Sixteen years ago, I take a road trip through the California desert that rivals the Griswold’s family vacation. Except Chevy Chase isn’t driving; my mother-in-law Geri navigates the wheel, and her mother sits in the back seat.
On a hot summer day, dressed in high heels and fancy dresses, we cool off in a Cadillac headed for a family wedding several hours away. I am still new to the family, barely know Grandmother. She lives in Canada. This is our first and only road trip together.
That day, Grandmother’s stories provoke me to laughter. Especially the one about how her grown grandson takes up knitting as a hobby. How he asks for her help. I get tickled picturing that. Turn around to see her tiny frame bob up and down in silent laughter, one hand cupped over her mouth, the other holding an asthma inhaler. She is trying to be proper, but the humor in the scenario overtakes her.
Like dominoes, we all fall to laughter until the mascara runs, stomachs hurt and long breaths on the inhaler ensue.
Then hot water begins to pour into the car through the dash. We pull off to get help. When Geri returns from the restroom, the upper left side of her silk jumpsuit is soaked. Through sputters of laughter, she tells us how she accidentally drops the left sleeve of her outfit in the toilet.
The car trouble leads to a delayed wedding ceremony. Her outfit dries before a groomsman comes to our rescue at the truck stop.
At the wedding, we exhale the days calamities, sit down on outdoor wooden benches. The bride moves slow down the aisle wearing a serious expression on her face.
Her look seems odd, more like sorrow than joy. I glance at Geri, then at Grandmother, and those wooden benches start to shake from our giggles. The noise calls attention to our schoolgirl behavior. My face feels hot.
Later at the hotel, Grandmother sits on the edge of the bed, puts an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth from exhaustion. I turn down the sheets, smile and our eyes meet. Just like that first laugh in the car, her shoulders begin to bob up and down and I see her smile through the hard plastic.
Laughter carries us through a day of mishaps, starts an endearing friendship between generations.
Grandmother passed away three years ago but I am certain she still giggles about that road trip – without the inhaler.
When was the last time you laughed intensely? Tell me about it.
Submitted as part of The High Calling group-writing project: Laugh Your Way to Therapy. Do you have a story on laughter that you’d like to share? Write it down, then link up with Deidra Riggs at Jumping Tandem.