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For Mother’s Day — teaching the art of laughter


My mother would have been considered eccentric had she been financially wealthy.
She would do almost anything — and wear almost any silly costume — to bring joy into the lives of others, much to the embarrassment of her six children.
But she is wealthy in the ways that really matter, and her greatest wealth is teaching the art of laughter.
She knew the benefits of laughter long before scientific studies confirmed them. When she wasn’t laughing herself, she was teaching us how to.
Most nights after dinner we sat around the table relating stories about what one of us had done and laughing aloud.
While many parents in the neighborhood went to social events Saturday nights, my mother preferred to stay home.
We’d make banana splits and watch the Carol Burnett show, and as Tim Conway’s old-man routine caused me to laugh so hard I’d fall off the couch, she’d sit there watching me, delighted to see me learn her craft so well.
She collected friends who were even livelier than she. One lady, Marty, had five children of her own. Both had been housewives their entire adult lives — both wanted to try their hand at writing.
In the 1970s, my mother began getting published in newspapers and magazines — Erma Bombeck humor, mocking the life of the housewife.
She and Marty wrote a play, “Betty’s Attic,” and it was performed by a local theater company.
They sold jokes to comedian Phyllis Diller. They were thrilled to see Diller perform their jokes at a live show — delighted to see the laughter their jokes provoked.
The writing gigs never produced much money, though, so my mother concocted a plan to generate extra cash. Did she get a part-time job at a bank or a department store, as normal moms in our neighborhood did?

No, she had another idea that embarrassed her children considerably: dress up like Miss Piggy, Big Bird, Raggedy Ann and Clown Clara and stage children’s parties for parents eager to pay her.
It was easy for her to bring instant order to a room of 40 kids or more. She still has an amazing way with children.
She was soon staging three parties every Saturday and, to avoid costume changes, staged all of them as Clown Clara.
As fate would have it, though — I’m not making this up — a thief in the area had been robbing banks dressed as a clown.
Well, while pulling into the driveway at the home of one of her gigs, a police car came roaring in behind her. A cop jumped out and began barking orders at her. He thought she was the bank robber!
It took some time to clear up the confusion — at one point the cop thought my mother was in cahoots with the guy who hired her to stage his kid’s party — but when everyone finally figured out what was going on, she had but one response: a giant burst of laughter.
All of those incidents happened 40 years ago or more. My mom kept doing parties throughout her 60s.
In her 70s, she penned a half dozen lively children’s books, which are still available on Amazon.com.
Now in her 80s, she is sharing incredible treasures with her grandchildren and great grandchildren to ensure that they, too, master the art of laughter.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom!

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.