Gasps of laughter.

Today was a day of high creativity, exhilarating from start to stop. Not only did I compile a handout of which I actually was proud. Not only did I watch with mounting glee as my students rose to the challenge I kept setting them--"What else do you see? What else?"--to pull every detail out of two images we were exploring in my morning class. Not only did I rewrite the constitution for an organization to which I belong, thereby getting us at least a few steps closer to understanding a document that hasn't been updated since 1933. Not only did I set a ball in motion that may make life substantially more pleasant for a segment of my campus's population about which I care deeply. After all that--which would have been enough for a day, really--and after yet another wondrous Friday meal with my friends, I headed back to campus to help judge a pageant that nearly defies description. Suffice it to say that it involved a karaoke talent show, and that the first person who performed in that late segment of the competition was a swimmer wearing a "diamond" belt buckle spelling out his name, and bling in his ears, and two layers of polo shirts, and a Burberry scarf, and shorts, and he was singing Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," while three girls danced behind him in purple sequined tops. It only got better from there. I think my favorite of the night was the performance of "Baby Got Back." Some of you know my fondness for that song. The girl who chose it was dead-on and dead-pan and as white as white could be, and it was a sight to behold.

By the end of the evening, I had been laughing hysterically for two hours--hysterically, I tell you, the kind of laughing that makes my face hurt, the kind of laughing I do when I dance and then realize I can't make the corners of my mouth come down. The kind that throws me into graceless convulsions, rocking back and forth, hugging myself, covering my face.

I grew up laughing. My mother has an enormous laugh; I know when she's around, even if I can't see her, because I can hear her laughing. (This fact was useful when I was a swimmer, because I always knew whether or not she had arrived at the meet, simply because her laugh would come galloping across the pool deck to me from where she sat writing out ribbon labels with other team parents.) I didn't quite inherit my mother's laugh, but I think I inherited her laughing. My father is tremendously funny, in a catch-you-off-guard way--and also in a way that I can only describe as open and genial. (It's not to his discredit that I can only come up with these banal words; so much of my week has involved writing recommendations and evaluations that I feel as though I've slipped into that lingo. What I mean about my father is that he uses his humor to get to know people, to get them to open up about themselves, rather than to boost himself or to take others down.) My parents thus make a very funny and fun pair. And then there's my brother, who has the best dead-pan and the wackiest wit of anyone I've ever known. He knows exactly how to make me laugh so hard that I can't talk, in no time flat and with the greatest of ease.

Laughing until I can't breathe is a crucial element of my being a fully present self. I have been looking for a long time for somebody who can make me hysterical, and not in any forced or learned way--just genuinely, easily knocked-to-the-floor, totally unembarrasedly and uncontrollably hysterical. Happily, I may be getting there.

In the meantime, I didn't mind settling for tonight's pageant. During the final performance, a truly crazed rendition of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It?", the woman beside me actually did start to cry. I eventually had to put my head back against the top of my seat, I made myself so weak with the shaking and the gasping. I don't know how any of us saw straight to our scoring sheets to write down points for her. In all, it was the right way to end the week, the right event from which to step out into thick fog and make my way home to giggle to myself a bit more.

source for today's image: the American Artists Series website, where you can buy this painting, "Patches of Laughter," by Ann Broadaway!