Excerpts from Brave Laughter by national award-winning author David Loye,
author of the award-winning The Healing of a Nation, The Leadership Passion,
The Knowable Future, The Sphinx and the Rainbow, An Arrow Through Chaos,
Darwin's Lost Theory of Love, editor of The Evolutionary Outrider and The Great Adventure: Toward a Fully Human Theory of Evolution, and with Riane Eisler, co-author of The Partnership Way.
To purchase a copy of Brave Laughter go to www.amazon.com
AT THE LAKE
The single most imperishable memory I carry…is of a summer’s typical Sunday evening at the top of the hill.
This was the regular time for the gathering of the Sanders clan and a small, floating horde of friends, mostly children, on the flat patch of lawn atop the hill, just above the Big House. The insects would be buzzing about, rather lazily, not too bad up here on the hill, the mosquitos tending to stay down nearer to the water. The stars would be starting to come out and the bats would be swooping overhead, blotting out the stars as they sought to catch the bugs.
The picture I carry in mind of Aunt Grace in the house on the hill is of this small, stocky, bubbling chortling presence with merry eyes that hung in great bags on her face, with a moplike head of curly hair somewhat on the wild and unkempt side.
Grace was both the surrogate and the remnant of the story-telling grandeur of the earlier times when the girls were there with Brother and Tully. She was to herself and others the living reminder of those fabled evenings when the “bulbats” (which is what we White Bear Lakers called the whip-poor-wills and night hawks in those days) would be swooping overhead, and the occasional mosquito would buzz about one’s eyes and be swatted away, and night after night the stars came out and the stories flowed on and on.
He looked like Teddy Roosevelt. He had the same bluff face, crinkly smile, his hair being short cropped and just a touch unruly, close to his head.
“He [Tully] taught him [Donnie] to use big words. The story goes that when he was a little fellow, he came to our house one cold day and Dad asked him if he was cold. ‘Cold?’ said Don. ‘Why my pedal extremities are practically congealed!’
“Dad did the same with Betty, teaching her when she could barely talk to ask people, ‘How are you sagaciating in your corporosity?’”
He was tolerant with his children up to a certain point but then firm with steel resolve. “He could wither you with a word—that was our worst punishment, as he never touched one of us in anger,” my mother writes. “He used to say that anyone who would strike a child just because he was bigger ‘ought to be strung up by his thumbs.’”
“Don’t let them pin you against the wall,” he would lecture his children, girls as well as boys. He would demonstrate by asking them to pretend they were walking along the sidewalk at night close to the wall of a building. He would then swoop in on them and grab them.
“See? If you’re close to the wall they can get you. But now come out from that wall and walk along the edge of the sidewalk, right along the street. See the difference? Now if they try to get you, you’re in a good position to run and get away.”
One evening we were all gathered on Sanders hill, the stars coming out, the bats swooping overhead. There was this buzz of conversation everywhere, and occasional laughter.
…Suddenly out of the Big House below, where she generally was on such evenings, darted Edith with that jagged energy that invariably jolted you, out of tune with whatever prevailing rhythm was for the group or yourself alone.
Everyone looked up in alarm. What had happened?...Then we saw she was happy, if not even seemingly ecstatically happy.
“Oh come everybody!” she cried out, gesturing toward the sky beyond the Big House. “Come look at your left shoulder over the moon!”
What she had meant to say, of course, was the old saw “Come look at the moon over your left shoulder.”
With anyone else we—and the embarrassed person herself or himself, realizing the unintended garbling—would have merely laughed it off and gone on. But there was only silence, then an uncomfortable laugh or two, then everyone turned away. Edith stared at the group uncomprehending, then smiling faintly returned to the house below.
Edith’s room, which opened out of the kitchen, into which I supposed I only peeked three times in my lifetime, was rather sparse and bare, very much like the kitchen in this way, its only distinguishing feature being a touch here and there of her incredible art work.
Tully was this funny, slow, rather plodding and rustic character who could startle one with a sudden noble and intense sincerity.
…One of my pleasures was just to get with Tully and talk about music.
I was full of Wagner then, with a diffuse resonation to Verdi, Rossini, Smetana, Enesco, Glinka of the overture to Russlan and Ludmilla, and practically all others. He, being older, continually pointed me in fresh directions, to the favored conductor, orchestra, artist, or record.