I Just Had to Laugh

Sometimes, our mom would start telling a story by saying, “I just had to laugh.” Humor was a staple in our household.

Everyday experiences continue to tickle my funny bone. Things that are not funny to others, which is almost everything, are vastly entertaining to me. My dad’s wife never understood this trait of mine. She believed I could rise above my “clown” factor and be serious when seriousness was called for. When is that exactly?

As a concert pianist, she liked to share her talent with family and friends by hosting an annual musicale in their home. The first year of the event I was asked to help. My sister and I were responsible for serving hors d’oeuvres and drinks before the concert.

As I set out the food I was confused. This was a formal, dressy event but the plates, cups and food trays were plastic. There was cheese but no crackers. There were mini quiches, melon balls, strawberries and tortilla wraps but no serving utensils only toothpicks. Everyone was going to eat with their fingers?

As I poured sparkling punch my stepmother walked into the kitchen to stop me from adding ice. That’s when it all started to make weird sense. You see, this was going to be a soundless assortment of food and drink. Today there would be no crunching, clinking or scraping as people enjoyed the treats. And without ice, there would be no ice chewing either. In no way would the sound of food or drinks detract from the performance. Really? How interesting. As I listened to my stepmother describe the concept of silent eating a smile bloomed on my face. Yep, it was confirmed. She’s a nut.

When people arrived, we directed them to the snacks. When a man asked for ice I informed him we were out. When a woman asked if we had a spoon for scooping the melons and the strawberries I pointed to the toothpicks. As I helped everyone eat soundlessly my smile grew wider and wider. I did not make eye contact with my sister because if we stayed away from each other we might make it through this afternoon with just our smiles.

This plan worked well until a few moments later when everyone took their seats. My stepmother stood before the crowd and nodded to my father to hit the record button on a hand held tape recorder. She then began to describe the concerto we were about to hear. My attention was drawn to my father as he picked up the tape recorder, shook it and ejected the tape. My stepmother bravely continued on and seated herself at the piano. As her hands descended on the keyboard with power, my father began making all sorts of noise as he tried to reinsert the tape, slamming the door and banging on buttons. This must not have worked because out came the tape again.

I really should have gone to his rescue, but he was making so much noise that I ran to the kitchen where I exploded with silent laughter. My sister arrived shortly on my heels and we hugged each other like fools as tears streamed down our faces. And there we stayed for the remainder of the concert. The concert went on, dad finally gave up and we stuffed ourselves on quiet food in the kitchen.

I was not asked back to help the next year. Evidently my stepmother did not believe my response to our father’s predicament was humorous. My dad was only slightly amused.

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