February 1997

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A Child's Laughter

By Beth Weiss, Copyright 1998

People sometimes talk about bottling mountain air, sunshine, or a crisp rain and selling them in places that are short of those natural wonders.  While I wouldn’t have minded if a friend had brought a container full of Arizona sunshine when he came back from Tucson this week, I think what there's really a market for is children's laughter.

There’s just something about the giggle of a toddler or a happy preschooler, or even a silly kindergartner that gets to me every time.  Their laughter is infectious in a way we read about in books, but hardly ever hear from an adult.  From a child, though, the laughter seems to bubble up out of them, overflowing, until we can't help but be affected—and we can't help but laugh, too.

It's not just the laugh, of course.  It's that children don’t hold back.  We all know what it's like when they let it all loose when they’re angry or sad or frustrated—and it's not a happy set of sounds.  But they don't restrain themselves when they're pleased either, and the joy of a child can make a whole room smile.

My kids know they're funny.  Even at 2, Jennica has the idea of a joke down.  Her first joke was a knock-knock joke, but she has definitely progressed.   We were at a large gathering the other day, looking at a picture of Tigger and Pooh, and I pointed to Pooh.  "Who's that?" I asked.  "Tigger", she replied, starting to giggle.  I wasn't sure if I’d mispointed, so I pointed to Pooh again.  "Tigger", she said, and now the giggles were fast and furious.  It was clear she was up to something, and I was supposed to point to Tigger next.  "Who's that?" I asked and she couldn't contain herself anymore.  "Pooh!" she answered, dissolving completely into laughter.  Every one within hearing range smiled, even though they hadn’t heard the joke.

Jordan's sense of humor is a bit, um, more developed, if more developed can be applied to a five year old's idea of a joke.  "Wanna hear a joke?" he might ask.  "Sure.  Why not."  And he'll tell me, "Boot.  Poop!" but he’s laughing so hard that he can barely say it.  I don’t know if it's the rhyme or the word poop or the combination that drives him almost to hysteria, but something surely does.  And it might be a bathroom joke, but I can't help but smile because he’s so happy about the whole thing.

As parents, we all started encouraging smiles and laughter from our little ones before we could tell if it was a smile or gas—at least until the first real smile, and then there was no doubt.  A baby's smile can stop traffic with its brightness.  I can still close my eyes and picture Jordan, at six months, and one of his first smiles.  And more than picturing it, I can still recapture the heart stopping sense of this is what it's all about.  Close your eyes for just a minute—can you still picture your child's first smile?  Recapture the essence of the giggles?

I’m trying to memorize my children’s laughter and joy.  I don't ever want to lose that essential part of their baby, toddler, childhood.  And there are so many times when we're playing together that I realize I just want them to laugh, because it lightens my heart, too.

If I could find a way to capture the essence of a toddler's giggle or a mischievous snicker and distribute them, I'm sure the whole world would be a better place.  Until then, I’ll have to rely on the camcorder for the re-viewable memories, and my heart for remembering how it felt.

Let's all do a little giggle capturing this month, and see if it makes the rest of their dreary winter a bit more bearable.

Best wishes,

Beth

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