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Let yourself laugh out loud

By Jean Brody

My husband Gene and I had this nightly ritual in our wonderful farmhouse on the hill. We piled into our big four-poster bed and read until we got sleepy. He always quit before I did but it didn’t’ matter, he just turned out his nightlight, turned his back to me and fell instantly asleep. But there was one thing he didn’t like. He said that if my book was funny, I’d laugh out loud.

“Oh no!” He would say to me, “I know that book and it’s funny. Don’t laugh out loud!”

Here’s the thing, do you know how hard it is to stop a laugh? Have you ever felt a laugh start way down at your toes and feel it travel up your body, twitching and contorting your throat and mouth as you try literally to swallow it? It’s awful and the laugh sort of takes on a life of its own. If you can’t let it out, you start making really strange noises through your nose.

I remember one night back in 1992. It was snowing softly outside, the room was chilly but the bed covers were cozy and warm.

We read for a few minutes when, even sooner than usual, Gene lay his book on his night table, and reached over and patted me on the head and that was when he saw my book.

“Oh Jean, sweetie, not an Erma Bombeck book! Don’t read that book. You’ll laugh out loud and I want to sleep.”

Can you believe he said that to me? To him I said, “I won’t laugh Gene, go to sleep.”

He gave a great big sigh, turned his back to me, so I figured he was done for the night. I mentally set my mind to, “No laughing out loud.” But all of the sudden I hit this part in the book where Erma took her four young children camping in a tiny old RV and what a colossal mess it was.

Well it triggered a personal memory of mine when we took four kids and a dog camping in a tent that ended up leaking directly over Gene’s head and everybody had to pee which meant climbing out into the rain and showing them how to squat by the nearest tree and the dog took off and — it was a nightmare.

Without warning, it was like this giant bubble that rises and rises and, hard as I tried to hold it down, this god-awful laugh erupted out of my mouth.

“I told you you’d laugh,” roared Gene. “I was almost asleep and now look!”

He was trying hard not to laugh himself though he denied it. The really bad thing was I could not stop laughing. The more he sputtered, the harder I laughed.

In the end we were both laughing out of control. The funny thing was he didn’t even know what was funny. He said it was seeing me laugh like a crazy woman, I laughed even harder. Even our cat Perry got utterly disgusted with us and jumped off the bed.

In the end, both Perry and Gene were glaring at me as if I were some demented soul. I realized I better get hold of myself. I was gasping and out of air. So I closed my book. I turned off my light, shut my eyes, but do you know, I had a terrible time keeping that laugh down even in the dark. Gene said I giggled in my sleep all night.

This turned out to be one of my fondest memories. Laughter is wonderful.

The view from the mountain is wondrous.

Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in the Sun for more than 25 years.