30 years ago I saw myself on TV for the first time and was absolutely floored. It had nothing to do with my ill-fitting outfit or the strange way I had done my hair with barrettes that stuck out at weird angles. It had nothing to do with anything I said during the interview with the talk show host in Cincinnati. What absolutely flabbergasted me was that through the entire 10 minute spot, I never stopped smiling. Never. No matter what he said or how I responded, here came that grin. Now I don’t remember being particularly happy that day. In fact, I was pretty nervous. And while it got me thinking I never did figure it out–until last night.
We had company for dinner; two dear, longtime friends and a few folks we didn’t know at all. I’m pretty sure I smiled all night, because when I wasn’t smiling I talked nonstop telling stories that made me and our guests laugh, a lot. Truth is, life is fairly angst-ridden right now and frankly the LAST thing I needed yesterday was extra hours of cooking & cleaning—and yet–there was all that beautiful, cascading laughter. Even the teenagers were singing downstairs. So what gives?
My grandmother was the finest person I have ever known. Now she didn’t really laugh a lot. In fact, she didn’t really smile that much either. In fact, if you take the 95 years she lived and subtracted all the unhappy ones, I’m not sure the happy ones would even add up to double digits. But she had the right philosophy about ALL of them: “If you can’t laugh about it, you’ll just cry,” she often said. She said it the morning I woke up, at 13, with the mumps & had to miss a party I had planned on for weeks. She said it the day some high school boys teased me about being flat-chested. She said it in the middle of an argument I was having with my new husband over his leaving the toilet seat up. She said it 40 years ago the first time she told me about her husband’s unfaithfulness. Last night, as I was washing up the last of the dishes, I ‘heard’ her say it again. (Excerpt from, “Kissing Tomatoes,” http://www.helen-hudson.com.