TIckle Boxes Turned Upside Down

Someone once said “laughter is the best medicine.” I only partially agree with that statement. While it’s true that positive attitudes and joyous moods can lead to or result from laughter, those ha-has are appropriate only at certain times. During others they can lead to nothing but trouble. We’ve all been overcome with the giggles at wrong times.

Until we left home for college, my twin brother and I shared a bedroom. As little guys, we play hard, fought constantly, and laughed often. Most of the giggles came at the wrong time. On one occasion, we came to the supper table to full of energy. Our family began our meals with a blessing that we boys recited. Jim and I began, but only a line or so into the prayer, we were overcome with the giggles, and snickers came before we burst into guffaws. Our laughter was ended in tears are we received a well-deserved spanking.

On some nights, bed time brought out fits of laughing. Our parents would hear us and call from the kitchen or the den with demands that we get quiet. The next warning came from the doorway as one adult stood there with the warning, “Don’t make me come back in here!” Asking little boys to hold back their floods of laughter is the same as demanding they stop the waters from a burst dam. Oh, we tried to hide the noise. I’d stuff my pillow in my mouth and Jim would chew on his blanket until we both feared that we’d smother ourselves. On some occasions, the urge momentarily subsided, but then the laughter would spill from our mouths and fill the room. Even as one of the enforcers stomped through the house to our room, we laughed. Another spanking was administered, and even with sore bottoms, we were grateful for the fun.

We boys dreaded attending church. In those days, no children’s church was offered, and we were stuck in the sanctuary for the hour-long service. Jim and I sat together at the beginning, but in no time one of us had been roughly seized and plunked on the other side of our parents. Still, we could see each other, and it was as if twins possessed a telepathic gift. We could imagine what the other was thinking, and that led to an almost smile, a grin, a snicker, and then an all-out laugh. We swallowed them, but not before Daddy had promised us some attention when we arrived home. Too many Sunday afternoons began with punishment for inappropriate behaviors by Jim and me.

Some teens apparently have death wishes. They manage in some way to violate a parental rule. Of course, it’s no big deal to the teen; to the parent, it’s a different story. At times like these, lectures are standard fare. The adult starts on a tirade, and the longer it goes on, the more ridiculous it becomes. Out of the blue, a mom or dad says something absolutely ridiculous, and the comment becomes a heat-seeking missile that is targeted for the teen’s laughter zone. It finds the target, and as it explodes, a roar of laughter gushes from the teen. What might have been a relatively minor offense has now escalated into a serious adolescent felony. The parent is incensed and being throwing excessively harsh punishments at his child. Life as the teen has known it won’t exist any time soon.

Even adults laugh at inappropriate times. At funerals I’ve thought of things the deceased has said and must hold in the laughs. Mistakes by young performers at band and choral concerts can start a flood of giggles as well. Just recently I attend a graduation ceremony. One of the speakers put on a show. Cracked jokes weren’t funny, overly expressive voice was annoying, and “pie-in-the-sky” comments about what lay ahead were absurd. Taken together, this speech was a failure, but the speaker was sure it was an award-winning presentation. The looks on those around me said it all, and I worked hard to stifle the laughs that tried to escape.
Laughing eases stress. It relaxes otherwise tense situations. However, when it occurs at the wrong time, it can lead to punishment, hurt feeling, and occasionally, physical pain. Still, we can’t do too much to avoid those times when our tickle boxes are turned over. A force outside ourselves is in control at during those moments. We can only attempt to hold it back.

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