Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The Gift of Helpless Laughter.

One of the oldest and dearest friends rang this morning. She is the Indispensable Friend. There are a very few that I absolutely could not do without and she is one of them.

We talked about many things. Then we recalled one of the more absurd stories in our past. She had met a tremendously dull, slightly creepy European aristocrat. He was one of those ones whose family takes up about six pages in the Almanac De Gotha. He almost instantly proposed. (We were in our twenties, and we would do anything in those days, but this was quite weird, even for us.) The Almanac De Gotha is not her book, and he was not her person, so she politely said no.

A while later, she was having lunch with a tremendous old gentleman who really did adore the Almanac De Gotha and dreamed of having forty-seven quarterings. I never quite worked out what quarterings were, something to do with very grand coats of arms, but this gent knew all about them and loved them. 

My friend told the story of the creepy aristo and the proposal. The old gent sat bolt upright. In our memory, he banged his fist on the table. ‘You must marry him at once!’ he cried, as if refusing such an offer meant the end of the world as we know it.

We laughed a lot as we remembered this. My friend said, ‘Just imagine if I had married him. My poor children would have spent the rest of their lives looking for their chins.’

This is not funny on paper. In life, it was hysterical. The thought of those poor chinless half-Euros tickled us until we could hardly speak. We took the joke and ran with it. We went through every single lost item scenario and applied it to the search for a chin. ‘I know I had it somewhere,’ we stuttered. ‘Now, what did I come in here for?’ we said, imagining that moment when you walk into a room and you can’t remember what you were looking for. Oh, yes: chins. 

See? It’s just not funny. But it was so funny to us that we wept with laughter. And I came inside after my walk in the woods and thought: write that down. I want to write it down because my memory is shot and I won’t remember it in five minutes, let alone in five months. I want to write it down because that kind of helpless laughter at a not funny joke is the absolute crest and peak of perfect friendship. 

I often vaguely take it for granted, thinking that everyone has it with everyone. But they don’t. It’s rare and precious. It’s that melding of minds, that finishing of each other’s sentences, that starting to laugh before the line is half-uttered. It’s the thing that can pull me out of the doldrums, give me sunshine on a rainy day, allow me to survive the Brexit madness. Whenever things seem too mad and bad, I can pick up that telephone and hear that voice and the world steadies on its axis.

That’s a gift. It’s the gift of laughter and joy and complete understanding. I write it down because I want to put it in the box where the cherished things live. On a dark day, when I can’t find the light, I can come back to this and read and smile and be reminded.


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