As a child I had a temper and pouted a lot, on one hand and the rest of the time I was happy and playful. In fact the poem… “There was a little girl, with a little curl, right in the middle of her for head. When she was good, she was very, very good and when she was bad she was horrid,” (by: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) seemed to describe me.
Sometimes when I was in one of my unhappy moods, my Dad would invite me to sit on his lap – facing him. Then he would make these silly faces, crossing his eyes, wiggling his ears, even pulling the corners of his mouth down with two fingers, while pulling the corners of his eyes up with two more fingers. Of course I was in NO MOOD to laugh, but he would keep on. I would pound his chest and say “Daddy – Stop it!” But he would keep on – beginning to laugh.
Eventually, I would start laughing, reluctantly at first, but soon my hearty, happy laugh would return. My Dad had an infectious laugh, and I always loved to hear it. I must say – I was quite relieved to leave that bad mood behind – and happily go about my day. I realized he was showing me that I had choices, that I could choose how I wanted to feel. The choice was up to me. I believe it was Lincoln who said something similar: “Most people are about as happy as they want to be.”
I grew up mainly liking comedies with slap-stick humor. When my own two children were about junior high age, they used to get me to drive them and their friends to “Pink Panther” matinees on early release days. They would seat me in the middle of the theatre and they would sit further away from me. It wasn’t until years later that I realized they needed me – with my infectious and spontaneous laughter floating through the theatre to get the laughing started. But they were too embarrassed to sit too close to me!
The matinees didn’t have many people, but my laughter apparently got things going with the sparse audience, and we all had good laughs, as though the theater was full.
(My daughter reminded me that they enjoyed seeing “Blazing Saddles” with me, too.)
January 26 2009