|Some of the family demonstrating their smiling skills. ©2016 Noreen Braman
This weekend I attended a surprise 75th birthday party for my Aunt. This party gathered together relatives and old friends from my mother’s side of the family; many people I have been woefully out of touch with since my mother died. I actually reconnected with this side of the family at a surpise party for my 60th birthday last year. That was a wonderful, emotional gathering of extended family from all sides and longtime friends. We smiled, we laughed, we cried. We vowed to not let another 20 years go by without seeing each other.
This weekend’s party was a joyful reaffirmation of that promise. This time, my aunt’s side of the family was there; people I haven’t seen since I was a teenager and even younger. All we needed was to hear the names and out came the stories. The “party days” of the innocent times when I was just a toddler. Memories brought back by some recently scanned photos from 50 and 60 years ago. Comparisons of how all the families have expanded and the amazing similarities discovered.
At least three generations were represented, and photos of the fourth generation, currently being brought into the world, were shared all around. Cellphones snapped pictures, Facebook connections were made and the hugs and kisses continued all day. It was, indeed, a massive lovefest and I felt so lucky to be there.
It was also very obvious how comfortable everyone seemed to be. It was as if the years of separation for some didn’t exist; it was as if we had all been together just last week. As I sat there and took it all in, I could see that, yes, the threads of family and love were there, weaving strongly through the group. But also there was laughter. Deep, hearty laughter and soft gentle laughter. Smiles on the faces of both the young and old, passed back and forth through touch, eye contact, and conversation.
Recently, I’ve seen stories of how laughter is helping refugees, victims of human trafficking and those dealing with mental health issues heal and cope. I feel fortunate that I come from an extended family who has naturally developed the use of laughter as a way of sharing, communicating, and loving. May we continue to share the joy for a long time, and pass it along to the next generations.