Cambrian: Slice of Life

The gigglefest — when you just can't stop laughing — is best shared with loved ones

Kathe Tanner
Kathe Tanner

Soon after the recent death of former first lady Barbara Bush, many videos of her were making the rounds on social media.

My favorite showed her and the president, side by side, casually dressed and doing a TV interview.

She was trying to tell a story about how Bob Hope had incorporated into his comedy routines the Bush family dog Millie and her book, appropriately titled, “Millie’s Book: As dictated to Barbara Bush.”

Mrs. Bush got through the tale once, but the producer and the chuckling president thought she could do better. The look on her face was telling, but she was game for another attempt.

President Bush kept trying not to laugh. It didn’t work. No matter how hard he and his wife tried to keep it together, they were off into the land of mutual laughter.

It was a charming, loving moment, and I couldn’t help but join them.

Shared laughter is the best.

You know the kind of gigglefest I mean: One of you laughs about something mildly or very funny … or not funny at all … and the other one joins in.

Your companion tries to stop, but you keep going. Then you’re both roaring again, more about your laughter than about whatever got you started.

Soon you forget how it started. But you’re still laughing so hard you can’t breathe.

If two in a gigglefest is hard to stop, then three is a laughter freight train.

My mom, my Aunt Kate (two years older than me) and I very often shared lengthy sieges. Several times, we almost got thrown out of public places because we couldn’t stop giggling.

Once, we were in an old-school Italian restaurant in New York. I was talking (nothing unusual there) and gesticulating with enthusiasm. (Nothing unusual there, either. I’m half Sicilian. I’m allowed to talk with my hands.)

Unfortunately, one hand was holding my fork, which was holding a meatball. Briefly.

Poor lady. We offered to have her dress dry cleaned, but she declined.

Another time, we three, my grandmother and Cousin John stumbled into a small resort town during dinnertime, after several long vacation days on the road.

We asked a service station attendant (remember those?) to recommend a good place for dinner.

The only option was the posh dining room of an elite hotel, complete with marble floors, ceiling-to-floor velvet draperies, cut-crystal water glasses, starched linen tablecloths and equally starched patrons.

Oh my.

In our travel-grubby jeans and T-shirts, we were so out of place. But we were too hungry and tired to keep looking.

Some other diners, all in formal attire, made a point of looking the other way, while still looking disapprovingly down their patrician noses.

We tried to be good, really we did.

Unfortunately, midway through the meal, John managed to sweep the silver cream pitcher right off the table onto the floor. The marble floor.

So loud. And it echoed.

Our shared laughter was inappropriate, but unstoppable.

Fortunately, we were almost done with our dinners. Otherwise…

Sometimes, all it takes is a silly word, and we’re off to the races.

Husband Richard, Kate and I were lost in Fairfax one night. Kate and I got out of the van at a gas station. The clerk’s directions concluded with “turn left on Tamale Pie Road.”

Not wanting to seem like absolute hicks, we reached for our Thomas Guide map book (this was pre-Google, in the dark ages).

No Tamale Pie Road. Anywhere.

We scoured the map-book’s index by streetlight.

Eventually, we found Tamalpais Road. Named after the mountain.

Technically, it’s pronounced Tam-al-pace, but maybe locals say it differently. (After all, in Wyoming, locals call Dubois “Doo-boys”) Tamale Pie. Kate began to giggle. I started to laugh. Soon, Husband Richard, who had been in the van all this time, was guffawing.

Kate and I wound up clinging to our vehicle’s open door, while Husband Richard leaned helplessly on the steering wheel.

“Tamale Pie,” gurgled Kate, and we were off again.

About 10 minutes later, we finally wound down enough to breathe normally.

“OK,” gasped Husband Richard. “What were we laughing at?”

And that’s what it’s all about.