One of my favorite sounds of all time is what we, in our family, call "the crazy laugh". Each of my girls has one and it was the first laughter they had as infants. The belly laugh. The one they couldn't control that was so authentically expressed that it tickles everyone within hearing range.
E., as an older sister, was the one who could provoke such laughter from her baby sister most consistently. She would make silly faces, tickle her toes, and work so hard to get that giggle that pretty soon L. would laugh every time her big sister came into view.
As they grow older, their laughter has begun to change. E., now a very sophisticated young 7-year-old, has an entire repertoire of giggles. She has her sarcastic, 'ha ha, Mom' laugh, the eyelash-batting-movie-star-I'm-too-good-to-open-my-mouth-when-I-laugh laugh that comes out when she's with her older girlfriends or pretending to talk on her cell phone, the gut-busting, accidental-snorting laugh that takes her by surprise, and her very first laugh - the one that is most real and comes most rarely. I hear it when she is wrestling with her father and he gets her in a ticklish spot. It can be heard when she's watching old classic cartoons like Tom & Jerry or the Looney Tunes gang. She is so completely disarmed at these moments that the laughter escapes her spontaneously and falls like cold water from a sprinkler on a sweltering day.
L. is young enough that her contagious laugh still makes itself known on a daily basis. She doesn't object to being tickled like her big sister and simply feathering your fingers underneath her chin will reduce her to a quivering mass of giggles. Every time she erupts into this laugh E. comes running and screams, "I LOVE THAT LAUGH! THAT'S MY FAVORITE LAUGH IN THE WORLD!"
Babies can laugh at age four months. Even if a person is mute, they retain the ability to laugh with their mouths, facial expressions and stomach muscles. People from all cultures and corners of the world laugh and it is recognizable whether you understand their language or not. Elderly people respond to humorous situations regardless of their ability to understand their own circumstances. My grandmother, deep in the throes of Alzheimer's, could still see something silly, some sort of slapstick humor or a cartoon drawing and find a smile or giggle inside her. I am beginning to think that we do not make enough of this ability we all have to communicate and relate to one another on such a basic plane. I, for one, am determined to find more opportunities to laugh my deep, rich, authentic belly laugh. Even if I accidentally snort or spit or get the hiccups doing it. Maybe looking or sounding ridiculous will trigger laughter in others and that's definitely worth it.