I believe that laughter is learned, that humor is an inherited quality that can only be acquired by direct contact with people who see the lighter side of life.
My mother had three sisters who, when together, were always being silly and laughing. Just watching them together was fun. They shared a togetherness that overcame problems and heartaches.
I spent a summer with my mom’s side of the family when I was 15, a spoiled California kid suddenly thrust into the rural surroundings of the Pennsylvania countryside. They were too kind, overlooking my laziness, but they had a plan. I was soon picking cherries, green beans, and melons. I worked hard but got to know and appreciate my mom’s side of the family with their unique sense of humor.
My mother was, by necessity, firm and strict with me, but I learned who she was by watching her with her sisters. She transformed into a young girl when they were sharing a memory or a humorous story from their youth. Growing up during the Great Depression, poverty and hard times requiring struggle and hard work to survive, they found comfort in each others company and humor in dire life situations. They overcame their circumstances with humor.
Aunt Anna with her famous “cat joke”, Aunt Florence dressing up in a silly costume and dancing around, Aunt Violet telling a funny Pennsylvania Dutch joke, my mom sharing a story about putting on plays in their living room as kids are favorite memories of mine.
On the way home from a trip to a local winery, my mom and Aunt Florence, the oldest, after sampling a little too much vino, started singing “Show Me The Way To Go Home”, while I drove, glancing at my cousin Cindy in the front seat, wondering who these crazy women were in the back seat.
Their hearts were full of love for each other and for their families, but oh, how they loved to carry on. My mother’s happiest moments that I can recall were when they were together.
When my mother was dying of cancer Aunt Florence and Aunt Anna were there for her, cleaning the house, cooking meals, taking care of her personal needs, but mostly bringing their infectious humor into her life once more.
While I was visiting for one of the weekends that they were there, Aunt Florence, laying on the couch hide-a-bed in the living room, my mom in her recliner chair, I awoke and decided to have some fun, asking them to cover their eyes so that I could get out of my air mattress bed because I always sleep naked. My Aunt Florence sat up suddenly with bulging eyes and exclaimed, “Go ahead, I don’t mind !” while the room exploded in laughter.
Their humor has blessed my life and has given me great memories that will forever be a part of me.
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