A while ago, I was working away at my laptop, when my teenage son's belly laugh floated down the stairs from his room where he was watching one of his favorite television shows, Family Guy. Immediately, I flashed back to my childhood and heard my brother's own childish belly laugh echoing in my memories, from the weekend mornings when I would try to sleep in and he would be watching Saturday morning cartoons in the living room directly below my bedroom. I thought about how my son's chuckle imitates both my brother's and my sister's, and how my daughter has a very unique outright laugh (it almost sounds fake!), although at times I hear her paternal cousin's giggle or her paternal aunt's chuckle when she is amused. My sister-in-law and my mother-in-law share the same "ha-ha!" and my husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law sound alike as well.
Now that nearly all my grandparents are gone, I can tell you that one of the sounds I miss most is my maternal grandmother's merry laugh, and my paternal grandfather's knee-slapping that accompanied his guffaws after telling a good joke. I can't remember my maternal grandfather's laugh or even a memory of him laughing out loud...maybe because he was a quiet man. I know that my dad and his mother have similar laughs, and I wonder that if I could be transported in time, which ancestors they would sound like.
Ancestral photographs and documents may tell us who someone looks like in the family, or what similar habits or occupations were passed from generation. But sound--people's voices and the way they laughed--are not things that often get recorded for future generations. Yet, they could tell us so much about ourselves and our families!
*When you laugh, who do you sound like? Your father, mother, a sibling, or other relative?
*Who in your family giggles? Belly laughs? Chuckles? Guffaws? Knee slaps or does some other large physical act while laughing?
*What other members of the family have similar laughs? Query the older generations and ask them "who in the family has your grandma's (or grandpa's) laugh?"
*Who has the most unique laugh in your family, and why?
*What kinds of things did your family laugh or joke about?
*What best describes the style of humor in your family (dry, wet, ironic, silly)?
*Did you ever have tickle fights?
*Who were the practical jokers in the family?
*What private jokes did you have as a family? What key phrases were giggle starters?
*What do you remember about your own children's first laughs when they were babies? What silly things did you do to get them to chortle?
*What books, magazine, or cartoon strips were favorite humorous reads in your family?
*What comedy television shows or movies were favorites in your family?
*Do you ever play games that get your family giggling up a storm? (Our family plays Balderdash with my brother-in-law's family every year while camping at the lake for a week...it's our favorite group activity, mainly because we get so darn silly while playing it!)
*Do you have digital recordings, videotapes, audio tapes, or home movies with family members talking or laughing in them? I'm a fan of Susan Kitchen's blog, Family Oral History Using Digital Tools, and she has lots of good tips for preserving these recordings. Perhaps you should plan to do some recording at the next family gathering!
*Besides preserving audio recordings (and perhaps posting them on your blog!), you can post photos of family members cutting capers, laughing, or joking around. If you don't have a blog, you can add these photos to a scrapbook and post your responses to this prompt. You could also add quotes about laughter from the Bible or other sources to your journal, scrapbook, or blog.
And now, it's time to do a little giggling yourself! Watch the YouTube video below! For more great baby laughing videos, go to YouTube and enter "baby laughing" in the search engine.