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(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Desperate times call for—a little laughter. OK, any times call for a little laughter, but especially when the news surrounding us is so tough to digest.

My deep water exercise class each summer brings out way more than a little laughter, class session after class session. The challenge is still hearing the teacher’s instruction while doing the workout—and not getting a mouthful of pool water at the same time. Pool maintenance staff may put a lot of chlorine in that stuff, but we all know what all they’re trying to kill in that water—my classmates especially know since I’m prone to telling them whenever I read studies about what’s in pool water.

During most of the summer we share the pool with kids taking swimming lessons, but the last few sessions each year we are the only ones in the pool. The water is pretty still when we first get in, which means it’s easy to see all the way to the bottom of the 12-foot plus deep end. So last week a few of the women saw something at the bottom they thought might be a mouse or some other critter.

The pool maintenance manager was called in to pull out—a broken pair of sunglasses. The water park’s general manager also witnessed this rescue and promptly promised a free eye doctor visit for all of us at our next session.

Well, what if a (rubber) rat did show up at the pool for our final class?

One woman volunteered to seek out the rat, which she found at Reinke Brothers, a local store with a focus on Halloween, magic, costumes, and the bizarre. Though the man behind the counter had two types of rats to sell her, he apologized because the Halloween shipments had not really started arriving so he could not offer her more variety.

But she was good with the scary-looking black rat with evil red eyes—which she later handed me as she declared it was now my job to provide said rat with a raft and sunglasses to complete the effect.

Thus last night found my husband and me scouring Target for something that could float a rat. How often is it that you find a salesclerk who really gets what you are saying when you’re looking for something for all the odd reasons? But that’s just what happened when I told the clerk in the toy department that I didn’t know what I wanted but that it had to float a rat.

His quizzical expression changed as soon as I clarified the rat was a toy. “Ah,” he said, “you’re pranking someone.”

Armed with the “raft” (a Sky Bouncer by Maui Toys—which the clerk confirmed did float since a friend of his accidentally flew one into a lake recently), my husband and I headed for home to make sunglasses for the rat and then attach him to his raft. When you want to put together something really creative in this house, you either involve our daughter Christiana—who, alas, returned to college last week—or my husband Sherman—or both. She gave us the idea for using aluminum foil, I came up with wrapping it around a pipe cleaner, and he molded the shades and then taped the shades and the rat to the raft. My big task? Coloring the tape he had affixed across the shades. Voilà—and then that rat was one cool dude with his blue-lensed glasses.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Mr. Rat (whose real name shall remain anonymous since we named him for the water park’s general manager—he of sarcastic wit) floated along with us as we did our workout this morning, even startling a few women as he crept up on them. When we complained to the pool maintenance manager about the rat, he laughed and ran to get his phone to record the interloper. He even managed to prank the kid who had made sure the pool was ready to go this morning.

Well, I made off with the “raft” because I have a few grand-nephews who plan to visit, but what about the rat?

What about the rat? We shoved him under the opening in the cashier’s box and left him as a gift for the water park’s manager. What water park manager doesn’t need his own shade-wearing rat to help chase away the wintertime blues—and to remind him of patrons, such as us, who delight in plaguing him every summer?

Sherman & Trina, 25th Anniversary, Taos, NM

Sherman & Trina, 25th Anniversary, Taos, NM

A quarter of a century ago my new husband Sherman and I were finishing celebrating the first week of our marriage— and a day away from returning to our real life journey together. The couple-focused honeymoon time bridges the other-centric preparations and togetherness of a wedding and a couple’s beginning of their now joined lives. The trick is retaining something of that honeymoon spirit within all the challenges and/or the everydayness of a long-time relationship.

Life works hard at stripping away our fairy tale illusions. Some gains and losses are just part of the cyclical nature of Life. And while some dreams turn into realities, others die—whether with a whimper of disappointment or a howl of life-changing anguish or even with indifference. Yet with the right person at our side, we have a helpmate who can help us to find gain or acceptance or even what’s next in our losses. We are not so alone in facing the inevitable difficulties that will come our way.

But if marriage were just a way to get through the tough times, it would not be enough. Though love itself is a verb—as in I choose to act because I love—without the spontaneous feelings of unexplained warmth for someone, love as a verb would be reduced to a cheerless act of obligation.

In the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Roger was the goofy guy married to the cartoon siren Jessica. When Jessica was asked why a babe such as she would love a guy like him, she answered, “He makes me laugh.” Jessica had her priorities right. My husband still makes me laugh—in good times, bad times, and often at very inappropriate times!

We didn’t honeymoon in a very typical location for 20-somethings, but spent our first days in foggy northern California. We’re not about flash, but about quiet times together—we had plenty of noisy fun with family and friends leading up to and during our ceremony. When I wasn’t feeling carsick from all the smurvy-curvy (a “Shermanism”) twists on Highway 1, we had great times discussing anything ranging from seriously DEEP THOUGHTS to how well cow tipping might work 200 feet above the crashing surf. (Disclaimer: no cows were hurt in this little discussion—this was merely a cartoonish imagining.)

In the same way, we opted for driving to Taos, New Mexico to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Though we bring our iPod these days, we rarely turn it on—after all, we still like to hear what the other person has to say. Road trips through wide open spaces with big skies fuel our always lively conversations, even if we didn’t talk about cow tipping this time and even if we couldn’t resolve the current debacle in Washington.

Of course, sunny, blue-skied Taos was the opposite of foggy Mendocino, CA, but the sense of quiet was similar. We watched the sun set from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, hiked along the rim of the gorge, drank red wine, stared at stars from a hot tub, visited the Taos Pueblo, enjoyed tasty meals, and walked through shops and studios.

After the Honeymoon, Duncan, Trina & Sherman

After the Honeymoon, Duncan, Trina & Sherman

But we weren’t always quiet. No, that’s because we are still laughing together all these years later. I couldn’t have picked a better helpmate for getting through this crazy thing called Life, but I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t keep walking this journey side by side if he didn’t still make me laugh—in good times and bad times—and during those occasional inappropriate times.

May I never forget that love is a verb—and that laughing is one of the best ways to show that love to my love. Jessica Rabbit had it right—part of keeping that honeymoon spirit is remembering to laugh together, so here’s to laughing through the next twenty-five years with my grinning groom!

“There’s a million ways to laugh . . .” (“Join Together”, The Who) but I’m certainly not trying enough of them lately. Is it just me or has Life seemed so SERIOUS these last several years? I’m so uptight these days that I wanted either to add a “sic” to the lyrics I quoted or edit them so the subject and verb would agree.

It appears I could use a little more laughter these days.

However, I do have at least one sure way to forget some of my worries and really start laughing—by getting together with some local people who hail from my hometown. Though we knew each other in high school, we didn’t hang around as a group until we reconnected through Facebook. Don’t know why but we just clicked together despite any differences in our lifestyles, family matters, politics, religion, or any other hot button topics.

If you see us sitting together in a restaurant, you should probably ask to be seated away from us—unless you, also, are wistful for a lot of nonstop laughter. In that case, join us! We don’t even order drinks every time we’re together—we’re just that silly in our group setting.

I couldn’t even tell you what we talk about, but it isn’t usually our glory days or some sort of hometown blather. Even my husband gets in on the yucks though he’s not from there. (You see, he’s way more sophisticated than we are—he’s a Colorado native. Ahem.)

Don’t know why we don’t do it more often—other than life gets so busy doing all those SERIOUS things that get in the way of laughter. Yeah, we’ve got our share of tales about caring for aging parents and worrying for our kids. Sometimes it helps to act a little less grown-up for a few hours.

Especially when we can join together and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Here we are looking SERIOUS. (c) 2010 Dawn Henry Walker

Here we are looking SERIOUS.
(c) 2010 Dawn Henry Walker

The REAL us! (c) 2010 Dawn Henry Walker

The REAL us!
(c) 2010 Dawn Henry Walker

Somewhere in Spain, November '82 (c) PSL

Somewhere in Spain, November '82 (c) PSL

I often forget how thin the line is between joy and sadness—in the end, if you are feeling, you are open to feeling both sides of an emotion. I suppose that’s why people often cry at weddings—and laugh at entirely the wrong time.

Yes, I am more prone to the second reaction. Too often I see more than one side of a situation. In the late 80s I worked in a company located in a suburban office park. Our desks (pre-cubicles!) sat in the open next to a bank of windows. One day the building manager rushed in and announced, “Don’t be alarmed, but there’s a maniac (running) loose with an Uzi.”

I couldn’t stifle my laughter.

He turned to me, frowning, and said, “Young lady, this is a serious situation.”

You can imagine that I had an even harder time not reacting to that one. I either needed to laugh—or hide under my desk. If some highly armed lunatic wanted to shoot at us through the windows, we’d be sitting ducks. What’s not to be alarmed about that situation? Not only was I worried about those of us at work, but also about the at-home families I knew in the surrounding neighborhood.

Sadly, somewhere in a quiet development on a blue-skied, sunny day, the man did harm someone before his life ended in violence. Life is full of juxtapositions between what is good and not so good.

Sunday as we drove through Kansas, somewhere around the “herd” of wind turbines whose blades turned in the air, Christiana was laughing. She was driving and joking with her father while I sat in the seat behind them. I was drinking in the pure joy of her laughter when, without warning, I remembered all those days when she did not laugh.

That’s when the tears started slipping down my cheeks. I realize it had been an intense weekend due to seeing my mother so changed, but I didn’t expect to feel sad about something that made me feel so happy for my daughter. I guess I was crying for the normal days we didn’t get to have—and for so much more that I wish neither she nor anyone else in our family had had to experience. I wanted to feel joy for what had been regained, but first I had to acknowledge what had been lost.

So I did the only thing I know how to do well when I am overwhelmed with my emotions—I asked for pencil and paper. And when I am really stumped, I find it best to fence my words into the short and simple (on the surface, only) format of the haiku.

Tears fall on pillow,
squeezed from expectations lost.
Redefine normal.

Trina jumping, 2007, Georgia Pass in Colorado

Trina jumping, 2007, Georgia Pass in Colorado

The good news is that she gets very frustrated with me now when I worry and don’t acknowledge how much she has moved on. She is seventeen and once again believes in possibility. At seventeen, every day is an exercise in redefining normal, no matter who you are and what you are experiencing.

After a long period of mourning the normal I thought we’d have, it’s finally time for me to redefine, again, what normal is. Although thirty years beyond the wonder of seventeen, I can’t argue: there really is no good reason for not embracing a new normal that—thank God—includes laughter, including my own, even if, no doubt, I will occasionally still laugh at all the wrong times.

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