Soft morning light gently nudges my eyes open, and I’m greeted by the appearance of a large picture window. Unfamiliar heavy, brown curtains frame its edges, and—for a moment—I don’t know where I am.
But as my senses begin to wake, I hear something: The sounds of hand washing and the voices of my mother and my daughter, Zoey—sounds that are happily interspersed with peals of infectious laughter—and I remember that Zoey and I are sharing a Wisconsin hotel room with my parents. Later today, we will attend my cousin’s early fall wedding.
The unforgiving, uncomfortable bed I’m laying in creaks beneath me as I roll over toward the direction of where the sounds are coming from. A full-length mirror hangs on the wall opposite the bathroom, and in it, though I can barely make out their reflection, I can see those faces I love. They both hold an expression I would only be able to describe as ‘bliss.’
Not wanting to get up and disturb their fun, I pull the covers back up around me. I close my eyes again and stay there, smiling, listening to those comforting, joyful sounds.
But then, in between her giggles, Zoey finally speaks.
“Are we going to laugh all day, Grammy Sue?”
“Yes,” I hear my mom answer. “And it will be the best day ever.”
* * *
Although my memory of that morning laughter—of that brief conversation between my daughter and mother—is only a year old, I feel it will be one that will stay with me forever.
I’m not exactly sure why I think this. Perhaps it was the passionate eagerness of Zoey’s question. Perhaps it was the loving look on her face as she gazed up at my mother, a look I recognized as one that has surely met my own for years. Perhaps it was the familiar sound of my mother’s laughter, a sound that has been a constant companion of mine for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it was the definitiveness of my mother’s answer, an answer that gave Zoey—and me—every reason to believe that the day would be the best one ever.
Yet it’s most likely because that moment was wrapped in the glistening, shimmering strands of laughter, that beautiful sound that seems woven into so many of my happiest and fondest memories, a sound that has echoed in the lifetime of my bones.
The audible expression of laughter is one of the first ways we are able to connect with the people around us: As children, we have the ability to laugh before we are able to speak. That’s such an amazing thing, isn’t it? Thinking that we begin our lives on such a high note?
I want to remember that one of my first instincts in life was to express joy, and that this instinct was one that was encouraged and cultivated in me as a child. This powerful gift is something I hope to pass on to Zoey, and it is something I hope to remember as I continue to live my days:
That leading with laughter will always make a day—and a life—happier.
That leading with laughter will always be the most perfect antidote for pain and darkness and struggle.
That leading with laughter will always have the power to make everything better.
* * *
I wake up on Saturday to a dark apartment, the sound of rain, and two little hands holding my own.
“Mommy,” Zoey whispers as she moves closer to me.
I sleepily open one eye and put my arm around her.
“What’s up, buttercup?” I ask.
“I’m cold,” she says as she pulls the covers up tighter around us. “Can we just stay in bed all day?”
As nice as that sounds, I remember we have a fun day planned.
“Today we’re getting stuff for your new desk, and there’s that cupcake decorating activity at the library,” I remind her. “And we’re going to lunch, and then we need to get the ingredients to make pizza tonight!”
“Oh, right!” Zoey says, throwing the covers back. “Come on! Let’s get moving!”
I smile as I point toward the window. “But it’s cold out, and it’s supposed to rain on and off, so we’ll have to make sure to bundle up.”
Zoey jumps off the bed and leaves my room for a minute. When she comes back, she’s holding the plastic curve of a long handle that disappears into a nylon sea of pink and green flowers.
“And don’t worry, Mommy,” Zoey ensures me. “I’ll be in charge of the umbrella.”
* * *
We get ready and begin going about our day, but since it’s not raining every time we get out of the car, we keep forgetting the umbrella. Yet for some reason, without fail, every time we emerge from a store, the sky decides to open up and shower us with raindrops as we run toward our car.
Yet Zoey and I have come to an unspoken decision that we won’t let the day’s rain deter the fun we are having. Because every trip back to the car involves puddle-jumping, splashing, catching raindrops on our tongues, and laughing.
Lots and lots of laughing.
As we step outside the library—our bellies full of sweet unicorn cupcakes—it’s not just sprinkling outside, it’s pouring. I ask if Zoey wants to wait to leave until the rain lets up, but she shakes her head and heads out into the deluge.
I follow her happy squeals all the way back to the car.
“Oh, my gosh, Zoey, we’re soaking wet,” I say after we’re safe inside. I reach to turn the heat up. “Aren’t you freezing?”
“Not really,” she says between her giggles. “Sharing my laughter with you keeps me warm enough.”
And suddenly, I realize what Zoey has been doing all day.
She’s been forgetting the umbrella on purpose.
* * *
By the time we are running our last errand of the day, it’s late, and the rain hasn’t let up.
I walk quickly around the car and open Zoey’s door. In the parking spot next to us, a woman has her own backseat door open. She shields the top of her head with what appears to be a sweater, but the loose, knitted material can’t withstand the heavy drops landing on it.
Zoey steps out of the car as the woman starts speaking.
“Come on, honey,” the woman begs. “I’m sorry I forgot the umbrella. And it’s just rain. It won’t hurt you.”
I notice a boy around Zoey’s age sitting in his car seat, his arms crossed firmly in front of him.
“I don’t want to get wet!” he cries.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watch Zoey reach back into our own car. She pulls out our umbrella—the one we’ve been forgetting all day—and hands it to the woman.
“Here you go,” she says. “You can use ours.”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t…” the woman starts to protest.
“Don’t worry, we’re good. We’ve been having fun running in the rain all day,” I say as I point toward Zoey, who is happily prancing around in her rain boots. I start walking toward Zoey as the little boy finally decides to climb out of the car.
“Wait,” we hear a little voice call. The little boy steps out from underneath our umbrella, his footfall spraying water as he runs toward us.
“Look, Mommy!” he laughs as the rain washes away the remaining evidence of his just-moments-ago tears. “We didn’t need the umbrella after all!”
Zoey reaches for his hand and the two of them skip happily beside one another in the rainfall. Though the little bit of light the day has held is beginning to fade, the parking lot lights perfectly illuminate the puddles that stand ready for their splashing.
The woman falls in step next to me and moves the umbrella over the two of us. We walk together, listening to the happiness of our children drown out the sound of the raindrops above us.
“It hasn’t been the best day,” she tells me. “But watching them makes me realize why. There hasn’t been nearly enough laughter.”
I think back over the day Zoey and I have had, and I remember that not-so-long-ago early fall morning laughter and question-and-answer game shared between Zoey and my mom. I think of the important life lessons that the simple act of laughter holds: How it is transformative. And necessary. And important. And how it really does have the power to make everything better.
We look at our happy children, and then at one another, and then, together, we let our own laughter fill the cool air around us.
Zoey looks back and smiles our way, happy we’ve joined in with the two of them.
“Guess what, Mommy? We’ve laughed all day!” she says.
“And wasn’t it was the best day ever?” I ask.
Zoey tilts her head back and opens her mouth wide, letting the raindrops land on her tongue. She giggles as her new friend does the same.
I think it’s safe to say her silent answer could be translated into a resounding yes.
Let me know: What makes you laugh? How can you add more laughter to your life?
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.