When I was younger, my favorite scene in Mary Poppins was when the proper British kids head over to the house of laughs with their magical nanny. The high-flying fun that results at the ceiling tea party always made me wonder if laughing super-hard could really set your feet a-flyin’. Mary Poppins wasn’t the only movie to firmly plant the seeds of this notion in my seven or eight year-old mind. After all, Peter Pan clearly told Wendy, Michael, and John that they could fly to Neverland just by thinking happy thoughts. And didn’t Chitty Chitty Bang Bang stay afloat with the help of delightful laugh-inducing tales?
Speaking of laughter, as elementary school flew by and the days of naively believing in flying feet passed with them, my own laughter seemed to decrease each day. Sitting down to dinner awhile back, my oldest daughter cleared her throat as if she had a big announcement to make. Over the giggles of her siblings who were competing in making mountains and molehills out of their mashed potatoes, she used her best ‘grown-up’ voice to command everyone’s attention. “I need to read the back of my Snapple cap, now.”
Dutifully, we all put down our forks, stopped making designs out of the rivers of gravy atop the mashed potatoes (my husband, not the kids), and waited for the profound Snapple wisdom to come our way. “Children laugh about 400 times a day while adults only laugh 15 times a day.”
The Snapple sage had spoken and I was awestruck at the truth in those words. Her announcement was followed by another eruption of giggles from the younger two, but barely a smile from anyone else.
In that moment, I saw my first-born growing up. It wasn’t the adult teeth that had somehow stolen into her smile while we were all sleeping. Nor was it the proper way she held her dinner knife to cut through the over-done steak. It was the realization that she was slowly winding down that path of only sharing “necessary” laughter. The unabashed mirth of just a few months ago had been replaced by a much more “grown-up” seriousness. As her younger siblings cracked up at everything and anything, her solemn nine year-old eyes just stared them down with a new-found knowledge.
I quickly calculated the age in my head when I stopped believing in the flying power of laughter and realized that it was right about the age of my daughter. I decided I would have to count my laughter for the next few days just to prove the darn Snapple bottle wrong. But, I couldn’t do it. Every day I counted and found that I was barely making it to the 15 genuine laugh marks on my barometer. That’s when I knew it was of the utmost importance that I reverse the trend.
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long for a solution for this laughter deficiency to come my way. My hubby and I had been planning a weekend in the city for ages which we finally followed through with. On the agenda was a trip to a comedy show with Jim Gaffigan. Reluctantly, I went along with the plan, sure that I would hate the show. Surprisingly, I found myself laughing for a full hour way past the 400 mark with side-splitting belly-aching mirth that would have made my six year-old proud.
On coming home to tell the kids all about it, I realized that I couldn’t remember a single joke, but only the feel-good sensation of long latent laughter. As I giggled absurdly with my little ones while botching up joke after joke, I saw my nine year-old break out into a grin. Slowly, the smile with the out of place teeth widened even more and began to turn into a laugh. The laughter was contagious. Before I knew it we were all shouting out silly knock-knock jokes and ridiculous riddles while rolling on the floor with laughter.
It wasn’t a ceiling tea party, but it was probably just as fun. We were flying, but with our feet planted firmly on the floor. In a final burst of funny, my oldest daughter suddenly shouted out “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The room silenced in awe at the magic of the word and then the uncontrollable giggling began again.
I probably hit a thousand laughs that day. Every heartfelt chuckle took me a little higher up and a little closer to Neverland. Snapple was wrong. Adults can definitely rival kids in the laugh quota if they want to. But in the end, who’s counting anyway?
"Oh, don't cry, it's only a joke!" J-Suzy Ismail