A History of Illicit Laughter

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
~ Victor Borge

I woke up giggling this morning.  We had decided to sleep in and my laughter broke covenant.  Oh great, muttered my husband. Josh, where are you?  Curt’s words launched me on a new round of mirth. 

Josh, who is like a son to me, and I have a history of horse laughs.  When he was Jr. high age, something would set us off and all our pent up laughter would come bursting out in loud guffaws: gasping, tear-squeezing, body-wracking sobs of laughter.  Slowly we decelerated and calmed down until one glance set off more horse laughs.  By the time we settled down we couldn’t even remember what was so funny.

What is weird about those episodes is that they happened around our table. Suppression was never an option. No one else understood us but they got a good entertainment package from our shtick. 

The most wicked laughter is the illicit kind.  Laughter that is wildly inappropriate is the funniest. And it’s even wilder if the source of amusement is mutually understood by less than three people. 

Let me assert a long-neglected truth
that nothing binds two people together
 like a history of illicit laughter.

My friend Ilene and I bobbled our way through my dad’s sermon at Bible camp when we were nine. When he spoke about a conjunction saying thank God for that but, we heard thank God for that butt. I still remember my pathetic attempts to disguise the laughter into sneezing, coughing, tears of repentance, anything but laughter. 

My  most humiliating episode took place with my sister-in-law at our niece’s wedding.  Our nephew thrust a camera into her hand moments before the ceremony began with a request to take pictures.  The camera had a mystifying delay on the trigger and as attendants processed, Karyl Lynn missed each beautiful bridesmaid, ending up with photos of an empty aisle.  Horrified at muffing every single shot, she planned to get the entire wedding party while they stood at the front. 

She clicked. 

“Let us pray,” intoned the preacher. A twinkle of silence sat suspended in the air.

Then the bewitched camera began a loud rewinding. Aghast, my sister-in-law shoved the camera under her thigh. That only seemed to amplify the clicking and clacking. 

And off we went.  Two middle-aged woman shaking, shivering, shambling with laughter. 

After the prayer, my brother, her husband, stood up for Scripture reading.  He put on his pastor’s voice and began the reading when he noticed our ridiculous posture: hands over our mouths, over our eyes, vibrating, pulsing, out-of-control.  It was all he could do not to check his fly.  We came close to landing this massive laughter, when he sat back down and muttered What is going on?, effectively relaunching that airship. 

I am truly ashamed to admit that we laughed through the entire ceremony.  Amidst the throes I knew I needed to rein it in, find composure.  But we played off each other; every time we grabbed three quick sighs and a slow cleansing breath, the other would release a tiny snicker which was jet engine fuel.     

After the ceremony the bride and groom acted as ushers greeting friends as they left their pews.  The bride looked at me quizzically and asked, Aunt Carol were you laughing or crying?  I’ll explain it one day, I promised.

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4 thoughts on “A History of Illicit Laughter

  1. most irreverent, my dear, but also very well written!years down the road, your progeny will know you even if they never have the chance to meet you IRLsurely you’re saving this somewhere, somehow

  2. Oh, but this was fun to read this morning. I have many stories of the same scenario unfolding; unfortunately, they’re often at the piano, With a mic in my face. In front of more people than I can count. In the south they call it ‘getting tickled’. The forbidden aspect of it whilst sitting on the church pews is delicious, isn’t it? I have a physical reaction when thinking about it. I think the endorphins kick in at just the memory. 🙂

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