i can’t imagine what it would feel like to have written enormously happy screenplays like ‘when harry met sally’ or ‘sleepless in seattle’ or ‘you’ve got mail’. my sweet momma loved the play of meg ryan and tom hanks and billy crystal and, even in face of a double mastectomy at 93, she would watch these movies and she would feel good. nora ephron had feeling good dialed in. her recommendation to “laugh in the face of calamity” is not surprising and deborah copaken’s recent article in the atlantic with snippets of deborah-nora 2011 conversation includes two more of nora’s rules for middle-age happiness: gather friends and feed them and cut out all the things (people, jobs, body parts ) that no longer serve you. these seem to be sage tidbits of wisdom.
when i was younger, there was no shortage of reader’s digest issues in our house. i grew up reading these excerpted and short stories. one of the features was called ‘laughter, the best medicine’. people would submit their own stories for a chance to be published and paid $100. some of these paragraph-stories would elicit a snicker or two, others a real chuckle, though i don’t remember ever out-and-out guffawing. i suppose guffawing is not so young-girl-like; perhaps i should substitute another word. regardless, they were clean jokes and real-life experiences of people that were there to make you laugh. i loved watching my mom and dad laugh over them.
when i googled reader’s digest, i stumbled across an article about bob carey, a man whose wife has been battling breast cancer since the early 2000s. he, in his hope to help, pulled on a pink tutu and went all over the country having his picture taken to raise money for breast cancer research. there is nothing like a man-who-doesn’t-have-a-tutu-body in a pink tutu struttin’ his stuff in the middle of new york city or at the grand canyon to make you laugh. his honoring his wife linda through the tutu project he embraces her spirit, her courage and the power of laughter in their lives. it’s good stuff, this laughing.
laughter triggers physical and emotional changes in our bodies. even a smile elicits goodness in our own selves, relaxing stress muscles, encouraging others around us to relax. it’s the reason i will always start a concert with a story that will likely make people laugh, a story of vulnerability, even a self-deprecating story. a relaxed audience is a participatory audience who has been invited in. there’s no second chance to make a first impression.
my sweet momma would have been good friends with nora, had she had the chance. she would have applauded bob carey in his pink tutu, had she seen him. the sound of her laugh and the dancing light in her eyes stay with me.
in the words of pablo neruda, “…deny me bread, air, light, spring, but never your laughter for i would die.”
sweet laughter. like the whisper of words of your beloved or a gentle kiss to the top of your head, the laughter of your beloved.
there is a book i haven’t read yet – by richard cohen, about nora ephron. it is called ‘she made me laugh’. can you imagine a better legacy?