Columns

Funnier than a poke in a little boy's eye 2015.07.01

By COLLEEN LEDDY

While deleting photos from my phone this weekend I came across a couple of David, laughing so hard he almost looks like he’s crying. I was stumped for a minute, trying to remember why I would have taken the photos and what was so funny. He’s in our car with his seatbelt on, his body turned so he can look in the back of the car, maybe as if he were going to back up the car, but he’s so incapacitated with laughter, it doesn’t seem like he’d be able to accomplish that maneuver. The snippet of scenery in the back of the photo hints that we’re in a rural location. 

The adjacent photos—taken outside on a city street—show women receiving acupuncture treatments and a booth with a sign that says “Bgreen: Green Building Supplies.” I took the acupuncture photos to send to my daughter Maddie—she volunteers at an acupuncture center in San Francisco—and the Bgreen one for my son Ben Green.

Those photos gave all the clues I needed to decipher David’s extreme laughter. We had stopped in Ann Arbor for a meal after David and his brother Thom picked me up at the airport. I was returning from Miami where my lovely grandson, Holden, had just been born a couple weeks before. 

Holden is the most calm and confident baby I have ever seen—and the best communicator. He tells you clearly what he needs—to nurse, to burp, to change his position, to sleep, to change his diaper—he’s got it all down. He looks around at the world with such a sense of wonder and curiosity. It’s as if he’s trying to piece it all together from what he experienced in the womb: Holy cow! So that’s what was making that noise!

The sadness of leaving Holden, his brother Ryland, and parents Ben and Sarah was mitigated by the Green duo and the trip to Ann Arbor where we stumbled upon the Mayor’s Green Fair on Main Street—actually the 15th annual Mayor's Green Fair—which celebrates the community's “environmental leadership as exhibited by citizens, nonprofits, government and businesses... with displays of environmental information, "green" products, live music and general enjoyment of the urban outdoor environment.”

For me, it was an opportunity to celebrate the chance to gather swag for the VolunTeens. At the end of the summer we have a party for the teens who help run the Summer Reading Program and I give them each a little gift bag of stuff I’ve collected at fairs, festivals and conferences. I’m always amazed at how generous vendors are when they hear about our two dozen teens who help us several hours a week for seven weeks in the summer. “That’s cool! Take as many as you want!” a good share of them will say.

It was on the way home from this fair and Ann Arbor that Thom told a personal story which sent David and me into gales of laughter, the kind of laughter that hurts your back, leaves you breathless, sends tears streaming down your face, would make you fall down if you weren’t already sitting, and renders you incapable of doing anything else—such as driving a vehicle. David had to pull off the road onto a side road and even after several minutes, could not gain his composure.  

That kind of laughter feels like a real physical workout. It’s the opposite of the kind of curbed laughter I experienced with Maddie last week when I was in San Francisco to serve on the National Advisory Group for an AARP Foundation and American Library Association collaboration. The trip was funded by the ALA through an AARPF grant or I wouldn’t have been staying a couple nights at the Marriott Marquis where there’s a cocktail lounge on the 39th floor called The View. 

Signs in the elevator encouraged guests to visit the lounge for spectacular views of the city. I’d been wanting to see those views since our first trip in the elevator, but for one reason or another we didn’t until late Thursday evening. Maddie was reluctant, saying we weren’t dressed properly, but I pooh-poohed her, and up we went. The elevator opened to a group of elegantly-dressed guests and Maddie reiterated that we didn’t belong. Drawn by the view of San Francisco to the left, I ignored her concerns and ogled away.

Walking around the lounge, we came upon a mother and her four young kids, who by Maddie standards, clearly didn’t belong either. We crossed paths with them several times in the maze-like lounge, nearly tripping over them at one point. I was brought up short, but Maddie didn’t see one of the little boys and accidentally poked him in the eye. She uttered a strange noise of surprise and concern, a cross between “ew” and “oh,” that really got me laughing. The little boy moved on with his family, a bit bewildered, but unharmed, and Maddie, squeamish with the feel of a squishy eyeball, insisted we leave.

As we got on the elevator, the family followed behind, and I marshaled forces within to stop laughing, especially as I imagined the little boy saying, “Mommy, there’s the lady who poked me in the eye!”

Whether letting it out or holding it in, who would have thought laughter could be such hard work! Still, as Charlie Chaplin said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”