friend’s hung loose. Her purse dangled from loose fingers and probably even dropped after the Kodak’s shutter snapped. Her legs buckled, weak and bent at the knees. Her shoulders hunched forward, shrugging up and down in this moment of hilarity.

But it’s her face that finishes the story, her face that opens a window to something in her spirit. With eyes closed, mouth open wide, head cocked back in a robust convulsion of laughter, she lost herself. She had completely forgotten pretense or propriety, surrendered to the side-splitting power of some kind of wit.

Laughter does that to us, I suppose. If we’ll let it. In an instant, a belly laugh can shatter our most carefully constructed walls, tear down our deeply entrenched defenses, unravel our most tightly wound knots, and even heal our still-bleeding wounds.



  1. Indeed, laughter is no joke. Without it we are blunt and bored, dying and diminishing. Thank you for this profound reminder.

  2. I love to laugh,
    ah ha ha ha ha ha ha,
    long and loud and clear…

  3. laughter acts apprentice to the great apothecary wisdom. she seizes upon the most ripe opportunities and exploits them for her own devices… namely, keeping the inanely sane from their own furtive demises.

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