We were busy women who worked long days in grey office buildings downtown—buildings that cast shadows over park squares, where crows nibbled shiny bits of trash and homeless men slept their restless sleep on benches. After our last meetings finished and we’d sent an e-mail to remind ourselves of all the things left to do, we slipped hats and coats on over our dresses or suits and went on long elevator rides to the bottom floor, our faces slack, absent. And then out the glass doors into a brisk wind that flowed through the long caverns between office buildings and into the blued dusk of early evening. We were late to see our husbands and children. We cursed our luck, our high mortgage rates, and we called our husbands and told them to kiss the children on their sweet foreheads in case we didn’t make it home.
We worked long hours to keep them happy—the cherub cheeked children, the sweet husbands who tended to cinnamon rolls on Saturday mornings with all the care and attention that we wished we gave our children. We were tired and worried about our careers, our overbearing bosses, our meetings with clients, with contractors and sub-contractors. We worried whether we were good mothers, whether the store bought cake we’d purchased had high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. We worried about juice boxes and gold fish and the presentation of women in Sofia the First. We worried about whether our children were writing well. Were most kid’s still drawing p’s backwards? We worried whether they were reading well and cutting with scissors in an age appropriate manner. We worried about our husbands. Had they gotten too boring? Had we?
Sometimes we’d see a slip of moon hung in velvety sky, and we’d find ourselves crying for no good reason, or maybe every reason that we could think of. Sometimes we steeled ourselves against the imploring looks of our husbands as we stared at our phones during dinner; we steeled ourselves against the complaints of our children, their questions and inanities, against their oatmeal covered hands, against the narrow contours of a life.
In the driveway, we looked in compact mirrors, wiped away tears, smoothed brows and composed our faces into the shapes that our families wanted from us. We were so happy to see them and so tired to the marrow. We felt fissures forming deep inside us.
One day in early April, a springtime day of flowing skirts, purple crocuses and barrel chested robins digging in the grass, when we were winding down conference calls, closing computers, putting on jackets, fielding calls from anxious husbands or nannies about the balance in the checking account, about a grocery list, about whether pennies were digestible, about a strange looking rash on a child’s lower back, it began to rain laughter.
At first, from inside office buildings, we weren’t sure what was happening in the streets; it started with a fine mist of giggles, very soft and sweet. Some of us looked into the sky where fat purple clouds hung. Others looked around with smiles of wonderment as the laughter began to build. We heard peals of laughter that reminded us of videos of our mother’s, taken when we were babies, our mother’s faces, so smooth, so young. We heard bells of laughter that reminded us of our childhoods, spinning in circles and blowing spores of dandelions in fields of dry grass, and still the laughter continued, becoming the deep throated guffaws of long dead grandfathers, who sat on porches and told us stories of fairies and angels. We heard the surprisingly high pitched titter of long forgotten college lovers, and the sharp intake of breath that preceded the laughter of a friend we’d lost touch with and who had died suddenly last year of ovarian cancer. By then, the laughter was falling all around us, merriment dripping from the limbs of elm trees, a giggle was traveling around and around a fountain in the park, a raucous laugh fell down the stairs towards the subway. There was wild laughter gathering in gutters and chortles falling on the windows of coffee shops. There was a whoop of laughter that bent the tops of trees.
And for once, we paused our busy loves to hear it. We put away our phones, our thoughts of Google calendars, parent teacher conferences, doctor’s appointments and 403 B’s. We got off trains, stepped out of coffee shops, called meetings short and stood—eyes brimming with delight. We took our coffee cups and hand bags into the street and gathered the laughter we found in the tangled roots of trees. We gathered it from beneath awnings and from the underside of iron chairs. We captured it in the tops of our hats and in every jacket pocket. We cupped our hands together and held laughter there. We chased bubbly laughter down the street. We found gales of laughter gathered in a depression on Fifth avenue.
Finally, the storm passed, and we got back into our cars, back onto trains, and went home. We came in the door bursting with laughter; we held giggles to our children’s ears, and wild cackling laughter was showered on our husbands. We fell on the floor, all together, in a river of laughter. We found in that sudden storm, a small filling for the cracks forming inside us, and for an evening, we were as happy as we’d been in years.