I was lucky to have a mother blessed with a hearty laugh and an easy sense of humor. From her I learned how to find humor even when there ought not to be any.
Momma wasn’t usually the one who created humor. She wasn’t known for telling jokes or making witty comments, but she could conjure up humor in just about anything. When something amused her, she laughed with her whole being. It rose up from her heart and came out deep and strong. None of that high-pitched, trilling, sissy kind of laughter – it was robust. Not loud or annoying but genuine and infectious. When you were with her, even if you personally couldn’t see what was so funny, you laughed anyway because you didn’t have a choice. Her laughter kept going and when you joined in it took everything out of you until your hand when to your chest and you said, “Stop, just stop, I’m exhausted.” Then you collapsed into a chair and laughed some more.
I remember once at summer break from college I brought home a white lab rat that one of my brother’s fraternity brothers had given me just as I was leaving school. Don’t ask me where he got it because I can’t remember and don’t think I even asked. I was the kind of person who brought home strays, and if the thing needed a home I was going to give it one.
Momma was scared of rats, especially ones with red eyes and a long red tail, so she wouldn’t let it in the house. We had a small screened in back porch and so I set it up out there with food and water and a box and bedding. It must have been used in lab experiments going through mazes, because right away it started trying to find a way out. One day I heard Momma laughing in the kitchen by the back door.
“What’s so funny?” I asked as I came into the kitchen.
“Watch that rat,” she said. I stood beside her and looked through the glass window in the back door leading to the screened-in porch. Beside the door a broom was resting in the corner, and the rat was shinny-ing up the broom handle, trying to get up to the wooden ledge where the screening started.
He was pretty big, not a mouse but a full-grown rat upwards to 18 inches long from snout to tail. His body was solid white and those weird pinkish-red eyes stared up the broom right at us while he tried to shinny higher. When he lost his grip and slid down Momma burst out laughing again. It was amusing, sure, but not bend-over belly laughing, but like I said, her laugh was infectious and so I chuckled. We stood there and watched that rat shinny and slide, shinny and slide, for a long time. I could hear in my head that sound they make in slapstick movies when someone slides down – kind of like a whistle going from high to low. Next time you hear it you’ll know what I’m talking about. It made the sliding even funnier, to the point that we were chuckling even during the climbing part, anticipating the slide, and then laughing with all our mights when it came.
That’s the kind of sense of humor Momma had – the kind that found joy in everyday life – in little things that wouldn’t be noticed by most people, and then she spread that joy to others with her laugh.
My Mother’s Day wish for all of you is that you find something to amuse you today. And that remember the best in your moms, and that your children remember the best in you.
Take care, enjoy this day, and God bless you.