Monday, May 18, 2015

They Laughed Out Loud

The women in my mother’s family were clearly cut from the same piece of cloth. There were eight sisters born to Tyler and Maggie O'Quinn. Three are still living: Mary Lou O'Quinn Turner, Betty O'Quinn Johns, and Mildred O'Quinn Daniels. Admittedly, I might be biased, but each was/is an attractive woman who has consistently conveyed a sense of humility with dignity.  All eight of the sisters have been known as Godly prayer warriors who could touch the throne of God. They have been faithful as servants of God, wives, mothers, church members, and neighbors. They have known and kept the faith of their mother, Maggie Harris O’Quinn.

The eight sisters also shared their father’s knack for spinning a story but with a heightened gift for building it to a climatic outburst of laughter. They laughed out loud. When they got together there was always a flood of stories about childhood pranks and missteps. I remember stories such as the one about the hen that roosted in the rafters of the kitchen properly positioned to make a deposit on the chocolate cake Grandma had made for the preacher.  The sisters had been instructed the evening before to get the hen out of the house. Rather than admit their disobedience, when they found the poop on the cake the next morning they just blended it into the icing for a little extra flavoring. In another episode two sisters felt sorry for Grandpa’s work-horse and fed it double rations of molasses and oats; the horse died.

It was the way they told the stories that made them truly special. The stories were actual events from their lives and they had learned to laugh in difficult times. They were remembering and reliving the past through the lens of humor. I suspect it was their faith that had helped them find the positive in those situations and their sense of humor that helped them reinterpret those events as modes of private entertainment. At any rate, they laughed with wild abandonment as they told the stories of their lives and I often laughed with them until my sides hurt.

The funniest of them all was my Aunt Dot, Dorothy O’Quinn Daniels. She was the one who could tell stories with a straight face even while everyone else was bursting at the seams. She also had a phenomenal gift for creating humorous events and enjoying the telling of them afterwards. My Uncle Coleman was often the target of her pranks. At various times in his life he was given to drink. During one of those seasons she would plead with him to not stay out drinking late at night lest something bad happen to her and the children. One Friday night he came home late to find her and the children spread out around the living room, each covered in “blood.” Actually, it was ketchup she had carefully applied. They each played their role as victims of violence, at least long enough to hear him sobbing out his regrets as a husband and father.

Someone should have recorded all those stories as they were told by the women who lived them. They are a legacy that is slipping away. One measurement of the character of a people is their humor, specifically what it is that they find funny and at/with whom they choose to laugh. Whenever I was with my aunts telling their stories I always came away feeling happier and cleaner. There was nothing in their humor that defiled or demeaned anyone. They each knew how to laugh at themselves and with each other just the way families should.

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