Learning to laugh..........at others.
|Learning to laugh at oneself is one of the waypoints on the road to maturity, and I can remember reaching that point in my relationship with my younger sister, Beth, one literally dark and stormy night.|
I was living in my first apartment, at the time, and Beth was visiting. In the doorway to the kitchen hung two shutters, the decorative saloon-type shutters that did little more than hide the fact that you might be cooking naked to anyone who didn’t lean over the top and take a good look into the room. One of these shutters would later play a key role in our story.
Beth was a bit of a nervous type in those days and the storm didn’t help matters. At about 2:00 a.m., I was up searching for medicine to unclog my nose and let me get some sleep, and as I stood there in the kitchen, there was a flash of lightning and an almost simultaneous crash of thunder. Looking up, I saw Beth in the half open doorway, standing next to a closed shutter. The look on her face, like that of a frightened gargoyle, told me this night was not going well for her either.
Lightning flashed again, and as I watched what happened next, time seemed to still and then roll slowly forward. Beth startled at the thunderclap and jerked into the closed shutter beside her. Her body contorted into a series of painful right angles, and her joints seemed to spin freely.
This occurrence appeared to take Beth by as much surprise as it did me, and she sort of froze there in the dim light, all mangled up, pressed for all she was worth against that shutter, and for a moment, a look of “I’m-not-really-in-here-anymore” peace descended over her glassy eyes. But the panic soon returned.
Beth seemed to decide that the solution to this dilemma was to get to me. I, in the meantime, had already begun backing away, my mouth slowly gaping at the spectacle before me, a bubble of disbelief and laughter coalescing in my throat.
In an effort to initiate forward motion, Beth began paddling wildly with her arms and legs, and other parts of the body not normally used for paddling. The shutter, up to this point, had been jammed up against its hinge, preventing it from moving. Now the shutter, sensing an opportunity to lose this hitchhiker, rose to the occasion and began to swing. Everything seemed to return to real time, and before I had a chance to duck, Beth rode that shutter completely around its hinge and, in what I’m sure was an act of retaliation, the shutter threw her at me.
She landed on my shoulder, sobbing. I made a weak attempt at hugging her, but most of my efforts at the time were directed toward stifling the laughter that was welling up inside me.
After she excused herself to her bedroom, I curled over the kitchen counter, laughing at the images playing over in my head, each one more hilarious than the last.
Beth eventually returned to the scene of the absurdity. She had been laughing too. We made some sort of connection that night, the tenuous beginnings of a friendship. Competition, jealousy and pride in years past would never have allowed either of us to laugh at ourselves. That night, with the help of a raging storm and a victimized shutter, our relationship finally reached that point on the road to maturity where we could laugh……….at her.