Saturday, October 6, 2012

Laughing in shops

If you go into a shop near where I live and hear someone laughing loudly, it is probably me. Most probably, since I seldom hear other people laugh while they are buying groceries. A family member recently made the light-hearted (I hope) comment that he is embarrassed being with me in a shop since I laugh a lot and loudly, and this made me think. I don't particularly like shopping, and shopping in new or confusing stores makes me very nervous. But when I feel at ease, I laugh. When my kids are with me, we laugh together, my eldest and I enjoy the same type of humour, and my youngest makes me laugh with her antics. And my husband really can make me laugh, I love it. It is ironic that we are all introverts, and not exactly a bubbly, spontaneous and cheerful bunch. There are days when we are out where we could be described as a walking sulk in four parts. But we are not afraid to laugh, and we love it.

Laughter is one thing I am not self-conscious about, and I don't understand why it can make some people uncomfortable in public. I love the joy, the feeling of something squeezing my stomach, the ticklish feeling in my chest. And I really don't care what strangers think when I stop in the middle of an aisle in a shop, say out loud "a medium sized wickerwork cat box" and bend over laughing and laughing and laughing. Or when my son comes up with a new and hilarious word, and I hug myself and stamp my feet while I laugh because the absolute fun and wonder makes it impossible to stay still. Or when I read a funny book in a coffee shop and have to squeeze my eyes shut and hold my breath to stop the joy from exploding and knocking over the table.

Laughter and fun and joy are gifts. Experiencing them in such an intense physical way is also a gift. So I will keep on laughing in shops as much as I can!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The power of imagination

When I was in primary school, every year the Grade 7's had a week long educational trip to Cape Town. It was compulsory, I had to go. Thirty years later I don't cringe any more when I remember that week, but I still shake my head a little bit.

I can use three words to describe that week - fear, confusion and hunger. The fear wasn't something new, my years in primary school were spent in a haze of constant nausea - that was what fear felt like. The confusion started with the 800km trip down to the Cape. All the kids looked like they were excited and knew exactly what was expected of them, and they happily crowded into the bus. I was last to get in, and of course all the seats were taken by then. The bus had those benchlike seats where two kids could sit comfortably, three kids were a bit crowded, but fine for short distances. A teacher saw me standing and ordered two girls to make a space for me next to them. Of course they resented that, I hated it and spent the next 799km sitting uncomfortably close to the edge of the seat, aware of the sighs and eye rolls. Not a good journey.

The hunger. I still had lots of issues with food at that age, and a week away from home was a challenge. I remember one evening just eating a few bites of rice because the chicken dish had raisins in it and the sight and smell of the swollen raisins made me want to gag. By the next morning I was very hungry, and when I got to the breakfast table and saw the bowl of soggy cereal in hot milk I cried with disappointment and again ate nothing. And then there were the peanut butter sandwiches. And the cooked vegetables. So little I could eat, I remained hungry the entire time.

It was an awful week. There were two things that kept me going. The first was a specially allowed visit  by a favourite aunt who lived in Cape Town. That meant so so much - a familiar face, a hug, someone smiling at me!

The other thing was my imagination. On top of the mountain next to the suburb we stayed in were two beacons, a white one, and a red one. Every morning after breakfast and every afternoon when we returned from the day's outing I would go outside and around the corner and stand staring at those beacons. I had decided that it was my dad, standing on top of the mountain, waving white and red flags, signalling to me. Telling me that I am not alone, everything will be fine. I stared and stared at the 'flags' until I had to go back inside. And that kept me going. It made me feel calmer, and loved, and not so very alone. It was powerful.

Looking back, I find it interesting because from my perspective I did not have a very close relationship with my dad at that age. I think deep down I knew that he loved me and would support me and would save me. Even though he was 800km away at that time, in some strange way I believe he really was on top of that mountain.