Someday you may not remember this stage of your lives, my daughters, in which you begin every day with a peal of laughter.
I can assure you that you do, however, and Daddy and I often glance up to grin at each other in response, though we have no idea what whim or story or thought has sparked the sound on a given morning.
The chuckling, rolling, infectious force of hilarity may simply run in your veins. Your grandmother tells several stories of laughing fits I had as a child, including one from a rainy day when she hurried me into the car, shut the door, and could still hear me giggling. Over the years your uncle and I discovered we could make her laugh until she cried by making silly faces. We got very good at it, I think; many times she fell out of her chair and collapsed to the floor in a heap of helpless mirth.
Hereditary or not, that readiness to laugh with abandon coursed through me well into my college days. It didn’t take much at all — comedic timing, slapstick antics, dry humor, the mere anticipation of a punchline. Even the shadowed chapters of my adulthood were usually laced with some form of it, and in these rich season of motherhood, you are both a great help in lifting my eyes to the joy of each day.
But this year, a quelling pause has blanketed that readiness, like a gentle hand over the doors of my mouth. I’ve had to think about what it means to weigh laughter: to filter it, to consider its effect, to watch over the wellspring of its origin.
Over the past few months, I’ve seen how a mass of people can become carried away on a wave of levity while listening to a serious subject. I’ve heard Daddy tell about lecturers who, with a slight lift of an eyebrow and a corner of the mouth, relegated their absent dissenters to a position of ridiculousness. One of you came home from school with a story of how your class happened to agree with one side of a particular debate. How easy it was to scoff together at the opinions and the frail reasoning of the other side!
And I’ve realized once again that there are some things that should never be laughed at, no matter how wry the smile of the speaker or how exclusive the joke.
A like-minded audience, a round of applause, or an aggrieved sense of pride can be a heady stimulant anywhere you go. But a certain dignity has been accorded to all human beings. There is a derisive kind of laughter that veers very close — and sometimes leads directly — to a blighted view and devaluation of another person.
No chuckle or sneer, no matter how satisfying, is worth that expense. You have a good ability to discern the difference even now, and I hope you’ll carry this sense of honor with you into university lecture halls and conference rooms, coffee shops and one-on-one conversations.
Having said this, ah — true laughter is a gift! Both of you know it already. Lucy laughs, when truly tickled, with the high exuberant bleat of a train coming home for the holidays. Little Jo tips her chin back to release peals that tumble upward, one after the other, like the effervescence of a bottle of champagne invading the air.
May you rejoice in laughing well when the occasion and the truth demand it, my girls.
Laugh, as you have, when the peel of a clementine showers you in the face.
Laugh with sheer exhilaration as you run down our green slope of clover in the summer.
Laugh with the pleasure of Baby Jims — “a real, gurgly, chuckly, delighted, delightful laugh” (Ch. XI, Rilla of Ingleside) — when he finds he is not alone, after all, in a lightless bedroom in the night.
In hardship, may your laughter be no mere show of false bravado, but a sound where such a sound is unthinkable, like songs sung in the dark. May it be a mark of nobility in your womanhood to laugh without fear at the time to come.
As I think of you tonight, I pray that you will always be secure in your rest upon the great Cornerstone. “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:9), and you are in the keeping of a Shepherd who prepares a table of abundance for us in the presence of our enemies, whether they come without or within. He will lift your head in the day of the trouble, and help you see and hear the surpassing jubilation that is to come.
May you smile in surprise, then, though it be with tears in your eyes, to find Aslan bigger every year you grow.
And laugh —
Laugh like a blow to shatter the leering darkness.